Jersey Shore is one of the most beloved reality television shows. Shockingly, the series wasn’t originally conceptualized for MTV. Fans almost had to tune in to another network to see the roommates in all of their season 1 glory. So how, when, and where did Jersey Shore get started on MTV?
‘Jersey Shore’ was originally going to be a competition series on VH1
Before Jersey Shore became one of the highest-rated MTV series, it was pitched to VH1 as an all-male competition show. At the time, casting director Doron Ofir worked with Shelly Tatro, who pitched him a show called America’s Biggest Guido. Tatro reached out to SallyAnn Salsano, the founder of 495 Productions, about working on the show, too.
“Shelly Tatro at VH1 called me and was like, ‘S.A., you’re the biggest guido I know. You are doing this,'” Salsano recalled to Vulture. After casting men like Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and Pauly DelVecchio, Ofir realized something.
“Girls entered the mix, because I kept saying, ‘Look, the boys preen’ — you know, they’re peacocks — ‘but the girls fight,’ he said. That’s when the premise of the show started to change — and so did the network.
“Brian Graden was overseeing both MTV and VH1,” Salsano explained. “He was like, ‘The good news is we’re going ahead, but the bad news is the people at VH1 that worked with you on the show, they’re losing it. It’s going to MTV.'”
When did MTV film ‘Jersey Shore’ and why was it filmed in New Jersey?
Jersey Shore debuted on Dec. 3, 2009. The cast was filmed in Seaside Heights, New Jersey during the summer of 2009. Some fans of the show wonder how producers chose the Seaside Heights shore house as their location to shoot.
“As the concept started to build out, 495 [Productions] and SallyAnn were the ones that said, ‘Look, it was like zebras in the Serengeti. We wanted to see this in action,'” Ofir explained to Vulture. Producers felt like they could get the best footage from the cast in their “Serengeti” — the Jersey Shore.
‘Jersey Shore’ was going to be formatted like MTV’s ‘The Real World’
No one — not even producers — had any idea that Jersey Shore would become the success it is today. When season 1 ended, producers had plans to bring in a new cast for another season. Like MTV’s successful series The Real World, the original plan was for Jersey Shore to introduce new roommates each season.
“We were going to have an entirely new cast come in and use the same house as we did in Jersey, with the same jobs as well,” a former producer who worked on seasons 1 through 4 shared on Reddit. “This was another reason that it was not a big deal that Angelina [Pivarnick] left during the first season because we were intending on having a new cast come in afterward anyways.”
When the world fell in love with Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Jenni “JWoww” Farley, Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Vinny Guadagnino, Sorrentino, and DelVecchio, plans changed.
“Since the viewers fell in love with [Polizzi, Sorrentino, and DelVecchio, specifically], they wanted a new season with the OG cast,” the producer added. So that’s what 495 Productions did for five more seasons.
After Jersey Shore ended in 2012, the roommates took a break. All of them returned to MTV in 2018 with Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, with the exception of Giancola and Pivarnick, initially.