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‘Family Vacation’: Jersey Shore Cast Return for Sequel Featuring Sammi Giancola

Is the reality star’s presence enough to boost the show’s status?

Promotional Still for MTV's "Jersey Shore: Family Vacation"
Promotional still from Jersey Shore: Family Vacation. Credit: MTV

For the first time in over a decade, the entire Jersey Shore cast has filmed together for the MTV sequel show Family Vacation.

The return of Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola, in particular, has generated lots of fan excitement and online buzz, but is her long-awaited appearance enough to restore the show to its former glory?

The Original Jersey Shore

If you have not watched the original Jersey Shore, you are missing out on one of the most entertaining reality television shows of all time. I’m not exaggerating. The premise of the show was simple.

A group of twenty-somethings would room together for the summer, their days consisting of clubbing, drinking, and fighting. Sometimes there were pranks. It was amazing. The references that have come from this show are endless, and its influence on pop culture has been great. It truly is a pleasure to watch this show again and again.

One of the long-running plot lines of the original show centered around the tumultuous relationship between Samantha Giancola and Ronnie Ortiz-Magro. This relationship seemed to be a contributing factor in Giancola’s hesitance to return years later for Family Vacation.

This was a storyline both memorable and dark, but because of its infamy, Giancola’s absence in the sequel show was often noted. Put in other words, she was missed.

Promotional still from Season 1 of MTV's "Jersey Shore".
Promotional still from Jersey Shore. Credit: MTV

Family Vacation

In 2018, six years after the conclusion of Jersey Shore, MTV released Jersey Shore: Family Vacation. The premise of this show was basically the same as its predecessor. The cast would get together for little vacations, and then drinking and fighting would ensue. Other than Giancola, everyone (sometimes even significant others and children) was back for this show. It seemed that this would make for a particularly strong reboot, but did it?

I watch this show loyally because of my affection for the original. In my opinion, Family Vacation is… fine. It’s fine. It’s enough to distract and entertain viewers, but I would not say it’s especially remarkable.

There are only so many times that Angelina can fight with the other girls or that Mike can stir the pot before it all starts to feel monotonous. And I know that this sounds a bit hypocritical. After all, I did just say that the greatness of the original Jersey Shore was in its simplicity and repetitiveness.

But the original Jersey Shore was also about a bunch of dumb kids in their twenties. These people are no longer as young as they once were, and their bad decisions are no longer as easily forgiven. Even in making the argument that surely some of these storylines are fake, that doesn’t make them any more enjoyable. There was a time and place for Jersey Shore. Now it just feels like the cast is trying to cling on to what once was.

Still from Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, Season 6.
Still from Jersey Shore: Family Vacation. Credit: MTV

The Return of Sammi Sweetheart

After five years and six seasons, Sammi Giancola has made her debut on Family Vacation. Whispers of her return sparked lots of eagerness and anticipation. In particular, the prospect of a Ron and Sam reunion was heavily pondered. It has now been confirmed that such a reunion did, in fact, take place.

There’s no doubt that Sammi’s return or her encounter with Ronnie will become notable moments in Jersey Shore history. I also won’t lie and say that I’m not a little excited. I am, especially given that I’ve come to like Sam more and more with every rewatch of Jersey Shore I complete.

But I also wonder how far her return can take the reboot before it falls back into tedious territory.

Sam’s back! Now what? Is she here to stay? Will she become part of the drinking-and-fighting (and sometimes pranks) machine again?

It’s like I said before. In my opinion, this television formula was genius… for a time. But the cast is now in their thirties and forties, and their efforts to recreate this story have actually just beat it further into the ground. Sammi Sweetheart might revive it for a while, but I don’t think it will be for long.

Samantha Giancola in Jersey Shore: Family Vacation.
Samantha Giancola in Jersey Shore: Family Vacation. Credit: MTV


I’d like to end this article by re-emphasizing that Family Vacation is not a bad reality television show. It’s just not on the same level as the first Jersey Shore. That’s okay. Securing six seasons of a show is impressive, but rather than competing with and trying to outdo the original, it might be nice just to appreciate it. The show doesn’t need to be recreated.

And really, it can’t be recreated. The season of life that gave us Jersey Shore has ended for all those involved with it. The cast is now made up of true adults, parents, of people with responsibility. Not even the Hail Mary that is Sam’s return can change that. Still, I look forward to seeing them try.

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