The fourth season of Jersey Shore kicks off tonight on MTV, but it’s a bittersweet moment. For those of us who have been following the news, we already know that season five just wrapped filming and that the cast won’t be returning. SallyAnn Salsano, the show’s executive producer and a proud lifelong Guidette, told Crushable about her plans for the future and what she thinks the cast should do once their Shore days are over.
How did you first get started in reality TV?
After college I started as an intern on Sally Jessy Raphael. I ended up working there as a producer. I moved to LA, but nobody in reality TV would hire me – nobody. Finally, Mike Fleiss‘ [the executive producer of The Bachelor franchise] company hired me to work on a show. There was a woman [at Fleiss' company] who had worked on talk shows, and I told her no one would hire me, and she said “I’ll hire you.”
I grew up on trashy dating shows; I loved Love Connection. And of course I watched Oprah, Sally Jessy … I watched the very first ever episode of Ricki Lake. Late at night my mom and I would watch Studs. I think that show needs to come back.
It really does! That show was hilarious.
I loved that show.
Can you tell me a little bit about the genesis of Jersey Shore?
A woman named Shelly called me and said she was working on a reality show about Guidos. At the time, everybody was doing elimination shows, but I said an elimination show wouldn’t work. My head of development, Stephanie, and I were talking and talking, and she’s a Guidette too, and summer shares kept coming up. I realized it had to be a show about a share house.
How did casting go? Did you just see people and immediately know they were right for the show?
I felt like I knew every single one of them. I related to them; I knew who they were. Snooki was 21 and kept saying she wanted to get a share house but had never been away from home that long before. JWoww is from Long Island and reminds me of everyone I knew growing up there. With the guys, one would remind me of a guy I used to go out with, one was a guy I totally pined for.
The show was criticized by many Italian-American groups for use of the word “Guido,” which they deemed offensive. How did you react?
For me, where I grew up, we were Guidos. I had a diamond necklace with “Guidette” spelled out on it when I was in high school. I didn’t consider it offensive or demeaning. But hey, it got people interested in the show and talking about it.
Now that Jersey Shore is coming to a close, what else are you working on?
I did a show, Nail Files, for the TV Guide Channel. It was so perfect for me, because even when I was working crazy hours on shows I would be like “my nails have to be done or I will cut a bitch.” The Painted Nail [the salon in LA where the show is set] isn’t, like, an assembly line where everyone just goes in and picks a color and is in and out. You go in there and it’s like “aaaaah” [makes "heavens are opening" sound]. I went into the salon three times without telling them who I was or that I was thinking about doing a show, and every time I went there something crazy happened.
I’m also working on Love Handles on Lifetime Real Women. It’s a very personal topic to me. I was five feet tall, 300 pounds, in a seven-year relationship, and I wasn’t happy. I lost the weight for myself, and it changed my life. Love Handles is a show where couples lose weight together. They’re couples in crisis. It’s not like The Biggest Loser where you’re isolated and go live on a ranch for six weeks. If I lived on a ranch for six weeks I’d come out looking like a supermodel, but that wouldn’t last. These people [on Love Handles] still have to go to work, take care of their kids, do grocery shopping. It helps them support each other. It’s real.
It sounds like your post-Jersey Shore life is all figured out. What do you think the cast should do next?
It really depends what happens in their personal lives. They are all different and want really different stuff from their lives. Some of them want to get married, have families. The world is their oyster right now, and it’s up to them. They need to nap! They’ve been working really hard. I just hope they enjoyed themselves as much as I did.