Last night, MTV premiered The Pauly D Project, the first of what will probably be many Jersey Shore spinoffs. The show follows the exploits of one Paul “DJ Pauly D” Del Vecchio and his entourage of Rhode Island bros as as they ride Pauly D’s reality TV fame to such exotic locales as Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, and the insides of many, many vaginas.
When we first happen upon it, the Pauly D story is not one of struggle, but ascension. The Horatio Alger bit is told mostly by references to “years of hard work,” which we never get to watch because they happened already. The Pauly D of the Pauly D pilot is already famous for getting drunk on camera on a different TV show, but he’s still feeling a tad insecure about his DJ career, as if “famous for being on reality TV” and “owns a laptop” do not more than qualify him for lucrative gigs for the rest of his life. It’s actually kind of cute how nervous he is.
In a genius bit of product placement for The Palms, Pauly and his entourage are flown out to Vegas to stay in a monstrous hotel room with a hot tub in it and “try out” for a DJ residency there. I was kind of wondering why he needs his friends to help him DJ (beyond the fact that it wouldn’t be much fun to watch Pauly hang out in his hotel room alone) until a speaker malfunction spurred Biggie, who “knows everything about sound,” to jump in and save the day. The utility of Ryan and Jerry remains to be seen.
Thus far, the show has very little of what makes The Jersey Shore popular, namely: “drama.” There’s never any suspense over whether or not Pauly will land the residency, no matter how much Skrillex they play over his “waiting” montage. The most interesting part, for me, comes when we get glimpses into the life the 31-year-old DJ is (finally) leaving behind, but even that is too functional to really make for good reality television. He cares for his family a great deal, and his parents are genuinely nice and supportive, even if they don’t totally “get” his music. He shows love for his father (who is recovering from a stroke) by asking him if he wants to go tanning, to which his dad replies, “nah, I’m tan enough.” Like father, like son.
Pauly D was in many ways the safest choice for the first spinoff, as his predictable good natured-ness and lack of diva behavior ensure that everything will run smoothly. But is this enough to carry a whole show? Unfortunately for viewers, the same qualities that make someone a good person generally make for bad reality television, and, womanizing aside, Pauly is a mensch. Just look at that smile! A compelling drama needs to have something at stake, which producers might yet achieve here by focusing on the tension between Pauly’s growing fame and his desire to “keep it real.” There’s also a lot that could happen with the members of Pauly’s entourage. Still, I think Pauly might be unsuccessful as a TV character for the same reason he’s successful as a human being: he’s just too damn nice.