What television show will assume the role of “sociological experiment of our time”?

MTV’s Jersey Shore will run only one more season. This reminded me that I have seen several sites refer to the show’s sociological nature. Two examples:

1. From Gawker.  A number of their recaps have included this claim about the show (including this March 9, 2012 post): “the greatest sociological experiment of our time.” As it is probably meant to be, this is quite hyperbolic.

2. From the New York Post:

We are gathered here this evening to celebrate and memorialize the death of an era in MTV history: The Jersey Shore era. As both a former employee of Lord Viacom MTV Networks (full disclosure: from 2008 – 2011) and a viewer, it feels as though a chapter in its life has come to a close. The pages have turned and the sun is setting on our tanned up guido friends. And for a few years, this sociological experiment defined MTV and defined the audience it cultivated. We all watched in slackjawed horror/glee the day it all began, and now we must lay it to rest. And so with it goes the days of MTV’s most polarizing programming. Let us reflect.

I’m not quite sure why this show was repeatedly tied to sociology. Perhaps some simply couldn’t understand why the show had good ratings considering the content. Perhaps it is because a lot of people wanted to hold up the show as a mirror to make claims about the excesses and ills of our larger society.

But we could also ask which shows might take up this spot in the future. I hear that Honey Boo Boo character is getting a lot of attention but there is no shortage of reality TV shows that portray interesting characters in interesting situations. Was Jersey Shore really more emblematic of American life than other shows?

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