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?

Even Gawker says “The McMansion is dead”

Since Gawker is reporting it, does this really mean that the McMansion is dead?

This heartless recession has stolen from America our most treasured national totems. Huge SUVs? Too gas-guzzling. Sprawling suburbs far removed from the “diverse” cities? Reduced to slums. And now, the recession is coming for our very homes.

By “our,” I mean “people with too much money and too little taste.” The WSJ says that the humble McMansion—the rightful reward of all hardworking Americans willing to take on a $450,000 mortgage and a 75-minute commute in order to have a huge, useless foyer lined with the thinnest sheet of marble veneer—is no longer the popular thing to build, for builders who want to build homes that will actually sell. Shrines to conspicuous consumption are out! By necessity.

Goodbye, grand foyers! Adios, spiral staircases! Hello, newly poor American rationalizing their now meager living spaces like a bunch of formerly wealthy people wiped out by financial calamity—which they are!

Totem could be taken as referring to a religious object of devotion, a la Durkheim. If so, do Americans worship SUVs, McMansions, and suburbs? That would be interesting to discuss.

Granted, Gawker is quoting an interesting Wall Street Journal story that suggests the wealthy/big homes of the future that will include “drop zones,” space for an elevator, a “lifestyle center” (not to be confused with gussied-up outdoor malls masquerading as community centers known by the same name), steam showers (goodbye soaker tubs!), and outdoor living space.

A reminder: this is the same website that has this description leading off its stories about Jersey Shore (this is from earlier this year).

When watching Jersey Shore, the most important sociological experiment of our time, we’re looking for new and exciting behavior.

Me thinks there may be some hyperbole and/or mocking there. At least that is what I hope.

Asking politicians the important questions

According to Entertainment Weekly, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was asked about all the important issues over the weekend:

ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Christie on The Week yesterday whether Situation, Snooki, and the gang are “positive for New Jersey or negative.” Christie answered “negative” without batting an eyelash.

The story also has a YouTube link where you can see the question about Jersey Shore follows inquiries about more typical political topics.

On the other hand, perhaps many Americans learn important facts about reality shows?