She’s the creator of Jersey Shore and a reality TV queen. Sally Ann Salsano talks about Jersey Shore: Family Vacation.
Sally Ann Salsano is a Reality TV Queen. Not only is she the biggest fan of Reality TV who admits to watching more hours than she should, Salsano is the brains behind Jersey Shore, Party Down South, Martha And Snoop: Potluck Dinner, Floribama Shore, and now Jersey Shore: Family Vacation. She is the reason for our guilty pleasure, watching The Sit, J-Woww and Snooki and co as they come together again and we pick up as if they’ve never left our lives. Her shows are iconic and I caught up with Salsano who was in the middle of shooting her latest show to find out what keeps us glued to the antics of the Jersey Shore family.
Truth, honesty, love and humor. It’s a realness they provide that we can all admittedly…or secretly relate to.
Read my chat with Salsano below:
Jersey Shore was brilliantly addictive and here we are with Jersey Shore Family Vacation. How did the idea to revisit it come about?
It’s funny. In our minds, the show needed to take a nap, but we knew eventually that it would wake up. It’s funny, I think even Chris McCarthy was plotting in a genius kind of way. We had been kicking it around. I had always said for many years that Jersey Shore was MTV’s version of The Real Housewives in my own way. It’s funny because we were talking and he was saying, “I agree.” We had already agreed to make Floribama, we were going to brand it onto the Shore. I think it was amazing because Shore has such recognition. We were already talking about where the kids are at, were they up for it and all that jazz. In reality, announcing Floribama as Shore, it reminded everyone of Jersey Shore. By the time, that was announced, we were already in talks with the cast. It was interesting because all the worlds came together at once.
So, Sammi aside, were they all up for it?
Yes, even in the beginning, Sammi was up for it. I think her life took a little bit of a change and I think it might have been a conversation with other people in her life. In the beginning, everyone was on board and everyone was positive. There was definitely no twisting of the arm at all.
Those guys just wanted another chance. If the fans are still there, there’s no way it would be one and done. I can proudly say that everyone did it and gave it their all. It was an amazing experience. You have your OG cast and we went OG crew. Even our camera guy was the same. It literally was a family reunion behind the scenes and I think that was a little bit of the magic for this group.
What has been the biggest difference returning to the Jersey Shore world since the last time?
Other than us being older, I will tell you, the last time we did the show, social media did not play a part in the creative on the show. One of the nights when the guys went out to a club, one of the guy’s girlfriends went mad. We were all looking at each other wondering how people knew it and of course, we’re all out. People were filming it and posting it. You realize it hasn’t been that long ago.
All of a sudden, I aged forty years in that conversation, “That was before Twitter.” You know what I mean? The cast were the same way. They’d go out, participate, be free and be themselves without being judged until it hit TV. Once it becomes a part of the production it does affect the day to day creative because you can’t pretend it didn’t happen.
It’s crazy. We didn’t have Instagram when it first aired.
Snapchat. Even Twitter wasn’t used the way it’s used today.
How had parenthood changed Snooki and Jenni?
I’ve worked with them before. We were there for the birth and when Snooki got married, she had her two kids already. I’ll tell you, no. You take a lot of concern, “Are people going to be judgemental?” The thing is, I think it’s more relatable than anything else.
I often talk about Bad Moms. That movie became such a phenomenon. Think about the actresses that put themselves in it, Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis. These are all women who are great moms. I think every mom does that and fantasizes about it. They don’t necessarily do it on TV, but I think that’s because they don’t have the opportunity.
I think these girls are doing what every mom actually does. I think everybody should have a girls trip. It’s no different than going to your high school reunion for a week. This cast, this is their version of a family reunion and this is what it is.
What’s so much fun to see, is seeing their emotional rawness still there?
It’s interesting. We were there every step of the way. With this cast, I feel like I know their lives. They’re really sibling like. Most of them didn’t go away to college, so this is like the Freshman year in the dorm for them. They had all those rollercoaster rides and there is so much hurt feeling sometimes such as the Vinny and Nicole situation or who hooked up with who? Like Ronnie and Sammi. These are their first heartbreaks, the first time they cheated and it was all documented for us to watch. We all did.
Millions of people watched and everyone asks me, “What was it about them that made them so interesting?” I think it was because they were so wonderfully themselves. That’s the one thing I was worried about, the distance. I wondered if they were going to come back and were so aware, but they had made a promise to each other and to me. The thing that always made this show work was the truth and the trust. At the end of the day, I told them, “I trusted that you were exactly who you said you were and you trusted that I was going to tell your story as truthfully as possible.”
I would say, this is a show where I watched a lot of the episodes with the cast and sitting next to them. Every once in a while, I’d get someone saying, “I can’t believe you put that in.” I feel there’s so much love and trust and when they came back their big thing was they were still going to pick on each other. They do. They make fun of each other all the time, but that’s what you do with your friends. When you’re out to dinner with your friends you’re always busting on each other and that’s why I think it’s so relatable because they act like we all act. I think people like to say, “Oh I wouldn’t do that or that.” I don’t care where you live or where you’re from. Maybe you’re not as tanned or maybe you don’t have hair gel, but damn you have all those stories with your own friends.
You watch that show and you something like that has happened. You’ve either heard it or said it.
I say this about Jersey Shore and about Teen Mom. My dad was in the hospital during one of the earlier seasons. One of the nurses told me he watches the show with his teenage kids and my dad found it so interesting. The nurse said, “They’re going to watch it anyway. If you watch it with them, you can ask, ‘What would you have done?’ or you can say, ‘When you’re going out to the club, you don’t want to be the grenade’ As girls, we’re always the ones dressing up and wanting to be picked up. You watch that show and you realize maybe not.
It’s just everyone watches the show differently. Someone watches the show for J-Woww, someone watches it for Pauly and so on. The truth is, they’re all wonderful and they’ve all done many things and have been successful in their own right. When you put these guys together, there is something magical. We feel it in the control room, we feel it on set, they are just together. That combination is remarkable.
You see the love they actually have for each other.
What makes it good is that so many of the shows are about people who love each other. I would say, as the viewer, and I’m a huge reality TV fan, I mean HUGE. I really watch this stuff more than I should admit. I feel I know everything. I saw the first time they looked at each other. I know every inside joke. I don’t read in the press or hear from a high-school interview that this is what they were really like. You really get every single person, from top to bottom and you know the full story.
That’s also why I feel these shows have such longevity. With other shows, they’re making new members. In this scenario, we were there from the beginning. They made such great life choices from it.
We’ve talked about social media changing, but TV also changed since the last time this was on. How do you feel TV changed since?
I approached it the same way and I didn’t feel it needed to change. I feel great storytelling and great characters go hand in hand. I think the approach to the show that makes it very different is its sense of humor. I think a lot of times in reality, everything is drama. This has almost more comedy than drama. Our comedy comes from the drama because in real life if you think of something incredibly sad, what makes you smile or turn a corner? It’s a laugh or an off-color comment someone made. It’s captured in this show.
It totally puts a smile on your face.
And when it’s crazy and you’re thinking, “Oh my God, I can’t believe he’s doing that.” There’s always somebody that says something that has the point of view. A lot of the time, the cast will sit down and talk about what happened. In that show, when I watch it, someone will always say, they relate to one or the other and agree with what that person says or does. Even though they are their friends, they give advice so that when the viewer is watching it, the viewer ends up relating to the cast more because the cast is honest.
Even if Pauly is talking about Vinny, he’s honest and that’s what you want in your friend. You want your friends to tell you stuff, even if it’s not what you want to hear. This group has tough love.
One of my fave moments was the “She’s gonna burn your house down, she’s gonna blow up your car” moment by J-Woww. We’ve all thought about it but nobody has done it.
No, but everyone talks like that. OK, let’s go all the way back to the first time. What do you remember about them?
I love casting more than anything. The more time someone gives me to cast, the more time I’ll take. I think it’s so short-sighted. It’s your entire show. For me, this show was so weird because I felt like I knew them all. I grew up going to the Jersey Shore and partying. When I met Sammi, I thought I knew that girl. With Snooki, you thought, “Oh boy, this one looking for love.” You could almost pinpoint who they were.
Sit, when he came in. He sat in the chair and took his shirt off and said, “Are you good? Do you need anything else?” It was seven seconds into this interview and this guy has no clothes on.
With characters, I have to leave wanting more and more. If I feel like, “OK, I get you in a nutshell, then you’re not right for reality TV.” If I’m interested in what you’re saying and have no idea where you’re going to go, then I’m all in. If I can tell, the audience can tell. If everything is predictable, it’s not worth it. This cast is definitely not predictable. There were days, I wish they were, but it’s kind of insane.
You never know what you’re going to get.
And that is so true. Most nights, I’ll leave and I’m getting ready to go to bed or go home. My phone will ring and everyone says, “Get back here right now.” It’s from night to day and that’s what is so great about it.
So, first of all, in ten years time, you need to go back and revisit Jersey Shore. You also make great TV so what inspires you?
Oh, 100%. It should be mandatory and it should be in the US Constitution. Every ten years, this has to happen. I think the best reality producers if I was kind, are very inquisitive. If I were truthful, I would say, are very nosy.
I love other people and studying other people’s behavior. I take that game of “What are they saying next to me?” to another different level by going over and confirming it because I need to make sure I’m good at it.
Here’s the thing, I don’t judge it. I look at so many different people. If you look at my staff I am so blessed by this eclectic group of people from all different places. I’m interested and curious. I am in everyone’s business all the time. For me, if something interests me, then I want to know more about it.
I take a show like this and there are so many great producers out there, if you take the exact same footage and give it to my biggest competition, you’d have a different show. It’s all about a point of view, a tone and a sense of humor. We embraced it with our simpatico. I wonder if it’s about where we’re from. I was 25-years-old and living on a twin bed in my mother’s house. When people tell me I’m making fun of them, I’ll be like I did the same thing. I didn’t even know the world would see it that way. Again, it’s an honest story about who they are.
Next time you go to London, ride the tube and play the guessing game. You have to do that during rush hour.
That’s the thing. My husband wants to go on vacation somewhere secluded where there are no people. My dream is going to a resort like Sandals and sitting at the group table and getting involved. He thinks I’m a nightmare. We went to Tahiti and we came back with two shows. I was sitting there, and he wanted to know what I was writing.
The world is my…
It’s your oyster.
A little bit and I like oysters.