Of all the people surprised when “Jersey Shore’s” Snooki revealed two months ago that she was pregnant, perhaps none were more taken aback than the executives at MTV.
The network’s toppers had been planning to ride the high jinx of Snooki and gal pal JWoww in a new spinoff series titled "Snooki & JWoww," and the idea of following one of its main characters as she spends many of her nights taking it easy at home -- sans alcohol, no less -- wasn’t exactly what they had in mind.
But the network also believed it could be sitting on a gold mine, and programmers set about crafting a series that would depict its main characters in an unexpected way.
“It’s a very different show -- it isn’t two single pals living in Jersey City anymore,” MTV President Stephen Friedman told Show Tracker of the upcoming summer series. “You’re going to see a very different side to both women -- not just Snooki but Jenni [JWoww], who has a real maternal side.” He added, perhaps with some understatement. “It’s a whole new way to look at pregnancy.”
Because the executives knew about the pregnancy before many of the “Jersey Shore” cast members did, they also, it seems, were able to capture reaction shots from various members of the cast. "We do have some of that,” Friedman said, a gleam in in his eye.
Friedman was speaking from his Midtown Manhattan office on Wednesday, a day before the Thursday-evening upfront presentation that will unveil the network’s plan for the next year, and particularly its summer 2012 bloc.
Among the more salient nuggets:
Show Tracker has learned that “Awkward,” the high-school dramedy series for which the network has high hopes as it brings the show back for a second season, will be moving from Tuesday to Thursday, MTV’s anchor night. It will be paired with “Snooki & JWoww” and create one of the more improbable double bills to come along in a while.
Friedman offered some insight into other programs. “Teen Wolf,” which was launched to much fanfare (if mixed reviews) last year, also returns, with a number of plot elements amped up. “It’s a lot more intense; the stakes are a lot higher this season,” Friedman said, adding that he felt the show would continue to explore what he saw as its theme of ”puberty gone wild.” He said that social media has been key, building a fan base even while the series has been off the air.
Among the other ways MTV hopes to capture the youth zeitgeist is the scripted series “Underemployed,” a single-camera look from"Six Feet Under"veteran Craig Wright at a group of recent college graduates, and “Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous,” which centers on the stand-up comedy ambitions of viral-video star Bo Burnham.
The network still hadn’t made a decision, Friedman said, on “I Just Want My Pants Back,” its examination of twentysomethings living an anxiety-ridden life in roommate Brooklyn. (Asked how he felt about “Girls,” the similarly targeted and -themed show about millennials currently airing on HBO, Friedman noted that “it’s tapping a sentiment that we’ve been developing against for the last year or two.")
Beyond this summer, “Jersey Shore 6” will also be on tap, and fans can expect a change in tenor to that program too. “It will be a very different show with Snooki pregnant and Mike sober,” Friedman said.
“And Snooki isn’t going anywhere near the smush room,” Friedman added. “Vinny’s already talked about turning it into a room for the baby.”
-- Steven Zeitchik in New York
This article first appeared at latimes.com.
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