There are some who say that the Jersey Shore is unsustainable, that the visceral thrills of watching puffed-up paramecia rub against each other through the MTV microscope inevitably faded away the second they became self-aware and began waving their bronzed cilia at the cameras. Which may be true, but not yet: Last night’s third-season premiere was MTV’s highest-rated series broadcast ever—as in ever—with a record 8.4 million viewers tuning in to see the cast’s ongoing existential debate about what it means to be “real,” learn whether two kooky kids like Ronnie and Sammi can continue to have a relationship based solely on passive-aggression and a mutual love of staring silently at the ceiling, and watch new castmate Deena making up for her lack of Jersey Shore experience by getting heroically wasted, hitting on a roommate, showing off her vagina, and starting a huge fight all in the matter of a few hours. The episode even scored a 4.2 million rating in the adult demographic—higher than anything on the major networks except for The Big Bang Theory and Grey’s Anatomy, which tied Jersey Shore despite not having anybody who got drunk and showed off their vagina, not even Patrick Dempsey.

Of course, there’s still every chance that America will eventually tire of pretending that a group of burgeoning, BMW-driving millionaires are just regular drunk kids who barf on one leg at time, just like everyone else, but it doesn’t seem like that’s happening anytime soon. And this should be encouraging news to Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, who told MTV she thinks the show could go on “at least another 20 series or something like that, because we can do this our whole lives. This is what we do, and even if we weren't getting paid, we'd still be going back to the shore and doing the same thing.” Even if the show inevitably ends before then, we’d actually look forward to revisiting the Jersey Shore cast in 20 years; yes, please be doing the same thing. This could potentially be America’s Up Series.

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