Photo: Jason Merritt (Getty Images)

The early seasons of MTV’s Jersey Shore (known overseas as Macaroni Rascals) are considered some of the wildest, most unfiltered reality television in history, and a new oral history of the series from Vulture helps make it clear why. For one, producers were scooping up the kinds of people—hard-partying, fashion-obsessed Italian club kids—who weren’t really considered for “slice-of-life” shows like The Real World, nor did the subjects of the series have a precedent to draw upon. Producers wanted to see them party, so they partied. In advance of MTV’s upcoming reunion season, which premiered last night, Vulture wrangled up every member of the cast (sans Sammi, who also opted out of the new series), as well as series creator SallyAnn Salsano and casting director Doron Ofir.

Ofir is overflowing with great stories, from how Snooki’s application was bronzer-smudged beyond recognition to Pauly D earning his spot by virtue of owning his own tanning bed. And then there’s “Joey Fist Pumps,” the cast member who got away.

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But while the show’s depravity was its biggest selling point, Jersey Shore did achieve a warped kind of heart through the cast’s unfailing familial loyalty. One of the first season’s most memorable moments found Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi getting punched in the face by a drunk asshole at a bar. As disturbing as it was, the cast and crew remember it as a moment of galvanization, the act that finally made them all see each other as humans.

Doron Ofir: Snooki had never been away from home. The other roommates didn’t like her. She didn’t fit in. She wanted to quit the show. What brought the house together, unfortunately, was the attack on Snooki at that bar — because suddenly, they protected her. At that moment, they became a family.

Nicole Polizzi: I remember ordering shots for the roomies. The guy was so drunk, he kept taking the drinks we were ordering. I just yelled at him, and right when I did, he punched me. I was like, “Oh, that’s cool. I think I just died.”

SallyAnn Salsano: Everyone was shocked. That united all of us in a way — the people in front of the camera, the people behind the camera. In that moment, everyone became so much more human.

Pauly DelVecchio: We wanted to kill this guy. It’s like we saw our sister get punched in the face.

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The piece goes on to explore the show’s other controversies, the cast’s season in Italy, and what it’s like to look back on those early seasons now that most of the cast have kids, spouses, or commitments to sobriety. Sure, there’s no insight into The Situation’s tax fraud, but it’s still worth a read.

Check it out here.