SEASIDE HEIGHTS – A group of eight housemates spend a summer at the shore. Hijinks ensue. Camera crews document the “reality” of the friends’ summer. The officials where the series was filmed learn some lessons. A mixed blessing indeed.
Jersey Shore was a smash hit for MTV, airing for five seasons from December 2009 to December 2012. Three of those seasons were filmed in Seaside Heights. (The show also filmed in Miami, Florida, and Florence, Italy, during its original run.)
The castmates have met with varying degrees of post-Jersey Shore success, and most of the original cast returned for the Jersey Shore: Family Vacation series airing on MTV and online now. MTV’s parent company, Viacom, reported that at least 10 million unique viewers tuned in during its premiere weekend April 5, which broke unscripted show viewership records set in 2012. Even before its premiere, the network renewed the reboot for a seventh season.
But rather than return to where it all started, production took place in Miami.
“Some people would argue that the show put Seaside Heights on the map. Other people would argue just as strongly that Seaside Heights was already on the map,” Seaside Heights Borough administrator Christopher J. Vaz told Jersey Shore Online.
Vaz wrote candidly about the show’s impact on the borough.
“If we use parking meter revenue and beach revenue as a measure, there were very good years for the borough during the show’s production. Can’t say for certain that Jersey Shore was solely responsible, but the show was generally good for business,” Vaz wrote via email. “On the flip side, I can say very honestly that I have met very few people outside of Seaside Heights who believe that the production was good for Seaside Heights in the long view. Maybe the experience of other people has been different, but my personal experience in talking to people from all over the country is that the show portrayed Seaside Heights in a negative light and it hurt us in the big picture. This was a risk that the borough and local business owners accepted when they signed on.
“I doubt anybody could have known then how successful the show would become and how Seaside Heights would be impacted – for better or worse. We live and learn. And we shouldn’t be afraid to take on reasonable risks when considering something new,” Vaz said.
He said the borough wasn’t directly contacted about filming the reboot there. He did approve a permit for filming on a cold January afternoon, but rejected another permit last year which would have saw filming during a June weekend by the road trip reunion production.
“Seaside Heights has moved on and through our public statements in 2017 we encouraged the Jersey Shore production folks also to move on. None of this is personal,” Vaz wrote. “…We wish the cast nothing but success in their professional and personal lives.”
The borough did benefit another way by its Jersey Shore association. After Superstorm Sandy, MTV and show’s cast held a telethon that raised money for Seaside Heights. The money raised purchased two mobile stages for the borough’s beach and boardwalk, and numerous sun shade structures.
“We haven’t forgotten that. There remains a personal bond between local business owners and the cast even if the Borough has pivoted in a new direction from a marketing and promotional perspective,” Vaz said.
In 2017, the borough adopted an ordinance that gives it greater control of future filming projects. Officials have also learned that sometimes it is best to say no to a project, be it a film, concert or other special activity. Vaz said there is a long-term strategy to recapture Seaside Height’s essence as a premier family vacation destination. Some projects that have been proposed simply don’t serve that goal.
“Seaside Heights is changing for the better. Many people are working very hard every day to match high level goals and objectives with decisions that are being made in the trenches by borough officials and business owners,” Vaz said. “This is a great time to buy a home or condo in Seaside Heights while good values still exist. The boardwalk and beach or bay are within walking distance from any point in town. Not many opportunities like this exist in other shore communities.”
Jersey Shore Online reached out to several other officials and businesses who were involved in the original Jersey Shore series, as well as Viacom. None responded to inquiries by press time.