Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi's pregnancy and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino's addiction issues could veer MTV's next season of "Jersey Shore" away from party-land and toward the starkly serious. For the first time since the show premiered in 2009, the cast's personal dramas may actually hurt the program.
Two of the regular eight cast members will likely be sober on the sixth season of the show, which is filming in Seaside Heights, N.J., once again this summer. Snooki, who is often the life of the party, is likely to put partying on hold due to her pregnancy, and The Situation recently entered rehab, reportedly at the Utah's Cirque Lodge, to battle a prescription pill addiction. While a coherent cast might be a boon to any other program, it could prove a detriment to "Jersey Shore."
Celebrity rehab specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky recently spoke about The Situation's addiction issues and what he hopes to see happen on the next installment of the MTV show.
"He's severely addicted. Let's not pretend that's not the case," Pinsky told WetPaint.com. "I think it's a terrible idea he's going into production so soon."
Pinsky, who has not treated the reality star, added, "Personally, I would like to see him going to two meetings a day and not party at all. I would like to see him in sober living and NOT in the house they normally shoot in."
Other addiction specialists agree that The Situation has to change his living situation in order to stay sober down at the shore.
"Research tells us that people just leaving rehabilitation need to change the unhealthy environments that got them there in the first place," Kevin Sabet, a former senior advisor to the White House on drug policy and an expert on substance abuse, told The Huffington Post. "It may not make for good TV, but he would do well to take it easy for a while and celebrate his recovery. He'll be much better off in the long run."
But a "Jersey Shore" house without The Situation actually living there isn't what fans want to see. It's the drunken fights, party scenes and ridiculous confessionals that most people tune in for -- all of which is celebrated on fansites and blogs (warning to readers: the linked sites contain some racy language). Now, some might actually start tuning in to see how Snooki and Sitch handle their newfound sobriety, while rooting for their failure.
Because they will both be under the microscope of public opinion while they handle their personal issues, paparazzi shots and cellphone videos of the two stars potentially using drugs or alcohol could open a whole other can of worms and wipe out whatever star power they and the show still have.
It's rare that real life actually ruins a reality show. Usually more drama is good news for producers, especially by the time a series is on its sixth season. But television critics don't think these particular changes will benefit MTV or "Jersey Shore" production company, 495 Productions.
"Real life shouldn't be able to ruin a reality show, but it can ruin a cartoon in an instant," said TVGasm.com senior editor Ronnie Karam. "What if 'South Park's' Cartman went on a diet and read 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'? What if Wile E. Coyote stopped chasing the Road Runner and just invited him to lunch? ... The only thing I know for certain is, I would turn off my TV."
Karam added, “What's the point of DVRing a bunch of drunk promiscuous idiots if they're not gonna be drunk or promiscuous anymore?"
In Touch Weekly senior editor and blogger Dorothy Cascerceri agrees, and thinks loyal "Jersey Shore" viewers will be in for a surprise in Season Six.
"The show centers around drinking and partying, so how long can the show go on for?" she said. "It could transform into a hybrid of 'Celebrity Rehab' and 'Teen Mom,' but the show as viewers know it is going to change drastically going forward."
Could those changes include new cast members? Rumors have started swirling recently that 495 Productions was considering bringing in new people to shake up Season Six in light of Snooki's and The Situation's changing lifestyles. However, "Jersey Shore" creator SallyAnn Salsano dismissed the stories, telling WetPaint, "I don't know where that [rumor] came from, but not from us."
At the end of the day, not everyone is worried about what's next for "Jersey Shore." Newsday television critic Verne Gay said he actually thinks the new additions -- Snooki's bump and The Situation's sobriety -- will breathe life into a show that has reached a plateau.
"It may actually help ... You'll see a whole new aspect of their personalities, and that could mean different story dynamics," Gay told The Huffington Post. "'New' is good, because we've already seen the 'old' and are pretty sick of it."
"Jersey Shore" does need the help. Despite being the highest-rated show on MTV, its numbers are starting to drop.
"The ratings have peaked, and typically the popularity of MTV's shows are as short lived as the core viewer gets older and moves on to other shows on other networks," media analyst Brad Adgate of Horizon Media said. "The network has to find another 'Jersey Shore' hit for the next generation of MTV viewers."