THR's Women in Entertainment 2011: Power 100
The fourth season of Salsano's brainchild, MTV's Jersey Shore, attracted a record-breaking 8.8 million total viewers for its Aug. 4 premiere. "MTV called me and said, 'Holy shit, we got the biggest numbers ever,' " says the 37-year-old producer. "We were in production on the next season, and I was in the control room. Everything was going haywire, and I said, 'I gotta go.' I slammed the phone down and never called them back."
Admittedly, the bicoastal reality producer doesn't take much time to smell the roses. "I don't want to buy into any of the bullshit," she says. "Right now, I'm in Ugg boots, a fleece, I haven't showered in two days, and I'm sitting on a street corner in Rhode Island. I'm just a producer; I don't want it to change my outlook on life."
Since getting her start as an intern on Multimedia Entertainment's dishy daytime talk show Sally Jessy Raphael, Salsano has climbed the ranks of the male-dominated reality production world doing stints on such shows as ABC's The Bachelor and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. In 2006, she launched 495 Productions (named after the Long Island Expressway she frequented growing up), and the company's biggest coup has been the reality show about six twentysomethings who spend their summers in New Jersey's Seaside Heights.
While Shore initially met resistance from Italian-American groups and advertisers (the cast often refer to themselves as "guidos" and "guidettes," terms commonly considered derogatory), the show gained a cultlike fan base during its first season and more than 4.8 million viewers for its season finale. "I didn't even realize the show was so popular," says Salsano, who spends most of her time on the road. This year alone, Salsano has completed two seasons of Jersey Shore, spinoff pilots for Shore stars Pauly D and Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, a season of both MTV's Disaster Date and the network's new series Friend Zone, Oxygen's Tanisha Gets Married, VH1's Mama Drama and TV Guide's Nail Files.
"I flew more this year than I did in the past four years combined," says Salsano, who begins each day by 4 a.m. "Four times a year I cry, have a breakdown and say, 'All I want is a day off.' After 48 hours, I'm so sick of myself that I just want to get back to work."
And she shows no sign of stopping. Although Shore saw its first ratings decline for the season-four finale (6.6 million total viewers), the New York native says it hasn't skipped a beat. "If a dip in the ratings is having a cable show that gets over 6 million, I'll take that dip every day," she says.
With the fifth season premiering in January, Salsano promises all of the drama, fist pumps and hookups fans have come to expect, but she still wonders at the pop-culture phenom she created. "Everyone's like: 'What's the next Jersey Shore? What's the next Jersey Shore?' and I'm like, 'Shoot, if I knew how to only make No. 1 shows in history …' " she says, laughing. "It's like, 'Yeah, I've been just sitting on them all and waiting for you guys to call me.' I wish it were that simple."
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