'Jersey Shore' New Spinoffs Will Not Dilute Franchise, Says MTV Exec
On Thursday, MTV greenlit two "Jersey Shore" spinoffs, starring castmates Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Jenni “JWoww” Farley and Paul “DJ Pauly D” Delvecchio. To say it’s been a busy day for executive vice president of programming and head of production Chris Linn -- who has been on the job for six months -- is an understatement. "Jersey Shore," easily the network’s biggest hit, will now be following in the footsteps of broadcast heavyweights like "CSI" in creating its own TV franchise. And despite rumors that there were issues with cast salary negotiations and reports that there were delays in production on Season 4, Linn said everything is on schedule, with the entire cast returning.
Linn talked to The Hollywood Reporter about greenlighting the two spinoffs, why he’s not worried about the threat of too much "Jersey Shore" and addresses whether MTV’s controversial series "Skins" will return for a second season.
The Hollywood Reporter: Was this an easy decision to order two Jersey Shore spinoffs?
Chris Linn: They made it a very easy decision just based on the strength of the presentations that were produced. Obviously they’re all celebrities in their own right from the series, but in producing the presentations, we were all pleasantly surprised to see how much depth there was there and how these felt fresh and different from Jersey Shore. An easy decision and we’re very excited.
THR: You’re also following the Law & Order, CSI and NCIS model, in a way, with one established flagship series that has been successful and branching off from that ..
Linn: I would say this is a slightly different model in that these shows will each feel unique and different from Jersey Shore and different from each other. Pauly’s show is really following his real-life adventures as he’s pursuing his DJ career and going deeper into his home life in Rhode Island and his circle of friends and family. So it allows us to go deeper into family there and the real-life events that are happening around his exploding DJ career. With Jenni and Snooki, they’ve formed a very close friendship over the last cycles of Jersey Shore and they’ve really come to depend on each other and Snooki’s finally ready to move out of her mother’s home and head out on her own as an adult. She decides to do that with Jenni, so she and Jenni are moving into a house together. I think both of these are going to look and feel very different from each other and different from Jersey Shore.
THR: Do you think these spinoffs will dilute the franchise?
Linn: I don’t think so. I have to say, again, they feel very different from Jersey Shore and each of these cast members has so much more depth and different sides and layers to them than you see on Jersey Shore. I think it allows us to expand out from the base of Jersey Shore without taking away from what Jersey Shore is. They would continue to be involved in any potential future cycles of Jersey Shore. That’s really a different experience because they’re on vacation and it’s a group dynamic.
THR: How long do you think the Jersey Shore phenomenon can last without viewer backlash or an oversaturation in the media?
Linn: I think the key to that is for as long as the cast is having fun, is enjoying their summers together and our audience continues to enjoy it and for as long as it just feels fun and real. That’s really what’s going to determine it: the audience appetite and the cast. Who knows what the future holds.
THR: Do you think there will be a point reached where there is too much?
Linn: It’s something where as a channel, we strive for diversity and a portfolio approach. That’s really incumbent upon us in our programming strategy to make sure that we’ve stayed true to that. We offer many different types of shows, it’s not all about Jersey Shore. We have a huge scripted slate. We have reality in all different genres. We think we’ll be able to avoid any potential pitfalls there.
THR: In the upcoming season, the Jersey Shore cast is going to Italy. Why that particular destination?
Linn: As with everyone with Jersey Shore, that really stems from the cast. They’ve often talked about wanting to visit Italy and many of them have relatives there, but haven’t actually visited. It was something that they had talked about: “Wouldn’t it be fun to all go?” So that’s what we’re doing. Some of them are of Italian heritage and are interested in the culture, the food, the lifestyle so it seemed like a natural progression for them to go explore.
THR: Did you and the producers feel that the show needed to freshen up somehow?
Linn: In all honesty, it wasn’t that calculated. It really did stem from conversations with [the cast], the same way we ended up going to Miami in a previous season. Obviously this past season did extremely well. We didn’t feel like we were in a situation where we had to shake it up.
THR: Why do you think Jersey Shore has set ratings records in its third season, which is rare for a series?
Linn: It is, but you know, again, I totally attribute it to this cast. They’s something about this group dynamic that is greater than the sum of its parts and it just continues to connect. It’s like a great rock band, so now it just comes together, these voices together make great music and make great TV. I think it continues to connect with our audience and they’re fun. It’s a fun ride. I think that’s what people are looking for.
THR: There were reports that there are delays with filming Season 4 in Italy, due to various issues. Can you address that?
Linn: I’m not exactly sure what the debates are with all of that. We were on schedule to shoot, so we’re in great shape. It always takes time to hone in on exactly where we’re going to shoot, solidifying accommodations, etc. As you know with production, everything’s a little bit fluid. We’re actually on schedule and moving forward.
THR: The network is getting into the scripted game, and most recently Skins finished its run. Is that show returning?
Linn: In terms of Skins, a decision has not been made yet on the second season. The first season just recently wrapped up and we always take a beat to take a look at programming strategy. Moving forward, a decision hasn’t been made yet. But we’re very pleased with the way the show did. We obviously made a huge noise with that. We’re happy with the ratings and the reaction that we got from viewers.
THR: And what about the upcoming Teen Wolf?
Linn: We’re extremely excited about Teen Wolf, which is launching in June. We’ve got fantastic response from the trailer and the show looks like nothing you’ve ever seen on MTV before. We have not established ratings goals for it yet, no.
THR: What is the network doing to try and create successful scripted programming?
Linn: As with everyone on our air, it really starts with taking relatable situations and amplifying them into great television. That’s the core of everything that we’re doing right now. We have a diverse slate of scripted [with] Skins, Teen Wolf, Hard Times of R.J. Berger you can see the portfolio approach. We have a wide array of projects coming up. In terms of being successful, we think about really finding subject matter that connects to our audience and making it into great entertainment.