'Jersey Shore'

Jeff Daly/Picturegroup/Courtesy of MTV

Season four offers a change in scenery but more of the same as the crew continues its 'smush' search.

More drama: That was the rather improbable promise made by Jersey Shore executive producer SallyAnn Salsano about season four of MTV's bombastic human fireworks display.

Given all the alcohol-fueled blowouts, hookups and all-around fist-pumping lunacy of seasons one through three, upping the ante on the most popular show in the network's history is no small feat. Sensing that leaving well enough alone might not be in the best interest of the franchise, Salsano came upon what seemed an inspired idea: relocating our favorite guidos and guidettes to Italy for a season.

For better or worse, however, you can take Snooki and company out of the Jersey Shore, but you can't take Jersey Shore out of them. And though the physical surroundings might have turned decidedly more picturesque, the mental picture remains decidedly the same.

In Florence, the "smush" search -- with all of its titillating and messy repercussions -- resumes right on cue.

"I want to find a nice, traditional Italian girl," says Vinny, the only one of the cast who speaks Italian. Also on the prowl is "Single Ronnie," whose turgid, slow-motion breakup with Sammi consumed so much airtime in season three. Deena makes an ambitious pledge to "make out with people," and Ronnie's ex declares there will be "no more tears for Sammi Sweetheart."

But by far the biggest development of the off-season is news that Mike "The Situation" has secretly hooked up with Snooki three to four times. The problem? At least one of those occasions occurred while Snooks was in a committed relationship with her current love, Jionni.

Even stranger, Mike confides to Ronnie (and the camera crews and viewing audience) that he's falling for her. Deena, meanwhile, singles out Pauly D for some potential smushing.

Ensconced in their spacious new "castle," a big step up from the Seaside Heights digs, hair dryers are employed for blowouts and shots are consumed. After the signature routines of a trip to the gym and the return of sexual tension between Ronnie and Sammi, the fall of darkness leads to a nightclub.

There, the language of spray-tanned bodies helps bridge the culture gap. As Deena puts it, the season will feature "a lot of hand motions and a lot of shaking the butt."

While the season premiere was content in teasing the audience with some tongue-licking between Deena and Pauly D and a rather desperate attempt by Mike to re-establish himself with Snooki, the teaser for upcoming episodes promises the drama Salsano has boasted of capturing in Italy: knockout blows, car crashes, arrests and more drunken hookups. In other words, welcome back to the Jersey Shore.

Airdate 9 p.m. Thursdays (MTV)
Executive producer SallyAnn Salsano