Tracking Down a Lost Sitcom About the Jersey Shore

The 1990s were such a magical time in which to grow up, so different from today. We had a lying, womanizing scumbag for a president. People drank novelty beverages like Crystal Pepsi and Zima. We watched amazing shows like Full House, Roseanne, and Murphy Brown. Well I guess things really aren’t that different after all.

In reminiscing about all those shows from my childhood that have come back from the dead, there is one show that has been sticking out in my mind for a while. Only, I wasn’t sure if the show was ever alive.

Let me explain.

I don’t know why, but in the last couple of years, I’ve had this vague memory of a certain sitcom popping up in my mind. It was about a bunch of young adults living in a beach house in Belmar. My only memories of this show are 1) that it existed, and 2) recalling one scene in which the roommates are trying to bring a refrigerator upstairs.

Clearly, this wasn’t much to go on. And when casually asking people if they remember such a show, they would look at me funny. Could I be confusing things or creating my own alternate facts? Perhaps it was the Mandela effect – instances when people collectively misremember something, like Curious George having a tail (he doesn’t), or Darth Vader saying “Luke, I am your father!” (he doesn’t). Except I’m the only person with this particular memory.

So this mythical show about the Jersey Shore was relegated into the dark depths of my brain, coming to the forefront only in those moments of tenuous consciousness, lying in bed while my body wants to sleep but the mind refuses. Never when I was awake enough to do something about it. So I spent countless nights thinking about it…

Sitcom.

Jersey Shore.

Belmar.

Moving a refrigerator.

…hopeless…

******

The hopelessness finally ended a week ago. The time? Mid-afternoon. The place? A Taco Bell parking lot on Long Island.

Let me explain.

While on the island to attend a birthday party, the wife needed to use the bathroom. Taco Bell seemed as good a place as any. While waiting in the parking lot, I was thinking to myself how grateful I am to have moved back to New Jersey, and what the hell we were thinking in leaving Belmar in the first place.

Belmar.

The thought of little town by the beach triggered something. Just like that, my little memory of a sitcom taking place in Belmar reentered my mind, like Ahab’s elusive white whale coming to the surface from deep within my grey matter. I then did what I should had done years ago. I consulted Google.

I typed in “tv shows that take place in new jersey” which brought me to a list on Wikipedia presenting the names of each show set in the Armpit of America, followed by the years they were on and where they took place. I scrolled down the list, full of anxiety. Will I be vindicated in my years’ long insistence that such a show existed? Or would I prove myself to be a psychopath, creating fictitious stories in my head and convincing myself they’re real.

And then I saw it:

  • Down the Shore (1992–1993), Belmar, New Jersey on the Jersey Shore

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Down the Shore

A real show that took place in Belmar and aired in the early 90s.

I didn’t make it up. I wasn’t crazy. After years of wondering, I finally had an answer.

Down the Shore

And it looked like Saved by the Bell and Seinfeld had a baby.

 

******

Once home, I did my research. Down the Shore ran on Fox for two seasons, spawning 29 episodes. It centered on three guys who want to rent a beach house, but can’t afford it, so they share it with three female acquaintances. Wacky hijinks wholeheartedly ensued.

I expected the cast to be full of no-name actors, long forgotten in the bowels of Hollywood. But no, much of the cast actually has somewhat impressive resumes. Most prominent is Anna Gunn, also known as Skyler White on Breaking Bad. Others include the brother from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the woman who did the voice of Bobby Hill on King of the Hill, and the chubby station manager from Frasier. Ok, so maybe one somebody, and a bunch of nobodies.

While Down the Shore was filmed in LA, at least each episode would start off with an authentic Jersey feel. That’s because the theme song was written by none other than the E-Street Band’s own Steven van Zandt. And it was performed by Jersey Shore music fixtures Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. Fittingly so, it sounds just like a poor man’s Bruce Springsteen song. Check it out and revel in all the early 90s-ness:

 

******

Given that Down the Shore aired when I was about 9 or 10, and it focused on the sexual escapades of a bunch of 20-somethings, I’m sure a lot of it went over my head. Which is why I probably saw that one episode with the refrigerator and didn’t watch it again.

But what I find surprising is just how much the show faded into obscurity. After all, it was on for two seasons, not just a couple episodes, before it was canceled. And it aired on a major network. From the scant resources about Down the Shore I can find online, the show was pretty pioneering, addressing controversial subjects like unprotected sex. It was apparently like Friends, before Friends ever went on the air.

Even in the height of Jersey Shore madness during 2010-2011, you would think people would draw a comparison to this other show about a bunch of young people living at the Jersey Shore a decade and a half earlier. But no. Nothing.

Down the Shore never made it to DVD, you can’t find it on Netflix, and aside from that grainy clip of the theme song from YouTube, there’s not a trace of it to be found.

It’s almost as if the people in charge don’t want anyone to know the show ever existed and are trying to wipe it out of our our collective memory. Maybe there is something to that whole Deep State thing after all.

Or maybe it just wasn’t that good of a show.

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