Low tide as 'Jersey Shore' season 5 opens

The cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore," from left,

The cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore," from left, Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola, Ronnie Magro, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Jenni "JWoww" Farley, Angelina Pivarnick, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, Paul " DJ Pauly D" Delvecchio and Vinny Guadagnino. (Credit: Ian Spanier Photography)

THE SHOW "Jersey Shore"

WHEN | WHERE Tomorrow at 10 p.m. on MTV

REASON TO WATCH Back at the shore for season 5, with Vinny Guadagnino, Jenni "JWoww" Farley, "Pauly D" DelVecchio, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Deena Nicole Cortese and Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Italia . . . "Team Meatball" . . . the situation with The Situation. That stuff from the fourth season's all behind us, and more important, them. Now, back to Seaside Heights, where old habits (creeping, GTL, drama) die hard.

The "Jersey Shore" eight are packed into a van and arrive at the familiar house (duck phone still intact) while the old job at the Shore Store awaits. The first night, there's a quick welcome-back party at Captain Hook's, arranged by their boss, Danny, which turns into a surprise party, where family and old friends -- like Snooki's boyfriend, Jionni, and Mike's pal, the "Unit" -- turn up. Drinks are consumed. Tempers erupt. Meanwhile, Vinny falls into a deep depression. I understand why.

MY SAY Back in the fall as the "Italia" edition was unfolding -- while Mike was smashing his head against a wall, and Deena and Snooki as so-called Team Meatball explored their sexuality -- the state of New Jersey revoked MTV's $420,000 tax credit to film in the state. Other than some headlines, nothing much came of this and likely nothing much will. After a winter break in some other luckless locale -- Argentina is nice this time of year -- "Jersey Shore" will be back next summer because it has to be. There's no place like home, and this is home for "Jersey Shore." The energy, the boardwalk, the gorillas. All the background noise makes this thing work when it actually does work.

By contrast, Italy was a wasted edition -- a stain on one of the world's most beautiful cities (Florence) and a strain on the eight, who crawled across the finish line. For fans as much as for them, this season is a genuine reprieve -- except when another drunken night ends in the cold light of another morning. "Groundhog Day" has set in. Same hangover. Same jokes. Same snark. Even mice in a cage get bored, and Vinny really does seem bummed by episode's end. You may understand why, too.

BOTTOM LINE There's no place like home . . . there's no place like home. But this seems like the beginning of the end.

GRADE B (for fans), F (for everyone else)

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