For all of the hype, “Jersey Shore” (9 p.m., MTV) is basically a variation on “Big Brother” (8 p.m., CBS), with exaggerated ethnic stereotypes in starring roles. The cable show amplifies the violence, vulgarity, promiscuity and self-delusion, but there’s little to distinguish it except the fact that “Shore” attracts millions of bored and jaded viewers every week.
This season, the antics move to Italy, daring us to cringe at the sight of the beachside Cro-Magnons trashing the culture of the old country accompanied by a cliché soundtrack of pizza parlor music.
More than most countries, Italy is used to ill-behaved tourists. And a random sampling of Italian television reveals behavior even more odious than “Jersey Shore.” And standards even lower than MTV’s. Italy’s particular misfortune is that Silvio Berlusconi, the media mogul directly responsible for the decline of Italian television, is also the president of the country. If you can imagine a combination of Donald Trump and The Situation sitting in the White House, you’re coming close. So fear not for Italy. A visit from the troll-like Snooki is the least of that country’s worries.
New Jersey Italian-Americans have hardly been the only ethnic group debased by reality television’s search for the predictable. Viewers can find similar but different fare all over the dial tonight, from a two-part reunion of “Real Housewives of New York City” on Bravo (8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.), to “Sweet Home Alabama” (8 p.m.) and “Texas Women” (9 p.m.) on CMT.
While some believe that this genre of programming has replaced soap operas or sitcoms, I contend that its exaggerated characters, outlandish outfits, strange hairdos and emphasis on the sensational and violent have origins in another spectacle. “IMPACT Wrestling” (9 p.m., Spike), for example. The Situation’s obsession with his physique and his nickname for his stomach muscles make the show’s wresting roots all the more evident. Viewers who look down on professional wrestling while convincing themselves that they’re watching “Jersey Shore” for the “irony” are even more delusional than Snooki and her pals. At least they’re getting paid to debase themselves.
• Model Toccara looks for love on “The Ultimate Merger” (8 p.m., TV One).
• “Titans” (8 p.m., CNBC) profiles the 19th-century distiller Jack Daniel and the $2 billion business that bears his name.
Tonight’s other highlights
• The top four emerge on “So You Think You Can Dance” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Will Ferrell guest-stars on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).
• Sue’s mother (Carol Burnett) arrives on “Glee” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Michael and Sam enter an armed compound on “Burn Notice” (8 p.m., USA).
• “Project Runway” (8 p.m., Lifetime) continues.
• Shark Week continues with “Shark City” (8 p.m., Discovery), followed by “When Fish Attack 3” (9 p.m.).
• Angie’s reality show on “30 Rock” (8:30 p.m., NBC).
• Andy’s in peril on “Rookie Blue” (9 p.m., ABC).
• A mock trial with real consequences on “Suits” (9 p.m., USA).
• Wilfred looks for love on “Wilfred” (9 p.m., FX).