Reality TV at 10: How It's Changed Television — and Us

Ten years since the premiere of Survivor, the genre has gone from guilty pleasure to quintessentially American entertainment

Sean McCabe for TIME

The first thing you notice on MTV's Jersey Shore is the nicknames. Well, that and the hair, and the thongs, and the leathery tans, and the tattoos, and the hair gel, and the hot-tub sex, and the bar brawls, and the lustily embraced Italian-American stereotypes. But then: those nicknames. There's Nicole (Snooki) Polizzi. Mike (The Situation) Sorrentino. And most spectacularly, Jenni (Jwoww) Farley. For future copy editors of academic histories of mass media, that's two syllables, hyphen optional, and three w's, not in a row.

Like the tetragrammatic name of God, the moniker Jwoww has encoded in...

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