Christie last month dissed the show as casting his state in a negative light. "What it does is, it takes a bunch of New Yorkers . . . drops them at the Jersey Shore and tries to make America feel like this is New Jersey."
Ayyyyyy, said various and sundry cast members. That is what the Shore is like in a lot of towns where out-of-state party animals in their 20s descend during summer to let off steam. "We're not trying to say we're from Jersey," said The Situation, who's from Staten Island, N.Y.
"We're not trying to portray Italian Americans," said Jenny "JWoww" Farley, who like everybody in the cast is at least half Italian American (now that Angelina Pivarnick is off the show).
"We're just kids renting a house and having a good time," said her replacement, Deena Nicole Cortese from New Egypt, N.J.
Someone asked about the difference between Miami, where the season that's currently airing was shot, and Seaside Heights. "Miami is about being seen," said JWoww. "Jersey, it's about having fun. We have fun both places, but Jersey is really in our heart."
"I would just encourage everybody who hasn't been to Jersey to come on down," said Paul "Pauly D" DelVecchio. "It's a great time."
So lay off, Christie, and lighten up.
Pauly D, like the rest of his castmates, revealed himself to be smarter than he acts, speculating that the series is so popular because "some people see themselves in us, and people who can't relate to us are intrigued by us."
I asked the flat-haired Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi what happened to her famous hairdo pouf, and, poof, she built it up. She showed no shame about being scraped off the beach in the middle of an afternoon last week and carted off to the local drunk tank.
"Obviously, it wasn't a good time," she said a little before she turned away, popped on a little lip gloss, and stuck the tube into her cleavage. "I didn't hurt anybody. Stuff like that happens in Jersey."
One insider critic asked her about her new boyfriend. No new boyfriend, said Snooki. "I'm just Snookin'."
"Snookin' is when you're lookin'," she offered. "You can look it up in the Snooktionary."
The book will be out soon. Really. As I said, smarter than they act.
Lennon the master. "Lennon NYC" is the American Masters offering on PBS Nov. 22, and from the clips shown to the critics Thursday evening, it looks like the specialized bio of the most complex Beatle will be a doozy.
It includes all sorts of intimate moments in the studio and hitherto unreleased music. John Lennon was constantly worried that he'd be banned from the United States. "Maybe they could just ban me from Ohio," he says. He worried he'd suffer the same fate as Charles Chaplin and not be allowed back until he was an old man. "They'll wheel me on at 60 and give me a plaque for 'Yesterday,' and Paul wrote it."
Lennon appeared on album-rock radio WNEW-FM and was goofing around with the weather report on a sultry summer's day: "Somebody said the air was unacceptable, but it's acceptable to me."
Yoko Ono, at 77 a little frail and hard of hearing after all those years of rock-and-roll, answered critics' questions. She spoke of shepherding a huge boxed set of Lennon music due out this year, making sure to keep it to the rock genre that everybody loved. "I don't want the avant-garde things we did sneaking in there," she said.
Ono said she had been on a mission for the nearly 30 years since Mark David Chapman killed Lennon: "I promised that I would put out something of John's every year, just one thing every year. But it turned out to be not just one thing. . . . So in the beginning, it was very, very difficult, and I would faint when I'd hear John's voice or something. But now, you know, I'm used to listening to John's songs, etc. . . . This was very, very heavy. And I loved it in a way because it was like John coming back to let me know that those are the songs that he created when we were together."
Chapman is up for the sixth time for parole, and a critic asked Ono what she thought. "I think I'm being practical. I don't know if I am," she said, "to ask that he not be released, maybe, because he can be a danger to other people, too, especially to us, to me, Julian, and Sean . . . but also he may be a danger to himself. I don't know. But I just don't want to be responsible for all that."
Sarah & Kate plus eight. The big news from the TV critics press tour Friday morning: Sarah Palin's Alaska premieres Nov. 14 on the freak show that is cable's TLC network.
Going for a little cross-promotion, the network has invited the Gosselin family for part of the ride. They'll go camping with Sarah and Todd and who knows what other Palins. (The Gosselin family these days, TLC president Eileen O'Neill confirmed, is just Kate and the kids.)
O'Neill dropped the bombshell just before a panel with the latest TLC family of weirdos, the adults in a gaggle of Utah fundamentalist Mormons that features four wives and one husband, and enough children to make Jon and Kate's Plus 8 seem tiny. The show is called Sister Wives.
In addition to hanging with the Gosselins, O'Neill said, Sarah and Todd and perhaps some of their children too will be "showing off their beloved state." They hike glaciers and meet up with its "fascinating human and animal" denizens. They've encountered brown bears and Kodiaks, said O'Neill, "and are still looking for grizzly mamas." No word on whether they found any of Alaska's elusive liberals.
No political agenda, O'Neill said of the show that will premiere nearly two weeks after midterm Election Day, just good, clean outdoor fun.
Michael Feinstein no fan of "American Idol." Michael Feinstein may know as much about classic American songs as anybody. Obsessed with collecting old recordings and sheet music, he does about 150 concerts a year, singing the standards and not-so-standards from the likes of Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Jule Styne, and Sammy Kahn. But he can't stand American Idol, and not because of the caterwauling of its contestants.
"I have problems with American Idol," he told the critics Wednesday night after a boffo performance in support of an October PBS special, Michael Feinstein's American Songbook, "because I think that we live in a time where it is essential to connect with other people in a way of kindness. To see the bashing of young souls on television for the sake of sport and ratings and a witty line, I think, is unconscionable. I think of how generations of kids are watching this program and are gaining permission to treat other people that way, to judge them and to say nasty things to them. Absolutely, I think that's a terrible thing."
Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or jstorm@ phillynews.com.