Meet the Original JWoww and Snooki, Would-Be Stars of Bridge & Tunnel

Brianna and Gabriella almost escaped from Staten Island. But MTV pulled the plug on the original Jersey Shore

Alycia recently distanced herself from Frank, an unseen suitor whose desire for commitment threatens to prevent her from pursuing a career. "I wanna do my dreams," she declares, her hair blowing in the Staten Island Ferry wind. "I wanna go to the city and become a fashion journalist." As she wagers on fashion-merchandising LIM College, she enjoys the company of Vinnie, Carmine, Mike Nunziata, Anthony, and various others, but sums up her unwillingness to get serious thusly: "Am I gonna sit here when I'm 40, and my children are fricking annoying me, and my husband is on the couch picking his ball sack or something, and I'm gonna wonder what if?" No, she will not. Except that she just realized she's in love with Vinnie.

The pilot's dark horse is Timmy's ex-girlfriend, a Newport-sucking toughie who dreams of becoming a music producer. One day, hanging out with Tim and two other friends under a bridge, she fantasizes about life with money. "We could all just take the ferry, go to the city," she muses. "Eat in a nice restaurant, like ESPN Zone or Planet Hollywood. Somethin' wit' a theme." That's Brianna.

The episode's delivery date was October 26, 2009. Jersey Shore would debut December 3, 2009.

Brianna DeBartoli's relationship with reality TV began, like many broken promises, on Craigslist. Her father cut off his two daughters at 16, and the 17-year-old high school dropout was searching for employment. She spotted a casting call for Tool Academy, a VH1 show "dedicated to taking the most arrogant, dishonest, thoughtless and unfaithful boyfriends and transforming them into husband material,” according to an extant online synopsis. Conveniently, Brianna had a long-term boyfriend, future EMT wannabe Timmy, whom she believed deserved a surprise trip to "relationship boot camp" and applied. Tool Academy was full, but the casting director rerouted her to another project in development for Viacom, a very early incarnation of Bridge & Tunnel. (It's worth noting that Tool Academy producer SallyAnn Salsano is the woman ultimately credited with Jersey Shore's success.)

Bridge & Tunnel wasn't originally limited to Staten Island. Conceived as a documentary-style reality show about New York kids growing up in Manhattan's shadow who wanted more—whatever more was—but didn't know exactly how to get it, Bridge & Tunnel originated at the independent production company Ish Entertainment. In the spring of 2008, Ish hired Doron Ofir, the same L.A.-based casting director who would later recruit Jersey Shore, to interview outer-borough kids and to film them throwing parties. Brianna became a test subject.

You wouldn't get this from the sloppy catfights posted on Perez Hilton, but empathy, not ridicule, inspired Bridge & Tunnel. Naomi Bulochnikov, the show's stiletto-heeled creator, was raised in a two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment with her grandparents, her parents, and her older sister. "I always had that feeling of 'How am I gonna get out of here?' " Her objective with Bridge & Tunnel was to humanize that struggle. "There's a reason why these kids are the way they are," she says. "They have to adapt to their environment. If you grew up in Staten Island, you fist-pump. That's what you do." Her older sister Stella escaped to Los Angeles at 18, eventually co-founded Ish with Michael Hirschorn and now executive-produces the Starz original drama Boss starring Kelsey Grammer. The kids Bulochnikov wanted to depict didn't have this kind of role model. "What do you do when you have all these dreams and all these goals, but you have no way of getting them, you have no one to guide you? You have no money. You have no way of getting out. Manhattan to you is a world away."

A Bridge & Tunnel 13-minute "sizzle tape" presented to MTV in the fall of 2008 was so well-received that a pilot for the network began shooting in January 2009. At one point, a source close to the production reports that MTV network execs suggested throwing the cast in a house with a hot tub, titling the show Staten Island, and seeing what happened. Bridge & Tunnel's producers declined. This was a series about kids with stories, not kids whose only stories were the show.

Rough-draft clips appeared during MTV's April 2009 upfronts, the annual period when networks unveil their upcoming projects to lure early advertising dollars. Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Choire Sicha proclaimed Bridge & Tunnel "the greatest show you've never seen" that "deeply scratches an itch you don't even know you have."

Meanwhile, MTV ran for the sandpaper—Brianna even remembers her casting director asking if she knew any guidos for a new show. Over at VH1, there'd been a project floating around about Jersey stereotypes, one of whom was a former mortgage broker named Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino. The Spam-skinned douchebag who would make the unseemly acronym D.T.F. (Down To Fuck) a catchphrase, the Situation became the only returning cast member when the series moved over to MTV under SallyAnn Salsano, best known for Shot of Love, a kind of bisexual Bachelor starring MySpace boob-stick Tila Tequila. Sorrentino went off to Seaside Heights, where he and seven other cartoons underwent the Real World's Molotov-cocktail approach: hurl volatile characters at a Jacuzzi-furnished house-share and immediately get them lit. Nicole Polizzi, an aspiring veterinarian nicknamed Snooki, had just watched a horse fart (not a euphemism) on an episode of MTV's inverse-matchmaking reality show Is She Really Going Out With Him? This was apparently exactly what MTV wanted out of Jersey Shore.

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47 comments
VectoriaBac
VectoriaBac

I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from : BidsBit.com

Christopher12
Christopher12

The start-up cost for my entire brewing kit was just over $200, but I do believe I did get a couple of things I didn't necessarily need at the time. Essentially it comes down to ingredients and materials. The materials are the bulk of your costs up front. But the idea is that you can reuse most, if not all, of your materials for future batches. Google was my friend in helping me find a local home brew shop here in Fullerton, Ca. I found Addison Homebrew Provisions to be a very helpful in gathering the best materials for my first brew.

NYCPex
NYCPex

I'm frankly surprised MTV hasn't aired this yet. Barbaric baboons with no manners and less sense behaving badly? It's their M.O. I mean, the nation's appetite for drunk bimbos taking their hair extensions out and diving into a swimming pool in their dresses has not yet been sated. C'mon, MTV, you can't deprive of us this.

Seriously, if you want to see a documentary about misbehaving chimps, just see "Project Nim."

Ted Ball
Ted Ball

I moved to staten island from miami and could'nt move away fast enough, the people there are the biggest bunch of morons you'll ever have the displeasure of encountering,every italian kid thinks he's connected and the girls idea of a great guy is some gym rat that drives an olds 88with dark glass and 20 inch rims. who's a mamas boy.I actually had one of these guys come to my front door and ask me to shovel in front of my home so he could park his car there so he would'nt have to park in the lot of his condominium complex..

tre
tre

as much as i would love to see mtv put on a show that is tasteful, it isnt going to happen...look what they allow on now. these kids arent the first or last of disgraceful humans mtv will parade around for millions of dollars. they do look entertaining though smh

sal
sal

joe bonomo is meant to be on tv... "im not the situation, more like a solution"

jake b
jake b

I had some classes at NYU with Michelle and she's absolutely fabulous. Smart, gorgeous girl...YOU GO MICHELLE!

love,jake b

jt rockland
jt rockland

staten island has way too many characters, these people really exist? so funny, would love to meet the cast

laurie XOX
laurie XOX

is there still hope for this to air? HOPE SO!!!! looks amazing.

james g
james g

staten island like everywhere else in the world has all kinds of people...this show actually shows that. it isnt just guidos in a house worrying about partying. you have people in relationships, working, in school, trying to make it big in business or whatever and then yeah, you have some people you can make fun of....def has it all, 100%

Chriz
Chriz

dis show is guna be huge

Brooklyn123
Brooklyn123

this show looks so funny, i looked at the trailer and i can't wait for it to air

David Roldan
David Roldan

These 2 girl's are absolutely GROSS ! Two giraffes with big lips.

Joanne R. Pacicca
Joanne R. Pacicca

Honestly, this is a question for the straight men... are you really truly attracted to women like these Jersey girls? Do you find them likable? Please vent...

Thiet ke to gap
Thiet ke to gap

I find programming that many people hate so much is wrong

CaliInTexas
CaliInTexas

GARBAGE!!!!!! MTV is trash...they need to change the name to TTV (trash tv) they have NOTHING to do with MUSIC any longer.

Brooklyn123
Brooklyn123

this show stopped filming last year and it still makes front page! come one MTV wake up, this show obviously has something special

Guest
Guest

people are such haters, this show looks amazing

Guest
Guest

AIR THIS SHOW

rob k
rob k

real people, real life...THAT WOULD BE DIFFERENT FOR MTV. wow, instead of people in houses (real world, jersey shore) or stupid scripted shows (rj whoever)...get kids people can relate to or maybe make fun of, but believe me they will be watching

amir
amir

unintelligence is ready a 7-page article about people and still only judging them from a minute-long trailer

Sakara
Sakara

more trashy, sleazy, stoopid nonsense from the filthy suit and tie millionaires that create mtv shows.

and these skanks would have gotten upwards of $100,000 an episode if the show would have became a hit.

NY TIMES BEST SELLER NEXT FOR THESE TWO!

Gmimozo
Gmimozo

This is just sad. Why are you placating such utter nonsense? This isn't news and certainly doesn't deserve a COVER story. The real news is the story of each and every Staten Islander who is actually contributing to society and not just trying to get rich quick from media outlets like MTV who have turned our Island into a joke among the masses.

As an Islander who isn't trying to "get outta heah" but who is trying to make the place I live better and earn the respect of a city who treats my home like a bastard step child who only breeds guidos and has nothing to offer the great city of New York.

Do you understand how hard it is to fight a stereotype like this? You make it extremely difficult by making this crap news. Why not come here and do some real reporting? I implore you to do so. In fact, I dare you to. I'll be your tour guide and I'll show you what Staten Island is ACTUALLY about. Because that is news. We're the little borough that could, constantly fighting an uphill battle against media outlets everywhere to stop reporting on this small minority and start investigating what life and the people who live here are really like.

Are you up for the challenge? Because I'm ready when you are.

Bernard
Bernard

When is it coming out???

Chris
Chris

what a great article and would be great show. who knew these kids had ambition and were smart and going places? shows you can't judge someone from a minute long clip!

BrentMiller
BrentMiller

I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, GrabPenny.com

niaoren
niaoren

Hello,everyone,sorry take your time a min,show a good fashion stuff

website —— www (vipstores) net —— you can input on your web there,if you

do know how to do,you can click my username and you will come

our company website,maybe you will find something your like,thanks!

Guest
Guest

Amy Winehouse is dead yet these bozo's live and MTV is paying them lot's of money. The world is truly absurd.

Linlili32
Linlili32

Hello,everyone,sorry take your time a min,show a good fashion stuff

website —— www (vipstores) net —— you can input on your web there,if you

do know how to do,you can click my username and you will come

our company website,maybe you will find something your like,thanks!

james g
james g

did you even real the article? the whole premise was showing who this people really are...a diverse group of kids with different goals and everything and most importantly they are from STATEN ISLAND not jersey

Brooklyn123
Brooklyn123

jersey isn't staten island, different states different girls

james g
james g

you really took nothing away from the article, huh? saying people are trash is 1. terrible and 2. the whole premise of the story was showing that there is more to these people than the trailer...come on

Brooklyn123
Brooklyn123

soooo funny, i was just thinking the same thing.

amir
amir

reading* (stupid iphone)

CantAbideLiars
CantAbideLiars

This story, for one thing, is waaaaay too long.

And no matter how seriously MTV initially agrees to treat subj matter (16 and Pregnant), it eventually goes to the lowest common denominator (Teen Moms) and just grinds out stereotypes and crap.

All these commenters here begging for this show to be aired are just the cast members and their buds.

james g
james g

i know a few of these people and you really must have read the article with your eyes closed. the show shows a whole range of what staten island offers...and there are the stereotypical people, yes...but there are also people that despite their tan, accent or whatever, are really smart, motivated people. don't generalize the people in the show like you claim people generalize staten island because then you are no better

amir
amir

YOU KNOW HOW YOU "CHANGE A STEREOTYPE"????????? THROUGH YOURSELF. funny you people complain about people judging you but you will judge a group of strangers through a two second clip of their life. terrible

never look back
never look back

You can't change the stereotype. I left State Island in 92' and haven't been back. I wasn't at all surprised when Jersey Shore aired and nothing had changed. You are more than welcome to stay in an area that, indeed, breeds quidos and offers nothing. I'll be watching the show from out of state.

james g
james g

at least someone admits it!

Mike NYC
Mike NYC

cry me a river...just seems you weren't good enough to break the SI "stereotype"....i am from SI and trust me, i am far more successful than many people from other parts of the country

Guest
Guest

Stop being an enabler.

 
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