Growing up, Vinny Guadagnino wouldn't invite friends over to his family's modest Staten Island, N.Y., home. Now it's the backdrop for his MTV talk show, aptly named "The Show With Vinny."
The cablenet ran a sneak peek, and now the 11-episode talk show launches officially on Thursday, May 2, with guest Lil Wayne. The premise has guests coming to the family home of the quiet guy from "Jersey Shore," where Guadagnino's mom, Paola Giaimo, cooks for everyone, and Guadagnino's sisters, Antonella and Mariann Guadagnino, interrupt as he tries to talk to guests, which will include Jenny McCarthy, Redfoo, Scott Disick, Kat Graham and A$AP.
"The Show With Vinny"Premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday, May 2, on MTV
The set, a well-worn couch and chair, is in what was intended to be a dining room, but until the show had been Giaimo's bedroom. Crucifixes, Communion photos and maps of Sicily decorate the walls. Each of the sisters' bedrooms is taken over by the show, one as a control room and one as a greenroom. Guadagnino's bedroom has seven shelves of sneakers, a skyline of New York on a mirrored background and video games.
Giaimo had ironed her son's T-shirt and helped him into it. She turns her attention to cooking in the cramped kitchen.
"This is crazy," Guadagnino says, settling on a couch in his room, "every day with a celebrity, just catching that interaction with my mom. She's hilarious."
"I never had a friend sleep over this house," Guadagnino says. "It was embarrassing. It was small, beat up. Flash forward 25 years, and now I have millions of people and the biggest celebrities in the world and millionaires."
Over Guadagnino's bed are framed photos of the "Jersey Shore" cast, and an inscription reads: "You changed our channel by making it important to change our channel."
Show screeners were not available at this writing, but it's clearly the antithesis of a slick talk show.
"It's like if 'Wayne's World' was shot in Staten Island," says SallyAnn Salsano, executive producer and the force behind the "Jersey Shore" cottage industry.
"Vinny is famous for two things -- pinkeye and people fall in love with Vinny," she says.
"You would think these kids are from central casting," Salsano says. "Wait till you see them. Mom cuts his food. This is not a put-on. You feel like you are at someone's house for dinner. We barely get the 'What are you here to pitch?'"
Reflecting on how she selected the cast of "Jersey Shore," Salsano says, "If you would have told me, 'You are going to take these eight kids you found in a nightclub and change TV,' I would have said, 'You are smoking something.'"
The day "Jersey Shore" premiered, Guadagnino was supposed to take the LSATs, and he says he still thinks about law school. "I like this more," he says.
The aroma of garlic fills the house. His mom had some leftover basil, so she whips up a batch of pesto. Everyone waits for Victoria Justice on a frigid day. The crew crams into a bedroom, and producers feed lines into Guadagnino's earpiece as he tries to do his introduction.
"Did you leave something out?" Giaimo asks. "I just want to be sure you don't leave anyone out. Remember, if I didn't give birth to you, you wouldn't be here right now."
She reminds him to mention his sisters. Guadagnino sighs, faces a camera and says, "Welcome to 'The Show With Vinny, My Mom, My Sisters, the Dogs and Cats, and the Rest of Staten Island.'"
Naturally, his mom slaps him for the sarcasm. Guadagnino tries explaining who Justice is to his mom. "She's like a god to little kids." Before she can correct him for being flippant about God, his sisters criticize his outfit, and Mom's on them.
"I am movie-star famous now," Paola Giaimo says. "I am getting recognized in Kohl's. I can't go anywhere."
Guadagnino knows where this is heading, so he warns his mother to not bring this up with Justice, a star of Nickelodeon shows.
"Whenever I go out, I have to put on my lipstick," Giaimo says. When the camera is running, Giaimo mentions the brand and the shade, hoping for freebies. When Justice arrives, she is a good sport, eating and even trying an improv skit with Guadagnino. In it, he gives birth, and she's his coach. One could say you had to be there, but it is probably best to not have been. Crew and family squeeze around one another, waiting turns for the one bathroom.
The family dynamic is genuine, and as Guadagnino slips into his room, seeking a few minutes of quiet, he says, "To them I am just little Vinny. Maybe on the set, I'll start to get some respect."
He's taken improv classes and, like his former cast mates, hopes to use the reality show that unfolded in a beach house to launch his career.
"Hopefully I can be an artist formally known as 'Jersey Shore,'"