Reality TV Features Boston
Boston to Become Next Reality Hot Spot
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 22:02
The debut of reality television show Southie Rules on A&E at the beginning of the month launched a new era for the South Boston neighborhood, one that pushes the local urban area even further into the pop culture spotlight. South Boston seems to have attracted such attention due to its rich and distinctive heritage, as well as its impending transition to an up-and-coming neighborhood.
Southie Rules is publicized as a serious drama about a Southie family, the Niedzwiecki’s, battling the gentrification of the neighborhood. The show, however, is not entirely reality, and is more of a hybrid between a reality show and a sitcom. Categorized under this ambiguous new genre, the show is instead best described as an unscripted comedy about an extended family living in a triple-decker apartment house in Southie. The family members, plus freeloader Devin Mahoney, who sleeps on the family’s couch, developed as actors when the cameras started rolling.
The situations that the family encounters are all staged, according to Southie Rules star Jon Niedzwiecki, 28, one of the brothers in the family. The family performs while giving a nod to the artificiality of the reality genre. In an interview with The Boston Globe, Niedzwiecki said, “Some shows try to insult the viewer and pretend it’s not [staged]. We blow right through that stop sign and try to focus on getting laughs.”
This staged, comedic feel to the show was the not the producers’ original plan, however, and was rather accidental. The initial focus was the tension between Southie natives and newcomers in a kind of “turf war,” but this changed when the producers saw how funny the family was and ultimately chose to make the show a comedy instead of a drama, after essentially filming two different shows. Gentrification, or the restoration of run-down urban areas by the middle class, was more of an issue for native South Boston residents a decade ago, and the family admitted that they are not angered by newcomers to the neighborhood.
While the producers were able to avoid making caricatures of the Southie residents, the setting is criticized for not being as prominently featured as suggested by the title of the show. Some critics argue that the show could take place anywhere. A few cliches, however, including Irish music, overly emphatisized Boston accents, and subtitles for said accents, do exist.
Surfacing as a potential competitor of Southie Rules is another Boston-based reality show produced by 495 Productions, of Jersey Shore fame, called Wicked Single. Last week VH1 announced the Saint Patrick’s Day premiere of the show, which will follow six 20 to 30-somethings who party, worry about their futures, and transition into adulthood, all while fulfilling typical Southie stereotypes. VH1 has described the cast as being loud, being real, and having “awesome accents.” Cast members span from Chrissy, 27, a tough and hard-working Southie girl, to Chubs, a 30-year-old who still flaunts a frat-boy attitude. In an interview last Thursday with The Boston Globe, Jeff Olde, the show’s executive producer and the Executive Vice President of Original Programming and Production at VH1, said that he chose the Boston location because it is full of distinct characters, adding, “It felt like it’s not overexposed as a location. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of sick of seeing New York in everything. It’s not fresh territory. Boston provided a breath of fresh air. It hasn’t been seen a lot. It’s fun, and I think that flavor is definitely in the show.”
Boston.com has recently published a slideshow satirically suggesting pitches for other Southie-based reality shows, such as So You Think You Can Step Dance? featuring former Senator Scott Brown and Governor Deval Patrick as judges, and Survivor: Castle Island. While the reader poll might not definitely decide the fate of Southie’s next reality show, ideas involving this location as the new television hotspot are just beginning to flourish.