It’s easy to moan and groan about a bartender not paying attention to you on a Friday night, but what if you were thrown behind the bar to serve a crowded, thirsty room? For a new reality TV show in Boston, that’s exactly the premise.
The Rookie Bartender is a web-based reality series that throws bartenders-in-training behind the bar and into both real-life and simulated serving challenges, from whipping up Valentine’s Day drinks for thirsty couples to pouring blindfolded. The show, brought to you by Dirty Water TV and Greenview Entertainment, is currently filming its second season and is set to premiere the week of March 5th.
Season one was hatched when Kayla Harrity graduated from Emerson in May 2011 and took a bartending gig at The Place for some extra cash flow. With zero experience behind the bar, Harrity thought her skills (or lack thereof) were laughable, at best, and asked her manager, SJ Torres, if she could document her experience. He was on board.
“Basically, it was me and one camera guy,” says Harrity of the first season of The Rookie Bartender. “To be honest with you, I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere.” She was wrong, though – in the first night alone, one episode garnered thousands of hits online, and the team knew they were on to something. “This silly thing I had come up with could evolve into something else,” Harrity thought back then.
Fast forward to 2012: season two of The Rookie Bartender has been cast, and the crew is working hard filming two days a week at The Place for their March premiere. Producer Amy DePaola (you may remember her from the 617 TV series) has jumped on board, offering her expertise and direction to the blossoming cast and crew.
“The production value was really obvious,” says DePaola of the show. “I knew it could be managed in a way that this show could be commercial on a national scale and get television distribution one day”
While season one solely featured Harrity’s experiences as the newbie behind the bar, season two is a full-fledged reality show with four contestants – Cassidy, Chris, Natalie and Bern – competing for the title and up to $1000.To help them along, each “rookie” is paired with a celebrity trainer, including MTV’s Cara Maria Sorbello, Bad Girls Club alum Kate Squillace, infamous Boston bartender Dre Haynes and events company founder Dave Branca. The winner will be determined by viewers, who will have the chance to vote for their favorite rookie bartender at the end of the second season.
Harrity is back as the show’s host – “the Tim Gunn of the series” – guiding the teams through challenges. “The first season was scripted, in the sense that we’d go in with an idea of the scene and build it off of that,” she explains. “We’re trying to get away from that. This season is completely guerilla-style, which makes it even funnier. Everything is really happening.”
Contestant Cassidy Quinn Brettler can attest to the show’s reality, recalling an experience in which her trainer told her to grab a “book,” referring to the check book. New to bartending, Brettler grabbed an actual book.
Pointing to instances like these, DePaola says, “It’s a lot of fun. I really think the show is on to something. It also has so much promotional value.” In fact, BlackBeard Rum, Magic Hat and Three Olives Vodka have hopped on board as current sponsors.
While The Rookie Bartender is a web-only series now, DePaola hopes the show eventually garners national attention. A similar show, LXTV’s “On the Rocks”, was just picked up by NBC for a late-night, half-hour slot, so the concept is definitely viable. “It’s been a fun ride, and I want Boston to get behind it,” says DePaola. “I don’t think this will be the last time you hear of The Rookie Bartender.”
The show films every Tuesday evening at The Place, and the management offers a free drink and free pizza to any audience members who show up to rally around the cast and crew.
Brettler promises a strong drink if you cheer her on next week. “It won’t be a bad drink. If anything, I’ll over-pour,” she jokes. How can we argue with that?