Locals are calling out producers of “Southie Rules,” a new series about one of the city’s most well-known neighborhoods, for manipulating the show’s “reality,” weeks before Boston is cast in the national spotlight.
The show, which follows a family struggling with gentrification in South Boston, premieres on A&E in January.
And while it’s not news that Hollywood honchos pull strings to try and make television more compelling, according to Hub business owner John Libonati, the already-controversial series is anything but a real account of the close-knit area.
“They want to make money off of this show, and there is only one way to do that— through sensationalism. They will do it all just to make money,” according to Libonati, who runs a business on West Broadway.
In a comment on BostInno’s website, Libonati claimed that he was asked to be part of the new reality series, which follows a “multi-generational Southie clan” around town.
Libonati said he received a phone call from producers asking him to “interview one of the ‘cast’ members for a job and then turn him down for the job that didn’t exist in the first place.”
“No thank you,” he said, later adding that he dislikes reality TV. “This is not reality, it’s all scripted. The producers have no intention of showing South Boston in a positive light…[just] fights, alcohol, drugs, sex, cursing and scripted drama.”
Robert Galinsky, Principal and founder of the New York Reality TV School, said while it’s common for producers to “do anything they can” to spice up a show, this particular claim from Libonati is extreme.
“It’s not often that producers will go that far—not because they have a conscience, but because they don’t want to be ratted out, like this gentleman did,” said Galinsky. “If they realize they cast someone that is not as dynamic as they thought or they won’t take the risks they thought they would take, they will do something to spruce it up.”
According to Galinsky, reality shows aren’t so much scripted as they are outlined, or situated, by creators.
He said producers usually dream up scenarios and create and provoke situations and then let the ‘characters’ live in those instances.
“Obviously, in this case, they weren’t getting enough out of a character or storyline,” he said. “They will seed the situations—they will prompt, they will coax, and they will guide people to go in the direction that they want.”
“The producers do whatever they have to do in order to jump start action that’s compelling for us to watch and drop our jaws,” said Galinsky.
As for trying to coax a South Boston businessman into creating a jaw-dropping scenario on national television, Libonati wasn’t having it.
“If they really wanted to show the truth, it would documentary and not a reality show,” he told BostInno.
BostInno reached out to Somerville-based PowderHouse Productions, producer’s of “Southie Rules,” but an e-mail request for comment has not been returned.