A short piece in the Chicago Tribune last week struck a nerve that’s hanging around like a toothache. The article stated a production company is holding a casting call soon seeking young adults to participate in a “reality show” set on the South Side of my beloved Chicago.
And get this: The show will be based on the runaway MTV hit “Jersey Shore.” I’m purposely not adding links to the network or show in question because it would be a small step leading to the continued decline of modern society. For the uninitiated, “Jersey Shore” is a behind-the-scenes perspective of the adventures of some New York area guys and gals enjoying the summer at the beach. And, yes, I’ve watched around 15 minutes of one episode, purely through morbid curiosity. Between the often bleeped-out dialog from the “stars” and scenes in dive bars and messy apartments, I don’t see the attraction.
Those fortunate enough to be selected for the Chicago production have to demonstrate their “Southsideness” and devotion to the Chicago White Sox, among other qualities. I’ll bet having a few tats, a creative moniker the incorporates “The” and ability to master the beer bong also will impress casting agents.
And, full disclosure: I have lived virtually all of my life on the North Side and will support the Chicago Cubs for as long as it takes to win the World Series. I have many friends who hail and still reside on the South Side, and I visit there periodically, especially when we have friends arriving at Midway Airport.
But I can’t stand by idly while some out-of-towners — LA, New York, I don’t care where they’re from — waltz into my home town with the intention of producing programming that will put my fellow Chicagoans and our fair city into a negative light.
That’s why I’m calling on my colleagues in the public relations community to rise up! Let’s use our collective resources to communicate the potential detriment to our civic pride, our reputation and our chance of ever securing the Summer Olympics. Let’s work to halt production of the aforementioned program. (Note to former Governor Rod Blagojevich: You’re already on a reality show, otherwise we might seek your assistance.) Or at the least, let’s encourage the producers to consider something different. Here are some suggestions:
1. LaSalle Street Stories: Listen and learn as the city’s true movers and shakers — the pols, the attorneys, the financial geniuses — wheel and deal, and hopefully do it all within the boundaries of established laws. This place gets pretty quiet after 5 p.m., so the producers will have to rise early to get any usable footage, unless they want to talk to some guys from Streets and San.
2. Say Hi to Hyde Park: Think of the tremendous B-roll footage possibilities! There’s the University of Chicago campus with its Gothic architecture. There’s the beautiful Lake Michgan shore and view from Promentory Point. There’s the Museum of Science and Industry and the Midway Plaisance. As for people, imagine the scintillating exchange between two U of C grad students outside the Medici explaining quantum physics.
3. Which Way to Wicker Park: Ah, Chicago’s crossroads of cool and one of the most historic neighborhoods in the city. Wicker Park and its sister community of Bucktown have it all. Hipster restaurants. Galleries. Vintage clothing shops. Its own el stop. Turn-of-the-century housing. And, of course, there’s lots of faux hawk sporting hipsters to provide exciting dialogue. The only problem: There’s no place to park in Wicker Park.
Again, I encourage Chicago’s robust public relations industry to flex its collective muscle. Let’s develop an effective public relations program — the real kind, with strategies, objectives, proven tactics — to address this potential threat. Let’s stop any reality show that will portray our city as anything but a world-class metropolis and the true capital of the nation’s heartland.
As a former elected official, Paddy Bauler, once said not too many years ago: Chicago ain’t ready for reform yet. I will augment that sage proclamation to state: Chicago ain’t ready for no “Jersey Shore” type of TV show.