Since it was the most important sociological event of our time (and a ratings success) there will inevitably be dozens of new reality shows trying to rip it off. Just stop now. These are always horrible ideas.
Failing to see that there would be countless lame imitators is like failing to see that JWOWW's boobs are fake or The Situation is going to try to lure loose, drunk women into his frothy hot tub of love for a little bit of sexin'. Brighton Beach sounds like the first entrant. Though it doesn't have a network, the show's creators are already casting. And based on what they told the NY Post today, it sounds like they're sticking close to the script of gross ethnic stereotypes behaving badly next to the surf. "There will be plenty of vodka, techno music and guys wearing Adidas pants, leather jackets and gold chains, and driving souped-up cars. There will also be a lot of hot, decked-out Russian girls," Elina Miller, the show co-creator says.
And that's not the worst, they're already biting off the show's nicknaming convention. "We've heard from 'The Entity,' 'B-Boy' and 'Mr. OTB' [Off The Boat]," another show creator, Alina Dizik, says. This is why this is a bad idea. Brighton Beach had the potential to be as big as Jersey Shore because it probably has everything we love about JS: young people reveling in their tackiness and scummy ways and behaving very, very badly in public. However, now it's just going to try hard to copy the guidos road to success. They'll all have silly nicknames, they'll have a "Siberian Husky" phone, they'll call their spot at the club the "revolutionary square" instead of the "battle field." Instead of trying to be authentic (which is really what we love the most about Snooki and Co), they're just going to try to be what they think the public wants. That's not good programming, that's just craven fame whoring. The problem with reality show rip-offs is that they try to run with the fever for the original product but they only end up stinking like so much Designer Imposters Body Spray.
This is a long tradition in the genre and every successful reality show tries to become genre onto itself. After The Apprentice was huge we had to deal with The Rebel Billionaire: Branson's Quest for the Best, Mark Cuban's The Benefactor, and Martha Stewart's very own ill-fated shot at finding a much-maligned second in command. The Deadliest Catch gave way to countless "perilous jobs" imitators like Ice Road Truckers, Black Gold, Swords, and Ax Men. Sometimes they even cannibalize themselves—Flavor of Love begat A Shot at Love begat I Love New York begat Rock of Love begat Scott Baio Needs Someone to Fuck begat The Gays Want Antonio Sabato Jr Back on TV.
Reality television is like a retrovirus. Once a good strain is introduced it constantly tries to trick our collective immune system by changing in slightly different ways so that we can't get rid of it. How else can you explain all the permutations of Real Housewives. The problem is, with each change it become exponentially weaker. The new shows will trick some of us, but not all of us, and the ones that are fooled won't even like it, they're just lulled into a safe place by easily recognizable programming. Well, it's time that we offer the world a great big inoculation against this copy catting run amok. Stop trying to just make a few tweaks and cash in quickly—it never works as well as you think. Instead take some time and try to dream up a whole new strain. It's certainly harder to come by, but it's a million times more deadly.
[Image via Bauer-Griffin]