Charleston residents fear the worst from ‘Southern Charm’
“Southern Charm” evidently doesn’t work on some downtown residents.
At least not at 1 a.m. — and definitely not when it’s from a “reality” show.
The filming of Bravo’s forthcoming series about “modern-day Southern aristocracy” — meaning the scions of people who actually made something of themselves — is rubbing some actual old Charlestonians the wrong way.
The Charlestowne Neighborhood Association recently stopped the crew from taping South of Broad in the middle of the night. Don’t these folks realize that’s when the beautiful people hit the clubs?
The real problem is that many residents don’t cotton to the idea of the show at all.
Maybe it’s the crew’s attempt to pass this off as a “documentary.” Or perhaps it has something to do with the “stars” allegedly boasting that the show will put our city on the map.
Nah. Truth is, a lot of people fear that the network that brought you “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” will make Charleston look ridiculous.
City officials have gotten an earful about their decision to allow “Southern Charm” to film here.
Rumor has it some old families forbade their offspring to appear on a show they assume will ridicule their way of life. It could have something to do with Bravo’s promise of an inside look at our social scene, which is bound by “tradition and ostentation.”
But come on, Bravo has a track record of producing high-quality, intelligent shows such as “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” “Princesses: Long Island” and “Below Deck,” a show about the love lives of the crew on a fancy yacht. So it’s sort of like Thurston Howell III before Gilligan’s Island.
What could go wrong?
Plenty, according to longtime Charlestonian Ben Moise, who is one of many people who complained to the city. He says reality shows are not “real” — at least not as real as professional wrestling — and thrive on highlighting dysfunction.
Moise says the city shouldn’t serve as the backdrop for “self-serving, embarrassing, lowest-common-denominator entertainments.” He compares this to “Myrtle Manor,” a reality show about life in a Myrtle Beach trailer park.
But that’s on TLC. Bravo’s the one that gave us “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
A real soap opera
A lot of folks are loath to talk about this, in part because people with real Southern charm don’t air their dirty laundry with outsiders.
Some of that is out of respect for the families of the people involved. But more than a few say they don’t want the face of Charleston to be an ex-con ex-state treasurer best known for serving a 10-month sentence after pleading guilty in a cocaine conspiracy.
To be fair, residents of Harleston Village, where the crew recently taped until all hours of the night, say the production company did its best to work quietly. And city officials say the “Southern Charm” folks did acquiesce to the Charlestowne neighbors’ request to wrap well before 1 a.m.
But it only verified the fears of some folks when the show’s “sizzle reel” leaked, and it made Charleston look like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Careless.”
“It has nothing to do with the South, and nothing to do with reality,” Moise says.
Charleston is the top tourist destination in the world for a reason. It has a reputation for being a polite, mannerly city — not a soap opera without the quality writing.
Hedonistic behavior may make for good basic cable TV, but it’s not an accurate depiction of Charleston.
We may be the people who started the Civil War, but at least we kept it civil.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org