Reality TV spotlights South Carolina boozing and bickering
Myrtle Beach trailer park rivalries, young people partying hard at Murrells Inlet and Charleston gentility caught in a web of lust and backstabbing.
Those depictions of life in South Carolina are featured in reality TV shows that have either found a home here or want one.
“It’s unusual to have three all at once,” said Doug Ferguson, a communications professor at the College of Charleston.
Add to that mix a popular weekly series that visited here for a slice of local history told from the perspective of a drunk person, and it might be easy to conclude that the Palmetto State has become a haven for such lowbrow TV fare.
However, Louisiana has the long-bearded, controversial Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” on the A&E network, and Georgia is home to tabloid favorite “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” on The Learning Channel.
“It seems like it’s safer to go after the redneck stereotype. It resonates well with people in the big cities,” Ferguson said.
Of late, “Trailer Park: Welcome to Myrtle Manor” has created a splash as it moves into a second season with a cast of quirky characters who reside at Patrick’s Mobile Home Park in Myrtle Beach. It’s on the The Learning Channel at 10 p.m. Thursdays, where it is reported to have averaged 1 million viewers weekly.
Becky Robertson, the park manager, said that when the producers approached her with the idea of being on TV, she replied, “Honey, my life is a reality show.”
In other words, she hasn’t changed much about herself when she is in front of the camera.
“I’m just me. It’s just really fun,” she said.
Although the show has found an audience, not everyone has become a fan. Negative comments aimed her way on social media at first stung, but she has gained some perspective on the situation thanks to her father, who told her to ignore what other people think unless they pay her bills.
Robertson, a Grand Strand native, has lived in Summerville, North Charleston and Moncks Corner. Her daughter is a senior at Charleston Southern University.
She welcomes visitors to the trailer park and its souvenir shop located on fifth-generation family land.
A world away, “Southern Charm” on the Bravo channel offers a depiction of Charleston high society. The stars include Thomas Ravenel, the former South Carolina treasurer who served 10 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to using cocaine while he held public office.
The show, which debuts at 10 p.m. March 3, follows the relationships of six Charleston singles as they negotiate a tight-knit community’s social expectations, their personal lives and their careers. Family political connections are part of the mix, Bravo says.
In a preview, the cast parties, bickers and comments on the Holy City.
“There is a small, ruling entrenched minority of very established old families in Charleston,” one of the characters says.
Head north on U.S. Highway 17 to find the party that never ends for the young singles of Murrells-Inlet-based “Party Down South” on Country Music Television.
The debut episode, “Black Out,” which aired Thursday, repeats Saturday at 2 p.m.
The program features a cast of eight who work, party and bond over their love of the South during a wild summer of extreme fun, says CMT.
Not everyone has been thrilled with the festivities. The show ran afoul of some locals who complained about the late-night noise. Georgetown County residents held meetings about trying to stop production of the show and ban similar programs in the future.
In Charleston, the Comedy Central channel is working on a local edition of its popular “Drunk History,” which, as the name implies, combines stories of the past and heavy alcohol consumption.
Show host Derek Waters was here Thursday to interview locals and visit some landmarks.
“Booze helps bring out the truth of our nation’s history,” the production’s website says.
“A-list” actors present history as told by an intoxicated narrator. The show has drawn 1 million viewers weekly.
Information about South Carolina history to be portrayed, the narrators and actors is still under wraps.
“Unfortunately, since it hasn’t been edited, the narrators and the stories used are to be determined,” said show spokeswoman Allie Lee.
The Charleston segment of the series will air in late spring or early summer, she said.
Unscripted shows such as “Drunk History” provide a splash of national attention, but the state does not court them with the sort of incentives it offers for big-budget moviemakers.
“Reality shows are done for the most part on a shoestring budget,” said Marion Edmonds, spokesman for the S.C. Film Commission.
People who watch the shows don’t tend to be influenced much by them unless their behavior is already inclined that way, said Viktoriya Magid, an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Someone struggling with an alcohol addiction might see a program such as “Party Down South” as encouragement for continued drinking, she said.
Likewise, TV programs that depict drug or alcohol interventions have not been shown to affect addictive behavior. However, a person already motivated to quit their substance abuse might benefit from such a show, she said.
Societal acceptance or rejection, though, does change behavior. Cigarette smoking was fashionable 50 years ago but has since become unpopular because it has been shown to have serious health hazards, she said.