The subject of reality TV shows in Charleston has often been met with a mixture of eye-rolls and excited intrigue ever since a certain group of socialites in the Lowcountry hit the small screen about two years ago.
But a new docu-series premiering next month will aim squarely at audiences’ heartstrings with a look at Charleston’s furrier side.
The first season of “Give Me Shelter,” a locally produced program centering on the James Island-based animal shelter Pet Helpers, has been picked up by Nat Geo Wild, which will air the first four of 13 episodes on June 6 in the United States.
Each episode focuses on two story lines, ranging from high-risk rescues to treating medical conditions and many other daily challenges that face a no-kill animal shelter and medical clinic that has limited space and resources.
“Originally, we were open to the idea of (the show) being about multiple shelters, but Pet Helpers really had a lot going on,” said Jessie Anderson-Berens, who created and co-produced the show with Bruce Frigeri of the New Jersey-based production company Lifesize Entertainment. “We just felt like, why bother focusing on other shelters when we have everything we need right here? They just have so much going on in and outside the shelter.”
Bethany Nelson-McCarver, the director of shelter programs and operations at Pet Helpers who was the foster manager at the time of filming in 2013, said the series will be an authentic look at what it’s like to work in an animal shelter.
“Animal welfare across the board is always exciting, it’s ever-changing and there’s always something dramatic going on,” she said.
The series has already aired in 112 countries on Animal Planet’s stations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The positive reception overseas helped the program land the deal in the United States with Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Mundo, the Spanish-speaking version of the channel, Anderson-Berens said.
If ratings are strong in the first two months, the U.S. network will likely order a second season, Frigeri said.
“Give Me Shelter” was the first major television project created by Anderson-Berens, who operates the small video production company Palmetto Coast Media on James Island. She started the venture after working for several years with locally-based film production companies such as Litton Entertainment and Hollywood SC Studios.
She said she found her footing with animal-related programming after working on a series called “Rescue Vet,” about Charleston veterinarians, with Hollywood SC Studios.
“It’s something I’m passionate about and enjoy doing because I love animals and have had them my whole life, and I’ve also been in videography my whole life, so I just combined those two passions to create something that I enjoy making and people will enjoy watching,” she said.
Pet Helpers and the local production company hope the spot on international television will help them achieve their shared goal of promoting animal welfare.
“We’ve since tried putting together a few other TV shows that we’re currently pitching,” Anderson-Berens said. “We’re really big on sticking with animal-friendly TV shows that entertain but also educate.”
Kim Almstedt, director of development and marketing with Pet Helpers, said the exposure will give no-kill shelters “a national presence, just highlighting and targeting what animal shelters can do. It just brings a sense of excitement to show off the aspects of adopting rather than buying, rescuing and making sure people know there’s ways you can help.”
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.