Photo Credit: ABC FAMILY/Frank Salinas
There's a new bunch of 20-somethings heading to a beach house this summer. But this one's 350 miles north of Seaside Heights -- on Martha's Vineyard. And frankly, this posh stretch of sand couldn't be further away from the Jersey Shore, in all kinds of ways.
Sure, the 11 cast members of The Vineyard (premiering tonight at 10 p.m. ET on ABC Family) spend a lot of time partying and hooking up (and talking about those parties and hook-ups). But rather than smushing in strobe-lit clubs, couples here smooch on expensive sailboats. No one's swapping stories at the gym or Laundromat; here friends offer advice inside a spacious, white kitchen, tastefully decorated with a nautical theme. Everyone here is slim and conventionally attractive. Guys in preppy polos fight over girls in crisp white t's.
No, The Vineyard is nothing like Jersey Shore. It's actually derivative of another set of trendy reality shows, Laguna Beach and The Hills. (As they say, there's no such thing as an original idea!) It even has its very own Lauren Conrad: Katie Tardif, a gorgeous, blond, aspiring fashion designer who has her pick of gentle-souled hunks (though of course she already has a boyfriend). She's got her clutch of pretty girlfriends and hot guy pals, and they all work together at the Black Dog restaurant. Locals must be horrified to see this Martha's Vineyard fixture associated with something so lowbrow as a reality TV show (much like the residents of Snooki and JWoww's latest TV destination), but anyway... summer lovin' ensues!
More than usual lately, reality TV producers seem interested in two extremes. On the one hand, there are shows about working-class, "salt of the earth" people with flabby stomachs or too much facial hair: the rednecks of TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, MTV's Buckwild, and A&E's Duck Dynasty, and their northern counterparts, MTV's Jersey Shore (and its spin-offs) and A&E's Southie Rules. And on the other hand, there are the well-dressed, cosmetically enhanced one percenters, like the women of Bravo's The Real Housewives franchise and E!'s Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Producers simply follow the ratings, of course. They pitch shows that repeat successful formulas. But they do seem to be presenting viewers with this choice: Want to look down at people, or up at them?
With its well-toned beauties in their well-appointed house, The Vineyard is clearly aiming for that second category. And it wants to be something else, too: Your next guilty pleasure. Watch the promo here:
Jennifer Graham Kizer is an Atlanta-based writer who covers pop culture and watches too much TV. Luckily, iVillage gives her an excuse to watch even more. Follow her on Google+.