Could Boston Have a PR Problem on its Hands? Cable TV May Make This Issue a "Reality"

Kevin Flight

I love Boston. I was born here, raised here and live here now. The farthest away I ever got was a 4-year detour 90 miles west in Amherst. I've always been proud to call myself a Bostonian. From the history to culture to sports, I wouldn't want to call anyplace else home. However, I am now starting to question my pride in Boston. The reason? Reality television.

First came "Southie Rules," an A&E reality show about a South Boston family battling the infiltration of outsiders and changing culture of their neighborhood. Now, VH1 just announced a new reality show that follows Bostonians looking for love called "Wicked Single."

The first line of the press release announcing the show states, "Work hahd, play hahd: that’s the motto that six adultsters featured in VH1′s new Boston-set reality series “Wicked Single” live – and party – by. The press release continues, "But although they never miss an opportunity to hit the club, these young Bostonians sometimes wonder if the trappings of adulthood may be passing them by as they revel in 'Monday Fundays' and 'Tuesday Boozedays.'" The series debuts (when else) on St. Patrick's Day, although based on the verbiage in the press release, I have doubts anyone in the city will be conscious enough to tune in.

While I love that TV execs have taken an interest in our city, will shows like these give Boston an image problem? Reality TV shows like these bring out the worst qualities in people. They need to or we wouldn't watch, right? As a PR professional, my question is how will shows like these affect the way Boston is perceived by the outside world? I think of Boston as a city on the rise, with top-notch educational institutions, innovative start-ups and some of the most talented individuals in the country. How will the spotlight on 30-something adolescents shift this perception? Will these shows lead to the rest of the country poking fun about Boston for more than just our loveable accents?

Just ask those who live or summer on the Jersey Shore. Thanks to a certain show, many (like me) now stereotype those who reside in the area as tan bed-loving party animals like Snooki and The Situation. Could Boston, once known for names like Kennedy, Thoreau and Nomar, soon become synonymous with "Chubs," the life of the party who often sabotages himself with immature antics when it comes to meeting women? On the bright side, at least the name Samuel Adams should remain relevant.

Boston needs to take a serious look at what shows about our city, culture and residents to be filmed or risk being perceived as a bunch of hooligans fist-pumping from bar to bar between Faneuil Hall and Southie. This is just my humble opinion, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you think reality television shows like these are good for Boston and how do you think they will shape the way others view our city?

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