'Made In Staten Island': From 'Mob Wives' to 'Jersey Shore', what makes the borough a major attraction for reality series?
MTV and VH1 have produced five Staten Island reality shows in the past nine years and according to its president it's the "different texture" that is the attraction
Those obsessed with reality TV shows are no strangers to New York City's southernmost borough, Staten Island. Also called the 'Forgotten Borough,' the island is the center of attention yet again as the new MTV series 'Made in Staten Island,' is slated to premiere January 14.
Over the past decade, Staten Island has served as the setting for multiple reality TV shows especially for Viacom, whose combined MTV and VH1 shows add up to five concrete series featuring Staten Island and its islanders in the past nine years. Added to the list is the ultimate hit 'Jersey Shore,' which though filmed in New Jersey, boasts a full one-third of its total cast hail from Staten Island, namely; Vinny Guadagnino, Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino, and Angelina 'Not A Dirty Hamster' Pivarnick.
Besides Viacom, other networks such as OWN, the Cooking Channel and CNBC have also attempted Staten Island-based series starting right from 2013's 'Staten Island Law', 'Vinny and Ma Eat America,' and the latest, 'Staten Island Hustle.' TLC also aired the reality series titled 'Hair Goddess', in 2017 about a Staten Island hair extension salon.
However, MTV seems to master the Staten Island representation more than anyone because three years after 'Mob Wives' wrapped up, we have another show coming from the star of the series, Karen Gravano, who is not only the executive producer of 'Made in Staten Island,' but is also the mother of the star of the new show, Karina Seabrook.
The upcoming series will feature the heartwarming story of seven individuals who will fight with all their might to stay out of trouble and break free from the criminal ancestry they are born into. The trailer of the show has piqued the interest of many, not only because this is yet another Staten Island show but also because this series strives to project a different outlook of the notorious borough, which was once considered to be a safe haven for mob bosses and mafias.
However, the bigger question remains as to why Staten Island makes an interesting setting for reality shows?
MTV and VH1 president Chris McCarthy said in an interview that Staten Islanders are "scrappy," and the island offers a "different texture" than the rest of New York. Another 'Mob Wives' star Renee Graziano stated, "Staten Island is its own little world," and the reason why she thinks Staten Islanders make hit reality TV is because "we are as successful as we are is because we give it to you raw. No holding back; well I speak for myself on that one."
Another famous reality star, Vinny Guadagnino from 'Jersey Shore' and ' 'Vinny and Ma Eat America', opined that Staten Island offers an interesting standout subculture in the country starting from their accents. "I think that the first time people saw ‘Jersey Shore’ on TV they were just like what are these people? We were aliens or something. Obviously, Staten Island is the epicenter of that," he said.
The executive producer of 'Made In Staten Island,' Gravano came straight to the point when she said:"Staten Island is like one big family. Everybody knows everybody’s business. Everybody knows everybody’s history whether you like them or not."
However, what gives the island, inhabited mainly by Italian-Americans, a universal appeal is the loud portrayal of their culture. Vinny Guadagnino shared that Italians' love for food, family, dancing, and drinking echoes a fun culture that makes viewers instantly comfortable. "I bet you all the different nationalities see the Italian way and say, ‘oh, we’re Mexican, we do the same thing; We’re Indian, we do the same thing.' I feel like just having that culture of fun and laughing and food is definitely relatable to people."
In the fiction genre, 'The Mindy Project' stands out as Mindy (Mindy Kaling) seems to have visited Staten Island in over 117 episodes.
There's clearly an undying obsession with the borough, but viewers can't help but bond with the strange mix of loud accents, fancy hairstyles and a lot of family get-togethers. Isn't that the checklist for what we want on our reality TV shows? Staten Island meets it all.