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Reality TV Benefits ... In Reality

by John Asante
Aug 10, 2010

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When I watched the preview for Season 2 of Jersey Shore — in Miami this time, mind you — a few weeks ago, I couldn't help but concentrate on this one shot towards the end of the footage. I played it back on my computer a few times and noticed Snooki sitting on top of a large, grey statue of a dog, with a yellow chain link around its neck in the heart of South Beach. And then it hit me — she and The Situation were outside the gelato store I had frequented the last time I was there. Then, the I thought, "Could they be working there? Surely not (name of place)!" Oh, how I was mistaken.

Fast-forward to episode two, and the typical "short-term job briefing" scene took place at none other than Lecca-Lecca Gelato Caffe. The owner was already complaining about Pauly D's crown-like coif falling into the ice cream. And so, the calamity begins. And then I thought, "I'm sure business is booming after the spot on an MTV show." Sure enough, this isn't anything new.

While some cities aren't meant to host reality TV shows when it comes to the drama factor (as Sarah discussed yesterday, in reference to the nation's capital), others are benefiting from playing a part to the contestants' fifteen minutes of fame, according to an article in the Boston Globe.

Cooking shows, such as Hell's Kitchen, and weight-loss competitions like Losing It With Jillian, are helping to boost the local economy:

Owners of local businesses that have been showcased on TV reality shows say the exposure is priceless. The smallest plug can boost business, they said, and an appearance on a show is generally free, or at least cheaper than traditional advertising. An establishment might even receive a fee for use of the facility, although sometimes, the businesses pay fees to be featured.

Many cities have plenty of restaurants and fitness centers to choose from ... so who gets chosen to be featured?

Producers from the shows rely on a mix of casting agents, local scouts, publicists, and the people featured in the show — as well as the state's film office — for suggestions on where to shoot. A number of Greater Boston businesses featured in recent shows said they did not pay to appear on programs, but were paid a fee by producers. The exception was Kickass Cupcakes, which allowed the cameras in for free.

The Dance Complex, a non-profit dance studio in Cambridge, Ma. hosted events for So You Think You Can Dance and Bride Wars, racking up $9,000 in revenue. While the exposure au gratis appears to be a win-win "situation" from the outside,

... sometimes, the publicity can be too much of a good thing. Just ask Cindy Stumpo, a home builder based in Chestnut Hill. Her company, C. Stumpo Development, was featured on the Home & Garden cable network show Tough As Nails for 13 episodes this spring.

Thanks to the weekly broadcast, Stumpo, who builds eight homes a year priced between $1.5 million and $6 million, largely in Newton and Brookline, had to turn away customers.

I don't know about you, but the next time I visit Lecca-Lecca Gelato, I'll ask for "The Ron Ron Juice Special," and hopefully, the place won't be too packed.

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