THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES
Murrells Inlet: Reality show debut gets mixed reviews
By Jason Lesley
This is not reality. Eight strangers arrive at a big house in Murrells Inlet stocked with free booze and get falling-down drunk before they put away their suitcases.
“Drinking all day long, that’s my idea of fun,” says “Party Down South” cast member Josh Murray, a 300-pounder from Louise, Miss., with the word “tattoo” tattooed on his chest in big letters.
That was about it for the plot of the opener of CMT’s 10-episode reality show filmed in Murrells Inlet late last summer. Cameras were rolling around the clock for 30 days, so only dumb and dumber survived the cutting room floor.
King’s Krest, the stately house on the inlet rented for the show, has indoor plumbing, but petite Taylor Wright “pops a squat” in the back yard to show that she’s truly Southern. “This girl’s not housebroke,” Louisianian Lyle Boudreaux is moved to say.
Showing off their Southern bona fides appears to be the characters’ sole ambition. Love of trucks, pigs, guns, the Bible, duct tape and alcohol — not necessarily in that order — are their proof, along with a healthy measure of stupidity. Murray has a tattoo on his foot, “4 + 5 = 10,” and brags that he did it himself.
There’s a difference between stupidity and ignorance. “These girls done drank themselves stupid,” observed Alabaman Ryan “Daddy” Richards, who carries a funnel so he can drink beer faster. The eight of them proved their ignorance when they jumped into the inlet creek without knowing about the tide. A face plant into the pluff mud would have been some must-see TV, but alas, the tide was high and their only threat was a passing pirate adventure boat and splinters on a sign pole that attracted the cast’s Tiffany Heinen.
Murrells Inlet’s image as “Seafood Capital of South Carolina” will survive the show, said Chad Smith, bartender at Uncle Tito’s on Highway 17.
“Give a bunch of 20-somethings free alcohol, and they will show their butts,” he said. “This doesn’t make the inlet look bad.”
Richard and Carter Weston, members of the family that rented King’s Krest to the production company for the show, watched the premiere at Uncle Tito’s with about a dozen other patrons Thursday night. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” Carter Weston said. The house wasn’t damaged during filming, but the brothers wished the hot tub could have stayed.
Inlet resident Whitney Smith had one word for the show: terrible. “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it,” she said. “I love this town, but people are making much to do about nothing.”
Richard Weston said the show is all about ratings, not style.
“Party Down South” attracted 682,000 viewers for its premiere and was the 41st ranked show out of 51 in Thursday’s 10 p.m. time slot, according to Nielsen. Among the all-important 18- to 49-year-old demographic, the show was 38th, attracting 370,000 viewers. CMT aired the movie “Legally Blonde” as a lead-in to help its premiere. The show had competition from other reality shows at 10 p.m. It fell far behind TLC’s premiere of the second season of “Myrtle Manor” and even further behind “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” The show from a Myrtle Beach trailer park drew 1.23 million viewers, and the efforts of a poor Georgia family to compete in the children’s beauty pageant circuit drew 2 million.
Producers are trying to lure the audience they built for “Jersey Shore” with parallels to Snooki and company, according to Amy Kuperinsky of The Newark Star-Ledger. They are using the same “shot-fueled ridiculousness,” she said, with a cast that is older if not wiser.
Dave Shuemaker, who writes a blog called Shoe Untied, said the show is Jersey Shore on the coast of South Carolina. His reaction to the first episode? “Electric. Pure entertainment.”
He describes the cast as Southern, redneck, drunk and Caucasian. “Man, what a train wreck,” he wrote. “I can’t wait for the next episode.”
The show has detractors too. Former Georgia Congressman Ben Jones, who played “Cooter” the mechanic on the TV comedy “The Dukes of Hazzard,” blasted CMT for airing promotions of “Party Down South” during reruns of his old show.
“Judging from the promotions,” Jones said, “it is a slimy, semi-obscene, fake show from the people who put out ‘Jersey Shore.’ It is about a bunch of trashy, foul-mouthed morons. It is another massive insult to the South, created by New Yorkers and ‘green-lighted’ by people in Los Angeles. I don’t think this programming decision came out of Nashville. The geniuses who created and marketed this travesty have very different sensibilities and priorities from the people in the heartland who are simply looking for something decent to watch.”