'Jersey Shore' Creator on the Reality Show That Makes Her 'Insane'
Sally Ann Salsano screams at her TV set every time TLC’s polygamy series Sister Wives comes on the screen. She can’t get over the fact that the husband on the show drives around in a two-seater Lexus convertible while his many wives haul around their coterie of kids in minivans.
“It makes me insane,” the Jersey Shore creator tells an audience gathered for The Hollywood Radio and Television Society's unscripted hit-makers luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Tuesday. The real root of her frustration, however, has little to do with the characters’ choice of automobiles; instead, she admits, her fury stems from the fact that she doesn’t produce the show.
Seated on stage beside fellow panelists The Biggest Loser’s JD Roth, Deadliest Catch’s Thom Beers, Undercover Boss’ Stephen Lambert, American Idol’s Nigel Lythgoe and moderator Larry King, Salsano says she’d like to volunteer her services to the show for a week so that she can better understand what make these fascinating characters - "the key to any great reality show" - tick.
Of course, Salsano isn’t the only hit-maker who wishes another hit on TV was hers. Beers acknowledges that he made several trips to Las Vegas trying to come up with a Pawn Stars concept; producer Brent Montgomery got there first, with what is now one of History’s top-rated shows. Lythgoe wishes he was behind CBS’ Undercover Boss, while Roth says his remote always seems to stop on A&E’s Hoarders.
The producers were similarly open about the shows that they expected would tank but didn’t. Having grown up going to the Jersey Shore during the summer, Roth was surprised to see a series about the people that the beach locale attracts turn into something so compelling. Lythgoe counts America’s Got Talent and Dancing with the Stars among his surprises, though he uses the examples to highlight the value of the shows’ talent, which he often says is the key to American Idol’s success. He acknowledges that talent could also be the key to the success of The Voice, NBC’s new Idol competitor.
But perhaps the most surprising display of candor came when the group was asked to discuss the shows on their resumes that didn’t hit. Rather than dig deep into their past bombs, many of the panelists acknowledged that recent –or even present, in the case of Beers' Coal on Spike or Salsano’s Wedding Wars on VH1—flops have caused a mixture of frustration and disappointment. Says Beers, “Have you ever been dragged down the hall by the ankles and your heads bouncing? That’s what I feel like now.”
In his attempt to explain Coal’s limited tune-in, Beers points to Spike’s attempt to court older viewers on a network that, until recently, had little to offer any demo other than younger males. He also notes the larger challenge of fracturing viewership in today’s increasingly crowded landscape. Along with decreasing funds and greater product placement, the latter is something that keeps him and his fellow panelists up at night.
For Roth, though, all of those are trumped by the fear that something could go terribly wrong on one of his shows. A cast member pushing himself too far in an attempt to shed weight, for instance, could result in death. “The press will grab a hold of that,” he says, “and it will poison the genre.” Beers tries to quell those fears by telling Roth that in his lengthy career in the business of dangerous jobs shows, he’s had four cast members die. “Three of them,” he says, “died in their beds.”