Okay, so maybe a private viewing party for Lifetime’s debut of “The Week The Women Went” last night was a little catty. Afterall, a wonderful producer who pitched my first screenplay to Lifetime last month got a pass. “We love the true story part,” an executive apparently said about my work, “but it’s just doesn’t have that ripped-from-the-headlines feel.”
So I had to see what Lifetime does consider worthy of producing. Turns out it’s a new reality show starring the now-thoroughly-embarrassed town of Yemassee – with bit parts for Beaufort.
It’s billed as a “unique social experiment” which consists of separating the women of Yemassee from their husbands, children and jobs for a week. I’d read that many of the 100 women who agreed to share their lives with TV cameras have been dreading the heavily-edited final product. I feel for them. I’ve been in TV – I know how easy it is to change the context and sensationalize moments of candor. I also know how children ramp up when cameras roll, even ones who don’t routinely pitch temper tantrums that would peel the paint from your car. And when a local paper published a quote from a town official saying he’d gladly volunteer to have the show come back – as long as this time the men got to choose which women came back – I knew it was bound to be a walk of shame for our sweet, unsuspecting, neighboring town.
I can’t begin to put a “what would Byrne Miller think” spin on this blog posting – she simply couldn’t have imagined the scourge that reality TV has become in our time. I steeled myself for cringes – and they started with a four-year-old dancer. She’s the self-titled “drama queen” of her Yemassee family and the cameras relished showing her mortified mother as the little girl performed a bump-and-grind routine worthy of a burlesque show back in Byrne’s day. Wow – somebody please open a ballet school in Yemassee.
As Gary predicted, the men of Yemassee were almost uniformly portrayed as bumbling, uncouth idiots – a practise borrowed from contemporary TV advertising, which he despises. I was equally not surprised by the abundance of breast-enhancing tight dresses and heels higher than I’ve ever seen anywhere near the Yemassee railroad station. (maybe I’m not there late enough at night?)
But it was an admission of the fire chief’s mother that literally silenced our color commentary. Someone correct me if we all misheard this – but this mother of a 21-year-old, able-bodied, gainfully-employed man said she does everything for him – and that she might even bathe him if he asked her. Thankfully, he asked a normal-seeming young woman to marry him instead – right as the Amtrack headed south rolled into the station to take the women away for this week-long “experiment” that will drag on for five weekly episodes on Lifetime. “The Week the Women Went” airs Tuesdays at ten if you’re a fan of train wrecks unrelated to Amtrack. Sorry normal and decent friends in Yemassee, I think the four of us saw enough for a lifetime.