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Southern Charm isn’t charming

Posted: March 13, 2014 9:46 a.m.
Updated: March 14, 2014 5:00 a.m.


I’m not much for reality shows on television, but when I saw an advertisement for Southern Charm, a show set in Charleston, I thought I’d take a look.

Charleston’s a hot destination; it’s developed a year-’round bustling tourism business, and year after year it’s rated by Travel+Leisure Magazine as the friendliest city in the United States.

Add in the natural charm of the Holy City, and you can see why the TV network Bravo might want to film a program showcasing all that’s good about Charleston.

So I watched the first episode.

Afterwards, I felt like I needed to take a shower.

Southern Charm features a cast of six, including Thomas Ravenel, the former state treasurer who served time for peddling cocaine, and Shep Rose, whose grandparents -- lovely people -- lived in Boykin.

What the characters think they are: urbane, witty, sophisticated, enviable.

How they really come across: Sleazy. Oily. Smarmy.

Bravo’s promotional material says Southern Charm “goes behind the walls of Charleston’s most aristocratic families to reveal a world of exclusivity, money and scandal that goes back generations. Viewers will see them launch political careers, build businesses, break hearts and chase true love -- all while struggling to preserve their family names.”

In reality, it should have read like this: “A bunch of self-important adults act like sex-crazed teenagers and try to impress viewers with how much they can drink and how loudly they can brag about themselves. The chief culprit is 51-year-old Thomas Ravenel, who apparently believes he’s 30 years younger than he really is, and a whole lot smarter.”

In addition to Ravenel, the cast of characters includes Craig, a law student who’s originally from Delaware and likes to drink; Cameran, a reality show veteran who just got her real estate license and likes to drink; Jenna, a spike-haired “aspiring fashion designer” who grew up in Sumter and likes to drink; Whitney, touted as a trained classical guitarist and bon vivant, who has a domineering mother and likes to drink; and Rose, who is ... well, let’s just say that for the sake of his Boykin family connections, we’ll omit opinions other than he likes to drink.

Did I mention they all like to drink?

In fact, if you watch Southern Charm, you can see them drinking at a polo match, drinking on the porch, drinking at the dinner table, drinking in the living room … well, you get the message, but it begs one question: how many times can we watch these dudes pour all sorts of liquor into a silver punchbowl?

In between the drinking, you can also hear Ravenel tell jokes about his cocaine use.

The best thing I can say about Southern Charm is that most viewers will recognize it for what it is. Like lots of reality shows, it’s not reality at all but is heavily scripted.

After all, can you really have a soul-searching job review with your boss, as one character did, with a television camera anchored in the room?

One episode was enough for me. Too much, actually.

But I’m told that in the second episode, Thomas’ father, Arthur Ravenel, a longtime state senator and U.S. Congressman for whom the “big bridge” in Charleston is named, made an appearance and didn’t do himself much prouder than his son.

And lest you think these are the rantings of an old fogey -- maybe they are -- I asked a few young people about the show, and they agreed it’s pretty tasteless.

Let’s face it, and if you watch Southern Charm, you’ll know this: some people will do anything to get on television. There’s something about the tube that makes people eager to embarrass themselves.

Never more so than with Southern Charm.



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