“Jersey Shore” has angered some Italian-Americans who say the show portrays them in an offensive way. “Russian Dolls” upset members of the Russian community for the same reason. Now some Polish Americans fear they will become a laughing stock in an upcoming reality TV show, “Warsaw Chicago.”
The website for the show describes it as a cross between “Jersey Shore” and “The Real Housewives” and is currently calling for video submissions:
“We are looking specifically for a multi generational Chicago Polish family to show their life 24/7 and how the old school of thinking doesn’t always cross over with new school (ie. Dad is old fashioned immigrant ball busting cop or in position of power (ie CEO of company) or successful small business owner, etc.; Mom is traditional old fashioned housewife, daughters are dating someone they shouldn’t, son(s) on radar of court appearances, rehab, or sugar mommas, Cougars or MILFS, grandma and grandpa slinging Catholic prayers in Polish, etc, but if you don’t fit these categories exactly, please still send us what you have, who you are that is an interesting Polish Family.”
TV producer Yuri Rutman, working on the project with partners whose credits include “Survivor,” “The Apprentice,” and “God or Girl,” said he actually wanted to do a show on the Russian community but Lifetime beat him to it. He started considering other options. “We were thinking: what’s an interesting ethnic group that hasn’t been positively explored in the media?” Rutman said in a phone interview. “And I think there is a lot of stereotypes that exist outside the Polish community about a lot of different things.”
The plans stirred mixed reactions among Poles in Chicago, some of whom expressed their concerns on Polish language websites.
One of the comments reads (in Polish):
“The producer doesn’t intend to show 24 hours from life of an average Polish family. He already has a stereotypical picture of such family and he wants to sell it to a broader audience… multi-generational family with loudly praying grandparents, eating pierogi and drinking vodka straight from the bottle… the show will become a hit and for the next 20 years there will be yet more black marks sticking to us.”
But Rutman claims his goal is to break stereotypes. “We want to show a combination of both traditional family values as well as kind of an adventurous or wilder side of the Polish community. It will be a balance,” he said.
“In a lot of reality shows everyone is pretty much disfunctional. You watch some of these people and you think: you know what, these people are hopeless. Do I really want to be like them?“ he continued. “Our show is going to emphasize the positive, like the fact that it’s still OK to have old fashion values and principles and stick to them even if you feel like the world around you and the sky is falling.”
Some fear that the show will poke fun of Poles’ religiousness and the Catholic faith. Rutman strongly denies it: “The show is not about Catholics. If we are going to end up finding a family that is Polish-Jewish or Polish-Muslim we’re gonna hire them. We are looking for a popular aspect, not a religious aspect.”
At the same time he admits it’s impossible to predict the outcome since the casting is still in process. And after all, it’s the entertainment business, and “no one is going to be watching the show if they gonna be seeing mama and papa at the dinner table every night.”
The producers are being flooded with video submissions from aspiring reality TV stars but have not yet picked the “ideal mix.” The chances a chosen family will actually be from Warsaw, as the title implies, are very slim since most of the Polish population in Chicago comes from the southern mountainous area of Poland. But “Warsaw Chicago,” Rutman explained, “sounds sellable and people will understand when they’re flipping channels what this is about.”
The producers plan to film and edit the pilot by early November and then shop it around to TV channels.