A cultural storm-front emanating from the Jersey Shore could soon wash up on Toronto beaches if a local television producer succeeds in selling her pilot for a reality television show.
A recent casting call beckoned "outspoken, outstanding, over the top, attractive females and males of Iranian ethnicity" to star in the "Canadian version" of Jersey Shore. The MTV reality-television show climbed the ratings this year as its eight housemates sank deeper into nightclub debasement while playing up Italian-American stereotypes.
Plans for spin-off shows that depict a fiery Russian subculture in New York and the brash "Masshole" identity of young Bostonians are in the works, but Iranian-Canadian television producer Maryam Rahimi thinks Toronto's large population of preening Persians will make her pilot just tantalizing enough for Canadian networks.
Ms. Rahimi has secured a budget from Montreal's Sunrise Multimedia and hopes to begin shooting in Toronto by June. As would-be housemates responded to her casting call this week, Ms. Rahimi explained her decision to turn the camera on her own community, and offered her revealing take on reality television.
Jersey Shore outraged the National Italian American Foundation and caused advertisers to pull out because of how it portrayed the self-proclaimed "guidos." What reaction do you expect from the Iranian-Canadian community?
It will make a lot of people angry and lead to a lot of talk about how it is misrepresenting Persians. Obviously for entertainment purposes, a lot of things will be exaggerated but, bottom line, there are Persians who fit right in here and others who don't.
What will viewers learn about Iranian-Canadians?
When Persians do things, they do it in a very grand way. If you are at a restaurant with them, it is often a fight to see who's going to take the bill. Persians also pay a lot of attention to really tedious physical concerns. It's their mentality to want to look good all the time. So those aspects will be very interesting to watch on television.
You might say the strength of Jersey Shore lies in the weakness, both moral and intellectual, of the cast. What sort of characters will you choose?
Crazy, wild-partying, glamorous personalities that don't plan ahead. The Persian princes and princesses who think they have it all and do whatever it takes to get what they want.
As a producer, will you orchestrate any theatrics?
Absolutely. I will drop little things in the show to trigger some sort of conflict. This one gets jealous of the other one, and that sort of thing. I might pull out one of the personalities and say something to her that will work her up. There will be scripted conflicts for the purpose of making the show exciting. People know that, even though it's "reality," it's scripted.
So could cast members get performance bonuses for extra drama?
You've called it a replica. Why model it so closely on Jersey Shore?
I know CTV likes to take shows which have been successful in foreign countries and basically create a Canadian version. The Jersey Shore stars would probably be proud to be called salacious, if somebody told them what it meant.
How will you reproduce sex-soaked beach town culture in Toronto?
When Persians go out, whether it's to grocery shop or to a nightclub, they like to dress up and show off. That sex appeal will be something you'll see all the way through the show.
On Jersey Shore the cast contributes to society by working in a T-shirt shop. How will your cast members be productive?
I think a tanning salon is a great idea because you have clients coming in to strip down and tan. If we have our cast working there they might not only take advantage of the services after hours, but you might have one client walk in who is a body-builder and needs to tan before a competition. Then the girl at the reception greets him and flirts with him, except her boyfriend is working in the back and he finds out. You see where it might go.
I'm trying not to. Reality shows feed off power struggles. Will you insert a dominant force into the house?
It would be funny to do that and see people rebel, because Persians don't like authority. It would have to be a cast member who has more credibility than the others, maybe they've won a couple of beauty competitions or something.
Here's a thought: any chance of a cameo by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
I think the cast could definitely be banned from Iran. I still go back there regularly, but I have stopped my career from advancing in the past because I believed I would be banned if I ever did anything that was not the way the government would want Iran to be portrayed. I've reached the conclusion that I can't live my life like that. My family in Iran can always travel to come see me.
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