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Source: ABC Family
Source: ABC Family

The Vineyard: Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Eastern on ABC Family

It’s been two decades since The Real World, what many would consider to be the first reality show, debuted with it’s premiere season in New York. Since then, the notion of sticking large number of college-age kids in crammed spaces for reasonably long lengths of time has become one of the most enduring angles of the reality genre. The various evolutions of this basic formula have included: making the house a road trip (Road Rules), turning it into a competition (Big Brother), using faded D-listers (The Surreal Life), and of course finding eight crude people and placing them in their natural habitat (Jersey Shore). While MTV has typically been the traditional home of this sub-genre, ABC family is taking its’ first crack at reality with its’ newest show The Vineyard.

The Vineyard, much like Jersey Shore, follows a large group of early 20-somethings as they hit a place that people flock to for vacation, in this case, New England summer spot Martha’s Vineyard. The eleven cast members live and work together in local hot spot The Black Dog while dealing with the summer heat and each other.

This is the sort of show that typically makes me doubt the “reality” aspect of the show. Even in the most contrived reality TV, there’s a sense that at least the reactions are what make the show real, even if predictable. Unfortunately, all of the reactions here are painfully muted, making for incredibly boring television full of wooden dialogue with no real sense of proportion. This is a problem, as things are precisely as big a deal as you are willing to make an audience believe they are (more on that point Friday when I take a look at Fox’s new late-night block), so a the non-reactions create the vibe that nothing is important.

These aspects are made even worse by the shows insistence of telling in lieu of showing (they allude to a bonfire the night before during a mid-morning conversation– do these camera crews only work from 9 to 5?). This is made all the more frustrating by the fact that the camera work is cinematic in scope and feels a cut above your standard cinema fare, so one would hope that the ability to show the action would take precedence over the numerous stock shots with long musical interludes that clutter the show.

However, if the show was scripted, could they have come up with more inane and boring dialogue? Many of the conversations don’t really evolve beyond small talk, and the ones that do over-rely on exposition, only for major plot developments (Kate’s decision to go for Lou) ending up being underplayed to the point where the only way to tell when a statement advances the story is to wait for the music to cut in after someone finishes their sentence.

The Final Verdict: The Vineyard starts with an appealing concept (Preppy kids spending a summer on Martha’s Vineyard getting in trouble? Count me in!) and then immediately does everything in its’ power to undermine it’s appeal. The drama is lacking, the show seems to have an issue with showing the action (the closest we get to drama while it’s happening is a fight between Luis and Johnny that immediately heads into darkness where we can’t see it), and the excessively rehearsed dialogue is mundane (this may be me, but isn’t the point of making a reality show less real is to punch up the proceedings and ensure controversy?). Skip this one at all costs, if you’re looking for some teen drama watch reruns of Dawson’s Creek, or for summer reality fun, check out The Real World, as either instance is a better investment of an hour.