A lot of people are worried about how the new ABC Family reality show “The Vineyard,” set on Martha’s Vineyard, will portray islanders and summer people. Will this “Laguna Beach”-type series insult locals like those two other recent attempts to bring Massachusetts to the nation, A&E’s atrocious “Southie Rules” and VH1’s hideous “Wicked Single”?
I’m more concerned about how the show offends all human beings ever in the history of the world, and not just those on the Vineyard during the summer. ABC Family has assembled 11 mannequins for “The Vineyard” who are so plastic, so Barbie and Ken, so perfectly put together, that they might as well have come marching off a factory line. They’re all actors — I mean models — I mean real people — who preen and prance in bathing suits, while reducing themselves to types to enact little textbook coming-of-age dramas.
All these beauties work for the Black Dog restaurant and live together, “Real World”-style, in an attractive ocean side home. Yes, they work, but no worries: They spend plenty of time frolicking and posing on the beach as if they’re in a glossy fashion shoot and drinking as if they’re in a beer commercial. They’re broken into two basic groups. “The locals” were born and raised on the island and lift their eyebrows at vacationers disembarking from the ferry. The “wash-ashores,” as we’re told a number of times, have come for some hot summer lovin’. As bossy-needy wash-ashore Emily puts it in the premiere, “I’m looking for, like, a JFK Jr. type.” I’ve always thought “wash-ashores” were people who live on the island but weren’t born there, but “The Vineyard” prefers it otherwise.
By the way, the cast is broken into two other groups, the pretties and the uglies, except that the second group contains no people at all. There isn’t even a single token ugly hanging around the house to make the pretties look even prettier. Not an ounce of fat makes an appearance on “The Vineyard,” and if you’re a fan of frizzies you will be sorely disappointed. This is a split-end-free zone.
In the premiere, Tuesday night at 10, we see the gang meeting one another, with the hunks immediately setting their sights on specific babes. Blond Katie, who delivers a voice-over about using the summer to reassess her life and decide if she wants to stay with her boyfriend, becomes an object of much desire. On some reality shows, the characters seem partly real and partly the creations of the director; on “The Vineyard,” the characters seem almost entirely designed by the director, as if the cast members have been given extremely precise instructions. Katie and the oh-so-chivalrous and ab-tastic Lou are going to be the romantically tortured “A” story.
OK, I have to be transparent. I just went to Thesaurus.com and searched for “repulsive,” and right now I’m feeling overwhelmed by the number of appropriate choices I have to round out my final thoughts on “The Vineyard.” “Odious” is good, but maybe a little too sniffy; there’s no point in being sniffy about a show so obviously rigged to be vapid. “Vile,” too, is an overreaction. I mean, these people are so flat and unreal, it’s pointless to waste sharp words on them. Ah well, even “repulsive” won’t do. I’ll stick with “hollow” and “generic” and get out.Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.