Locals: Have No Fear From ‘Flaccid’ Reality Show
By David Crohn

In May, the Ocean Beach village board held its second-most-contentious, second-most well-attended meeting of the summer. People turned out by the handful—big numbers for these parts—to protest the filming of a reality show on the walks of the village. The cast members would live weekends in Corneille Estates, which would presumptively bear the brunt of the chagrin when the show went on air. But when the “talent” went out of the house they would spend the bulk of their time in Ocean Beach. Where else could they go?

This was, according to local logic, the beginning of the end of our civilization. Afraid of an hour-long commercial that would attract even more unwashed masses to Ocean Beach and Fire Island, residents railed against the production company, Bunim-Murray, and complained bitterly to the CEO’s face. This is a hidden place, they said. It needs to be kept that way.

Meg Wallace, who owns the Corneille Estates house where the cast lived, gently, respectfully chided old timers for their qualms. She told this paper, “There were a couple of people who opened their umbrellas before it started to rain.” She reminded those people that she lives here too. She would never do anything to jeopardize this village, she said.

And after seeing the show, I can say definitively, she didn’t.

The people who hated the idea of reality TV on Fire Island could never have predicted just how completely flaccid “One Ocean View” would be.

At the Albatross, where I watched the show’s premiere Monday, July 31, a frequent complaint was that it was too contrived. Even more so than most reality shows. But that’s not my problem with it. That the cast of the show seem to be behaving according to what they’ve seen on other reality shows doesn’t bother me so much as the fact that the show is just so boring, so lifeless that there’s nothing even to make fun of. The acid-tongued columnist can barely secure a foothold.

The Washington Post saw “tell-tale signs” that “suggest a certain level of phoniness afoot.” Duh.

Newsday schematized the plot: “as summer progresses, will guy get girl, or girl get guy, and will he then want to be with some other girl who happens to be already attached to some other guy, or vice versa?” Ahhh, so THAT’S vapidity’s blueprint.

See, it’s not even fun to read about how bad it is. As if the insult of the thing itself isn’t bad enough, the person who bothers to read a critic’s take on it has to face the ignominy of being forced to consider “One Ocean View” as an actual cultural commodity.

I prefer some of the comments I heard around the Albatross. I walked in expecting to be greeted by a lively scene, complete with whooping and catcalls. But the night was languid, and the savvy audience at the restaurant dismissed this mini-phenom with due diligence: there was a shrug and a “Huh?”

The general consensus was that the show was rotten—but shot beautifully, because, after all, Fire Island is a beautiful place. “It pretty much sucks,” said bartender Vanessa Graham. “Hey, at least the camerawork’s good.”

Sarah Loth, an off-duty Albatross employee having dinner there that night, didn’t take umbrage at the show’s shameless artifice, just the fact that it was a chore to watch. She also taunted some women on the show for making a typical Fire Island-newbie faux pas: strapping on heels for a trip to Flynn’s. “I gave up heels two years ago when I moved out here,” Loth said.

An onscreen promise from one of the cast members—“The drama’s coming,” said Mary the Sweet Blonde—is unlikely to entice future viewers in these parts now that the novelty of seeing a smidgeon of local color on ABC has worn off. Besides the dune grass and aerial footage of the Fire Island Flyer, you couldn’t even tell it was Fire Island.

So rest in peace, Ocean Beach Reality Television. You were born, you lived, you died on a late-summer Monday night on one of TV’s least-watched networks.