Martha’s Vineyard comes of age in eyes of reality TV

Martha’s Vineyard comes of age in eyes of reality TV

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Young people will be the focus in the new reality docu-drama from ABC family. — File photo by Steve Myrick

Grab the television remote and get ready. ABC Family announced in a press release that it has picked up “The Vineyard,” described as a dramatic coming-of-age docu-soap, which follows a handful of 20-somethings on Martha’s Vineyard for the summer.

“Tight quarters, new friends and new rivals, all living, working and playing together, make this picturesque playground ripe for mischief and romance,” ABC said.

“The Vineyard” is created and executive-produced by Dave Broome, producer of the “Biggest Loser,” and Brian Smith (“Masterchef”) and 25/7 productions. Filming is expected to begin in May for eight one-hour episodes.

Closed auditions for pre-screened locals are scheduled this Thursday and Friday at the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven. On Saturday and Sunday, the casting directors will be in Boston meeting with college kids — both Islanders attending area schools and students who are interested in spending the summer on the Island.

In a telephone conversation with The Times, Mr. Broome stressed that the show would provide a fair portrayal of the Vineyard, its residents, and the community, and that the cast and crew will keep a very low profile.

“A show like this is very different from ‘Jaws’ being filmed on the Island,” Mr. Broome said. “These are small footprints by design. We’ll use three cameras. We travel in passenger vans. 99.999 percent of the people won’t know where we are.”

As for content, Mr. Broome was emphatic. He said it would not be Jersey Shore, a series that followed the lives of eight housemates at the Jersey Shore who excelled in boorish behavior. “The Vineyard is not intended to portray any stereotypes, disrespect the community, or present a negative image of young people and their lifestyle,” he said.

This is not Mr. Broome’s first effort to capitalize on Vineyard reality. In February 2009 his company advertised for young people between the ages of 19 and 28 who wanted to compete for a chance to star in a primetime television show to be set on Martha’s Vineyard.

“New friends are made, others fade away, lust simmers, and sometimes, mistakes are made with no regret. But one thing is for sure, you’ll never forget your summer on The Vineyard,” read the promotional material. But it was not until last month that the concept found a home with ABC.

No help

The news that reality TV — popularly associated with gators, lumberjacks, pawn shops and Snookie of Jersey Shore fame — had discovered the Island drew gasps from one Island resident.

“This is such a bad idea that I don’t even want to think about it,” wrote Virginia Jones of West Tisbury in an email to The Times and other recipients. “As to content, what the Hell are they going to include: dysfunctional families, drug use/abuse, and folks living below the median income in substandard conditions, while working three jobs? If anyone has any influence to stop this please let’s talk.”

In a follow-up conversation, Ms. Jones told The Times, “I don’t think Martha’s Vineyard needs any more exposure. We already have more people in the summer than we can comfortably accommodate. The problem is we don’t have a viable, sustainable year-round economy. More exposure and anything that gives the Island a wow factor and makes it sound glitzy and glamorous and fun isn’t going to help any of our problems.”

The majority of comments on the show’s newly created Facebook page have not been kind. 

Brandy Starr Ringle wrote, “I wish there was a hate button!”

“There’s nothing that can be said to give the sheer idiocy and stupidity of this show idea justice, then again he did make the biggest loser,” said Jared Jernagan. “He can be on his own show next season.”

Sean O’Brien had another take “I think this is an opportunity to come together as Islanders and show the rest of the world what it means to be from Martha’s Vineyard.”

In response to those concerns, Mr. Broome said the show isn’t about Martha’s Vineyard. “It’s a character-driven show about the people who come to Martha’s Vineyard,” he said. “We’re going to embrace the beauty of the Island and the diversity of the population, but it’s a character-based show.”

Mr. Broome emphasized that the cast and crew will only be on the Island during the early part of the summer. “We’ll start shooting in early May. By July 4th, most likely we’re out of there,” he said.

“We’re looking to build relationships on the Vineyard,” said Mr. Broome. “Our goal is to have season after season.”

Tick, tick

Mr. Broome said the show will look at people at a crucial time in their lives. “There is a real ticking clock that happens there unlike other places around the country,” he said. “The population changes. Kids go there to work, to play — but the show is really about these kids that are at a crossroads. Whether they’re locals or wash-ashores, they’re trying to figure out their lives.”

Mr. Broome said the Island provides an interesting dynamic. “For three months out of the year there’s this mix of all kinds of people interacting together. That’s the story we want to tell,” he said.

The unscripted show will center on a handful of young people. Some of the visiting kids will live together in a rented house. Some of the cast members will work together at a local business. “There will be eight core characters with lots of other people involved,” Mr. Broome said. “We’re looking to capture parents, business owners, and other local people. We’re not just looking at the kids.”

Mr. Broome said he is familiar with the Island. “We know the Vineyard is not spring break central. We need these characters who are full of depth. This is not about a party on the Island. This is about people at a crossroads of their lives and their connections to other people of all ages. This is a very targeted, specific story we’re tying to tell.”

By reassurance, he added, “This is ABC Family. This is Disney. People should realize what they can expect.”

He said a large number of locals and Island business owners have expressed interest in participating in one way or another. “At least half a dozen hotels have reached out asking us for the business. I think that’s an incredible sign,” said Mr. Broome. “We’re going to help pick things up when the Island needs the business. We’re going to be spending a lot of money while we’re there. We’ll be in the restaurants. We’ll be in the shops. We’ll be employing a lot of locals.”

“I know from experience that when you change anything in a place small and quaint like Martha’s Vineyard, you ruffle feathers. The local people take a lot of pride in where they live — and they should. We understand that. I think everyone will be really surprised.”

“I’m asking people just to wait. To think a little bit. We’re excited. I think they’re going to be very pleased,”


  1. I really can’t imagine one positive thing that this will bring to the island. I propose that the community boycotts the restaurant that hires these characters.

        1. If you really think about it for just a minute it’ll come to you. Which Island restaurant is more well known and recognized than any other?

  2. I always called this place Disneyland, I didnt know they would take it seriously.

  3. A better show would be about the loving and careing folks at Camp Jabberwocky. Disney could donate all the proceeds back to the camp

    Not scripted? “New friends are made, others fade away, lust simmers, and sometimes, mistakes are made with no regret. But one thing is for sure, you’ll never forget your summer on The Vineyard,” BS.

    1. hopefully,they will bring some fresh bread with them,we can’t seem to get any in the stores here!!!

      1. just to agree with you about something, I agree. :)

        good bread is hard to find on this island

        1. I didn’t mean for the above comment to be responding to you,I’m surprized I wasn’t deleted,I promise to not respond to your comments anymore

          1. you can respond to my comments.. it would be a boring world if we all thought the same thing.. I remember a Gary Larson cartoon, where God is making the earth in his kitchen, behind him is a shelf full of “spices” in jars –things like reptiles, trees, fish etc. But he is shaking a jar over the earth that says “jerks” , and he is thinking…”this ought to spice things up a little”

            Believe me, I don’t really think anyone that comments here is a jerk.. we just all have a different take on life.. I am fine with that, and look forward to a healthy dialogue in the future.. Thank you for taking the time to express your opinions.. I really mean that..

  4. Who the heck do all you “locals” imagine that you are? Get off your thrones, you’re not that special.

    1. wow hey papa tuck, does Heff know about this? (that your gonna be in it? and yeh tennisstar all permanent residents of the vineyard are very special, that’s why it’s an island. for some to come visit for others who actually enjoy not being too close to the madness of walmarts, burger kings, and drive by shootings lol

      1. Im a full time, year round resident, albeit a transpant. So maybe i dont have this fantasy that because im on an island, im somehow above all the non resident riff raff. Open your eyes. There are drug dealers, substance abusers, rapists, child molesters and murderers right here on your magical island. Its no different than any other place. Just prettier in some spots.

  5. No matter how you look at it, the vineyard is still dependent on tourism. Remember the Catskills? Appealing to a new, younger audience is not a bad thing to help promote for the future. Or, if you prefer, we can just decline into oblivion. Sometimes old people have a hard time transitioning as times change.

      1. You’re right, oblivion isn’t the problem. Over-exposure and changing character of the island are the biggest concerns. There are good laws to protect the island and hopefully selectmen and law enforcement work together to keep the island a unique place.

  6. If we don’t want this here, how can we stop them? Do they need permits? The Vineyard stopped the all-powerful McDonald’s 30 years ago, surely we can stop a film crew.

    1. Times have changed, look how we fared on the roundabout. We have 2 things to look forward to in the spring.

  7. This is awful. Such a disappointing thing to be happening to this peaceful place that I have always considered my Eden. The Vineyard is where you go when you want to get away from franchises and industry and media. A reality tv show on the island just seems so incredibly wrong to me. As someone who has been summering on the island all my life, I am extremely saddened to see the Vineyard turned into a freaking television show. I cannot imagine anything good coming from this, nor can my dear friends who are year round residents. MV will always be my sanctuary and it’s a shame to see this happening there.

    1. Sanctuary and Eden? You are kidding right. It is physically pretty but you have to get rid of the people in order to enjoy it. There is more per capita pathology here than on the mainland. Look up the statistics.

        1. This is the 2005 sample. It gets worse but I wont do your research for you.
          ‘’Martha’s Vineyard’s dark little secret is one of desperately high levels of depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence and even suicide attempts among a population that struggles to make ends meet in a billionaire’s playground when the billionaires have all left. The last time the island’s social problems were publicly totted up – in 2005 – the number of cases of patients treated each year in hospital for alcohol or drug abuse had soared from almost 200 in 2002 to just over 750 three years later. The caseload of patients struggling with depression had grown from 40 in 2002 to 92 in 2005. Suicide attempts climbed almost tenfold, from three in 2002 to 29 in 2005.’’ This is only some of it and doesn’t count domestic violence and theft and break ins and child abuse or sex abuse. Compare some of these to nationwide stats per capita. You can do it.

          1. Do the work for me? I’m not the one citing “pathology per capita”.

            Also, comparing any stat pertaining to MV to the rest of the nation is going to give you skewed results. Seems like you read stats and don’t really know many people on the island though.

          2. Mr JamesPi3, you seem to reflexively not believe the stats even if they are given to you. That is what you are implying. MV has 16 thousand people here for about 10 months and about 100000 people for two months. Are you saying that MV stats are lower or the same or you don’t know. What are you saying. Are you saying you don’t want to believe it? Even without stats, one can live here for awhile and understand why people come here to work, judge accountability and performance, look at supply demand, review the hospital cases which are public, look at police arrests, see how many people are addicted and go to AA, read the papers, make observations, find out how many are bi polar and schizophrenic and a whole host of other pathology and you will quickly see MV is dark.

          3. You’ve yet to give me the pathology per capita on the island versus pathology per capita on the mainland.

            The population doesn’t go from 116,000 to 16,000 between August and September. For many of the off peak months the Island population is somewhere between these two extremes. Someone who spends so much time here should know that

            MV is definitely full of odd people and some of them do and sell drugs and many of them come here because they cannot adapt to normal society. That’s what a remote place like this attracts sometimes. But I stil
            dont think you get what the community is. It must be a terrible experience to wake up every day and be baffled by the place in which you live, which seems to be how you live your life here.

          4. Wise up. No one comes here early June and after September and most of the 100k come in July and August and before school or college starts. yes you agree lots of odd people and difficulty adapting. that is all I am saying. You are agreeing with me. As for ‘’community’’ what does that mean? Selling high priced lobster rolls at Grace Church? Or all the wrong people getting hand outs at Red Stocking? I sleep well and wake up well and I simply comment that MV is going the way of the dodo bird.

          5. Okay, you’ve taken it too far.

            The lobster rolls at Grace Church are $15, some of the cheapest lobster rolls on the island. They have very little filler unlike some places and you get chips and a drink included. Lobsters run from $10-$20 per pound, and the Grace Church lobster rolls have more than a pound of meat. One of the best lobster deals in New England. Get it together man.

          6. ”the Grace lobster rolls have more than a pound of meat” that’s a typo right? I thought churches were about salvation not lobster rolls

          7. The theology of grace church is eat lobster in order to go to heaven.

            Subject: [mvtimes] Re: Martha’s Vineyard comes of age in eyes of reality TV

          8. I don’t want to take sides in a completely irrelevant debate, but Jesus literally weeps when he sees how much lobster meat is in one of those rolls, and how much they’re charging. I felt so violated after buying one of these rolls, I scrubbed myself in the shower for more than 3 hours. I joke, I joke, I kid, I kid … Getting back to the primary irrelevant debate: the reality show. Show biz/TV is BS. They’re selling air time for their commercials, the more you pay attention, the stronger they get. If they’re ignored, they go “on hiatus” … That said I’m totally Tivo-ing this show! Ha ha!

          9. Lobster rolls at Grace church are very reasonable and the money helps support many parish expenses. Also Red S
            tocking is for the children, there’s nothing wrong with that!

          10. MA has the second highest level of illegal substance abuse in the USA and Dukes county has the highest in MA. Figure out what makes up Dukes county and also get in touch with the Exec Director and Clinical Advisor of the MV Community Services department. that is just one indicator. We go on to Depression and suicide and Sex abuse a bit later. Oh I forgot , Dukes County is MV and the Elizabeth Islands so it might be that the Elizabeth islands are the bad actors and not MV

          11. Hey, I’m not doubting that there are a bunch of problems here, but the image you paint is just not reality. What is “level of illegal substance abuse”? Are there crack gangs shooting each other like the south side of Chicago?

            People seeking help through AA is not an indication of moral decay in my eyes. Is there really a higher rate of violent crime? Are people getting killed in drunk driving accidents?

          12. Listen to me carefully. AA is a good thing because people are seeking help. Illegal substance abuse is a well used category measuring pathology. I said depression, suicide, domestic abuse, drug addiction and alcoholism is at a higher rate than on the mainland. Those are facts. That is all. The image I paint is reality. I never mentioned violent crime. I said it’s a dark place and particularly so in ten months. I said this island is not the glittering place that the news makes it out to be because Presidents holiday here. At the street level where normal people live, the island has lots of problems and more per capita than the mainland. I am not comparing to Chicago. I am certainly safer here than in south side of Chicago. However I mention a whole host of issues and you go logical walkabout on me and bring up gang shootings and Chicago. Are you smoking funny cigarettes? People who live here are naturally defensive. They do not want to believe this pathology exists here because it’s a reflection of their own choices. You don’t want me to define moral decay do you? I am done.

          13. Cite your facts please. I don’t dispute that there is more here than meets the eye to the summer tourist or the glowing press coverage. You on the on the other hand believe that west tisbury and chilmark are modern day Sodom and Gomorrah.

            Domestic abuse is violent crime.

            You say MA has 2nd highest “levels of illegal substance abuse” and MV has the highest in MA, so you make one believe that this is one of the most drug and crime ridden places in America.

          14. I must agree with you that the Island is a difficult place to lead a healthy, well balanced life unless you’re filthy rich & don’t have to work 3 jobs in order to survive. I did 12 years, year-round, on the “rock” & still refer to it as “The Alcatraz of the East” to those folks who play up the myth of an elite, glamourous playground for beautiful, famous people, only. Yes, all of the troubles that plague the mainland also do harm to year-round Vineyarders. Working class families are broken there due to the problems you mention & also due to the difficulties of securing decent housing; an artificial inflation rate of 50% on EVERYTHING from butter to shoes; entrenched narrow-mindedness of some locals (particularly the townie politicians & their cronies) & the impossibility of getting away- for even a weekend- in summertime. I have all the scars & bad memories I need to prove my point, so I won’t bother with statistics. I assert that the Vineyard is not a healthy place for families & that means many Island kids are doomed if they stay there. Most will have to leave at some point, just to get higher educations, but few will be able to afford to come back as permanent residents unless they inherit a family property. Even then, good luck keeping it ! There is a pernicious type of “vulture economy” on the Vineyard that perpetuates a vicious cycle. There’s always a boatload of “fresh meat” landing at the ferry wharfs so women, especially, are frequently treated like disposable commodities with short shelf lives. I am certain that the TV show won’t dare to touch the REAL realities of Island life with a ten foot pole.

          15. The population of the island I’d approx 16000. In the summer it swells to 100000.
            Subject: [mvtimes] Re: Martha’s Vineyard comes of age in eyes of reality TV

          16. Well 12 years of recession does that. Last time I was happy was the year 2000. Need to get the country back on track and so far no one wants to do it.

          17. come on!!! the last time you were happy was when you learned we were finally getting thr roundabout.

          18. Ms Powers are you asking for the source because you don’t believe the statistics or are you living in a dream world of non observation?

  8. No one lives on The Island during the winter anyway, they ship us all in a month prior to the season to set up cottage city and have police on segways chase drunken brawlers over roof tops and across the camp ground all for the entertainment of New Yorkers and such who like a ‘quaint’ and safe touch to their Holiday violence. :P

  9. AHHH! i now know what the new tandem axle 60+ passenger sightseeing buses are doing
    parked and ready for the day tripping masses to arrive,this is how it all began,back in the 60s

  10. This is the story of 20 strangers, picked to cram into a hovel, feed voracious ticks, share STDs, compete for towel real estate on South Beach and find out what life is like . . . in THE REAL WORLD, MARTHA’S VINEYARD!!!

    (With apologies to MTV.)

  11. This is not going to be helpful at all. Just trashy and really shows that the shows producers don’t “get” the Vineyard at all. If it really is the Black Dog, I’m happy to boycott. Really,can islanders try not to cooperate with this junk?

  12. In the end it’ll be the smart folks who take advantage of this opportunity, just like with Jaws. The rest can enjoy themselves complaining. I’m ready to work, where do I sign up?

  13. I didn’t see anyone standing in Vineyard Haven in protest ? Maybe they all went to Boston ? This TV show Pilot will happen, any reaction is a good reaction for a reality tv show. I am most certain that they will pick outgoing people that will get the most viewers. Anyone here have stock in Disney ?

  14. Alot of negative comments. anything that brings tourist dollars to a struggling island community should be embraced..

  15. Has anyone seen this shows that ABC Family puts out? It’s disgusting!!! “Pretty Little Liars,” “The Lying Game,” “The Secret Life of the American Teenager;” and so on. When you think of ABC Family and Disney you typically think of “Boy Meets World,” and acceptable shows they had out in the ’90s. The crap they are putting out now is a handbook to young boys and girls to act beyond their age by making out in closets and skipping school and getting pregnant. Sure, these things happen in real life, but kids don’t need any more influence than their own imagination. The producer may say this show won’t be like “The Jersey Shore,” but I highly doubt it.