Monday, October 17, 2011
Controversial Toronto reality show Lake Shore scrapped
A year ago, an online teaser for the show, featuring eight combative cast members labelled by ethnic background, drew massive buzz — along with massive controversy from critics, who called the concept “racist.”
This month, the project died with a whimper. “I am sorry to say this, but it's over,” reads an email from producer Maryam Rahimi, sent to the show’s cast on Oct. 2. Networks declined to pick the show up, she writes.
Cast members, back at their day jobs, have mixed feelings about their short-lived ride as reality TV celebrities-in-waiting.
“What do I say to people now?” asks Salem Moussallam — billed on Lake Shore as “The Lebanese” — who runs a designer consignment shop on Queen St. W. and says he auditioned to generate publicity for his business. “It’s been really embarrassing.”
Others shrug it off. “I partied so much thinking that this was going to happen,” says Joey Violin (“The Italian”). “It’s probably better for me that it’s not happening — better for my health,” he says, adding he also spent too much money thinking that clubbing would generate publicity for the show.
Rahimi’s email says producers pitched the show to three networks and “had a good connection” with Rogers. The network did not respond to a request for comment over the weekend.
But an executive shakeup at the media giant brought in new people who hadn’t heard of the show, Rahimi’s email claims. “We became victims of circumstances. It was no one’ fault, this is just the way business is,” she writes.
Rahimi didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Violin thinks the show was “too controversial for Canada.” Lake Shore would have sequestered cast members in a house together and broadcast the resulting drama, supposedly generated by contestants’ clashing backgrounds. One contestant’s demonstration of the concept on Lake Shore’s online teaser drew widespread condemnation.
“I'm not racist. I hate everyone equally — especially Jewish people,” Sibel Atlug (“The Turk”) was filmed saying.
Atlug’s comment led critics, including Bernie Farber, then CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, to call the show “racist.” Rahimi later said that in retrospect, maybe that clip went too far.
Robyn Perza (“The Jew”) agrees. “The Jewish comment that was said — I think it might have had a lot to do with it,” she says. Networks “didn’t want to put an anti-semitic racial thing on TV,” she believes.
Perza took time off from school during the year the show was in development. “It kind of screwed me over,” she says.
Some cast members have discussed trying to keep the show alive, pitching it to networks on their own.
Moussallam says he’s working harder than ever at his store — though not without setbacks. Last weekend, he says, his shop windows were broken and the vandals scrawled “Lake Shore is a joke.”
While Violin never quit his construction job, he’s not happy to refocus on it. “It sucks that now I gotta take it real seriously again,” he says. But he says he had fun while it lasted.
“I had a lot more 15 minutes of fame than a lot of normal people would.”