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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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6/15: Why there are huge walls built around a subdivision in Kennesaw

The wall in Kennesaw on Sunday, June 14, 2009. CREDIT: Helen Kim/Special to ajc.com

The wall in Kennesaw on Sunday, June 14, 2009. CREDIT: Helen Kim/Special to ajc.com

In many TV shows and films (think “American Beauty” and “Weeds”), suburbia is symbolized as a prison of surface homogeneity, over-fertilized green lawns, gas-guzzling SUVs and kids on swing sets.

CBS is about to shoot a reality show tentatively called “Block Party” in Kennesaw that literally turns suburbia… into a prison.

Earlier this month, the network built 2,000 feet of stark 20-foot tall walls around eight homes in a Kennesaw subdivision, walls that resemble the outside of a maximum-security penitentiary — minus the barbed wire. There are even off-duty Kennesaw police stationed on the road to keep traffic moving.

Starting June 15, eight families in those homes will be trapped in their own homes for about three weeks, blocked by said wall. If they leave, they relinquish the chance to win an unspecified large cash prize. And given that this is CBS, expect the prize to be well into the six figures (but less than one million dollars.)

The wall literally abuts onto one of the homes. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

The wall literally abuts onto one of the homes. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

During those three weeks, the families can only interact with each other while taking part in reward and elimination challenges, along the lines of sister CBS shows “Big Brother” or “Survivor.”

Jay Bienstock, a producer who has worked on “Survivor” and “The Apprentice,” said the concept is that suburban families lead such rushed, disparate lives, they don’t spend enough time together. This show will force them to do so. Dad can’t go off and play golf. The kids can’t go to ballet class or karate lessons. Mom can’t hit the mall.

He wouldn’t reveal what the challenges might be but they’ll be themed to suburban life — with a twist. “This isn’t something we are going to do, but it could be like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey with 200 real donkeys,” he said. (PETA might not be cool with that idea.)

Bienstock said it took months to find eight families on continguous properties willing to say yes to such an incredibly intrusive reality show. (The network is not making any of the families available to talk, especially since it hasn’t even started taping.)

They checked several cities, going door to door in suburban areas until they found this little alcove. The city of Kennessaw, he said, cleared it because 220 workers (mostly local) will be in the area for several weeks pumping money into the local economy.

The subdivision worked well for two major reasons: it’s very generic suburbia, making it relatable to the mass public, and the families are surprisingly diverse. “It could be Anywhere, USA,” Bienstock said. And while many suburban areas experience high turnover and lack community cohesion, these eight neighbors knew each other fairly well. And since the homes were build just a decade ago, most are the original home owners and all have kids of various ages.

The homes are valued in the $200,000 to $250,000 range, according to Zillow.com. A home up the block is on sale for $244,900. They’re pretty typical two-story suburban homes in the 2,500 square foot range. Most have four bedrooms, three baths with faux brick fronts.

The families themselves are classic middle class with folks working in sales, repair work and video production. “It’s like we hit the lottery,” he said, though he admits he doesn’t yet know what sort of fireworks may come out of sequestering these families for so long.

He isn’t sure when CBS is going to air the show or how many episodes will air, though it will probably be about seven. The fall lineup looks solid so this may be either a mid-season replacement/fill in or a show targeted for summer of 2010. The host will be Matt Rogers, who finished 11th on “American Idol” season three but showed more hosting skills than vocal skills after he left the show. (He hosts “Really Big Things” on Discovery Channel.)

The foreboding walls are typical Hollywood. They may be made of reinforced steel and may look solid, like those rocks the Six Million Dollar Man used to pick up, but one worker said the exterior is like cellophane and could be easily damaged with one swift punch.

123 comments Add your comment

RoHo Fan

June 14th, 2009
6:45 pm

Can’t wait to see the drama unfold during the show! Great article and follow up to the tax credit / incentive piece.

Jack

June 14th, 2009
8:33 pm

I wonder if they have any idea what a good thunderstorm can do to those flimsy walls?

JimC

June 14th, 2009
8:53 pm

This sounds like a really stupid idea, but I love Survivor, so who knows if it will work.

atl1000

June 15th, 2009
4:25 am

I’ll be watching ‘big brother’, thank you

Benton

June 15th, 2009
7:29 am

i know there’s a wall in mableton.

Stu Dio

June 15th, 2009
7:40 am

Houses valued $200-$250K, 4 bedroom, 3 bath. Parents can afford to stay away from work for the duration. Yeah, right — really typical American families. How would anybody be stupid enough to buy into this premise? Simply an excuse to generate some phony and flashy confrontations (I predict that at some point there will be some allegations of infidelity, drug abuse, domestic violence).

When will programmers come up with something truly original, or be willing to go back to tried and true formula of the past, i.e. THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, FATHER KNOWS BEST, THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW? Oh, no! They have to develop dramatic, new, ground-breaking concepts! Thank goodness we have cable, the radio and the Internet for entertainment.

Good luck, Kennesaw. Probably the most disasterous thing to happen there since the Great Locomotive Chase.

chryco

June 15th, 2009
8:04 am

I don’t own a television, but I will probably buy one just to watch this show. The photo above reminds me of my days growing up in Berlin during the 1960’s.

just thinking...

June 15th, 2009
9:33 am

Somebody thought it was a good idea to surround a neighborhood with walls for a “reality tv show”, and then pick a town where owning a gun is mandatory?

live here

June 15th, 2009
10:00 am

I predict that there will be 8 houses for sale when this is all said and done. Sad since these homes were once good friends enjoying dinner on the driveway most nights. A warning to anyone thinking of getting neighbors together to do this…. check with those not participating. They are the ones that are having to deal with this mess while trying to get to and from their homes everyday. So much for our summer! It is a real inconvenience. What once took 90 seconds to get to the front of the neighborhood now takes up to 10 minutes. Especially when you have the fools coming to look that go 3 MPH while on their phone and then do a U turn in the middle of the street as soon as they pass the walls. There was no information about what was actually going to happen as far as set up and road blocks, just a short, guess what’s going to happen in your neighborhood letter on the door the week before it was all to start! URGH…… Where is the HOA when we need them….

PTC DAWG

June 15th, 2009
10:37 am

Another stupid reality tv show.

C.M. Thornton, III

June 15th, 2009
11:02 am

I wish someone would build that wall around my neighborhood. It would be a great safety feature and probably do wonders to keep the “urbanites” out of the neighborhood…

Patrick

June 15th, 2009
12:19 pm

Glad to know all these families found ways to take off from work to do this stunt. Suspect many of them will found out at the end that they don’t need to go back to work because their jobs evaporated.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Gandalf, the White! (!)

June 15th, 2009
12:53 pm

DUMB as a box of hammers!

Marsha Bond

June 15th, 2009
1:29 pm

C. M. Thornton, III, you sound like a racist pig!

E-Roll

June 15th, 2009
1:48 pm

C.M. Thornton, I know what you mean. Ever since gentrification has started in Atlanta where I live, I haven’t felt safe with all of those dangerous looking white kids riding around my neighborhood.

Southern Gent

June 15th, 2009
2:06 pm

Looing forward to seeing what the show is all about. Thorton, you’re not a Keith Urban fan? Urbanites can be my neighbors any time!

Mr. WhatDoIKnow

June 15th, 2009
9:37 pm

Marsha Bond, E-Roll, I will be glad to let you have the “urbanites” living in the woods on DeKalb County school property across from me. They really bring down the neighborhood and are a bunch of theives stealing from the neighborhood and the local stores. When you get tired of them, see if you have better luck getting your county and ICE rounding them up and sending them back to Mexico where these illegals belong. If you live in DeKalb County, you are SOL because no one in government will assist the citizens with this matter.

Dragon

June 15th, 2009
10:44 pm

What stupidity!

How about building a wall around th CBS network…and just leaving it there?

nedclark

June 15th, 2009
10:58 pm

Can anyone say “The Truman Show”?

[...] of surface homogeneity, over-fertilized green lawns, gas-guzzling SUVs and kids on swing sets. full story (No Ratings Yet) Related posts:Five U.S. contractors held in slaying of another in IraqUS [...]

Jeff

June 16th, 2009
9:55 am

I’ll be interested if it degenerates into cannibalism. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Set_(TV_series) to see what I mean. But seriously though, not very typical households.

Mike

June 16th, 2009
9:55 am

How stupid, really is TV that much a part of you lives that you actually care about this garbage? “Reality TV” uh? It’s all staged by the producers for ratings and you seep gladly participate by giving them the ratings. Get out, get a life, go do something. Stop being a zombie to the networks and advertisers for one in your miserable pathetic lives!!!!

Patrick McWilliams

June 16th, 2009
10:01 am

More stupidity from the network that canceled “Jericho”, the finest show on TV in decades. I can’t stand the premise of elimination programs (”Survivor”, “Big Brother”). “Jericho” posed the idea of people forced to cooperate for mutual survival. How about a show based on that bizarre concept. Or maybe just bring “Jericho” back?

Michael W.

June 16th, 2009
10:01 am

Welcome to GUNTOWN USA! Should have chosen a town where the owners don’t have to own a gun. Who’s gonna keep them from killing each other after 2 days if they run out of beer?

Mike

June 16th, 2009
10:14 am

Dragon, That’s the best idea I’ve heard yet!!!!!!

AnnieR

June 16th, 2009
10:35 am

Live Here, I feel for you…what a mess in your neighborhood, it would totally suck. I’m glad my neighbors are smarter than yours….

Chris

June 16th, 2009
10:35 am

To anyone considering watching this show:
PLEASE take the time you would set aside for watching this show and spend it outdoors with your family doing something other than shopping. If you’re interested in the lives of families living in an insular community, walk around your neighborhood and meet your neighbors. If you like watching other people compete in games, go to a local sporting event. This show is worthless along with every other “reality” TV show. Participate in reality, I beg of you.

While you might think it isn’t my business to ask you for this favor, it is my business because your passive receptivity to television and advertising is harming the country I love so much. You have something to contribute to the richness of the reality around you. Please do everyone else the favor of sharing yourself with us. You have value, and that value is being squandered if you waste even 15 minutes of your life in front of this show. And if you don’t care about anyone around you, I guarantee your overall satisfaction with your life will increase many times over if you drop most of your TV viewing and do something. Your depression will fade and life will develop some meaning for you. Try it for a week. See how you like it.

sinsir

June 16th, 2009
10:36 am

Patricia McWhiney, look ladie, Jericho was an abomination of terrible acting, lazy writing and blind casting. You are now disqualified from any opinions for the duration of this comment board.

Big Fish

June 16th, 2009
10:36 am

Stu, I hate to break it to you, but those shows weren’t that great. I hate reality t.v. as much as the next guy, but we really need not see old stuff regurgitated. That’s what got us in this mess to begin with.

michael

June 16th, 2009
10:44 am

i am waiting for our own Berlin wall, to keep Americans from leaving. with obama came full government control ! if you haven’t noticed ? banks, large corporations, medical, and freedom of speech are next . how can a 20years of hate america ! evil whites ! terrorists as friends, get elected ? he doesnt even show his birth certificate ! now could a republican or conservative get away with this ? ell no !

Billy

June 16th, 2009
10:48 am

Looks like the walls we put up in Baghdad, Iraq, to protect the people from themselves… I hope these walls aren’t starting a trend here in good old USA…

Barry

June 16th, 2009
10:51 am

Can You Say…BORING!

Velveeta

June 16th, 2009
11:01 am

Sounds awful.

Chuy "the wiz" Henderson

June 16th, 2009
11:02 am

This strikes me as being little more than some Hollywood (or NY) hipsters cliche bigotry working it’s way onto the TV screen. I’ve spent too much of my life with people who believe that the suburbs are “prison” b/c the homes are well kept and the retail establishments include chain stores and restaurants. I’ve lived in both Manhattan and Los Angeles, & I’ve spent plenty of time in places like Miami, Austin, Las Vegas, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Dallas. Though naturally each of these places has its “charm,” there’s no place like a good suburb to raise a family. I’d like to see the writers, actors, production crew and executives of an average TV show walled into a TV studio for a month. Then we’d see what kind of miscreants are serving up our nightl cultural stew.

Rey

June 16th, 2009
11:13 am

Main reason I DON’T watch any of the alphabet networks, specially in the light of the John & Kate Plus 8 fiasco.

I’ll stick to THe Discovery Channel, at least “Mythbusters” get to blow stuff up. XD

Smilinjack

June 16th, 2009
11:20 am

How stupid!! People are turning into blooming idiots with all this so called reality crap.

ClumBaby

June 16th, 2009
11:24 am

I can’t wait! Matt is so SEXXXY!

Mike R.

June 16th, 2009
11:27 am

Truman Show was meant to be dark humor, not suggestion.

Heather

June 16th, 2009
11:37 am

Good to know a little more about the show! I actually pass by that neighborhood every day. I was curious what was going on behind that wall! I will definitely be watching!

mike

June 16th, 2009
11:43 am

Here’s a plug for the book titled “The Mirror Effect..How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing American” by Dr. Drew Pinksy.

In it he covers the horrible influence the “media/entertainment industry” is having on our lives. How it takes advantage of..uses and abuses those folks needing/desiring to be in the media spotlight. Encouraging over the top drama and conflict for ratings. Conflict that is resolved with verbal and or physical altercations purely for the audience entertainment.

The result…creating a generation of dysfunctional narcissits hardwired for constant over the top drama in all facets of their relationships

maggie

June 16th, 2009
11:44 am

where in the hell is Kennesaw? and why do we need to know about it?

Sam

June 16th, 2009
11:46 am

I HATE reality shows. There is nothing real about being walled into an area and interact only with your neighbors for 3 weeks. Not to mention homes valued at $250,000ish is not the value of the majority of people’s homes. Good luck. I’m not going to watch.

Sandy St.John

June 16th, 2009
11:51 am

People will let someone else almost do anything to control them as long as they get either in the newspaper, on the internet or on TV.
Don’t people value their freedom anymore!!!???

jim

June 16th, 2009
11:54 am

Georgia used to be nice, please get the lock of morals of California and New York out of here!

Irv_Fartstein

June 16th, 2009
11:55 am

I’m a suburminite get me out of here!

Rod Mann

June 16th, 2009
12:02 pm

Further proof that “reality TV” is total crap as are the networks that broadcast such dribble.

Bob

June 16th, 2009
12:12 pm

Twenty years ago I never would have guessed that the people of today would be willing to sell their dignity for so little a price. I certainly won’t be participating by watching this pathetic little piece of tripe. If there is anything more pathetic than someone willingly giving away whatever shred of dignity they had for so little a price as a few minutes of fame, it’s the people who are watching them do it on TV.

I refuse to participate.

Yewbee

June 16th, 2009
12:15 pm

The Truth will set you free – but Truth is hate to those who hate the Truth

Yewbee

June 16th, 2009
12:16 pm

I see the censors are hard at work!

bitterweed

June 16th, 2009
12:25 pm

Be still my heart..I’m so excited I’m about to puke. What is wrong with people today, they have no life? We are given a banquet of garbage by television and you eat it like hogs..you must be braindead. Who cares, are you voyeurs? I don’t give a hoot about Jon & Kate, the Duggars, one more dwarf family, one more housewife makeover or trade..and a whole litany of other stuff that they serve up as entertainment. You’re being cheated..don’t you even care??