Some shows don’t try to pretend they have any redeeming value beyond entertainment.
Based on its title, Oxygen’s “Bad Girls Club” is one of them. The concept is “Real World” simple: gather seven smack-talking women in their early 20s who typically have anger/respect issues, plant them in a mansion with copious amounts of free liquor and watch the inevitable dust fly. There’s no $1 million prize.There are no rose ceremonies or tribal councils. There are no judges or quick-fire challenges.
And Atlanta is home to the 10th season debuting tonight at 8 p.m. They spend a few weeks in a tricked out Buckhead mansion with a stripper pole and party hard. The first episode features Sweet Auburn BBQ food truck and Opera Nightclub and Mansion.
There’s some hope perhaps that the women learn better behavior ( or viewers learn to avoid such behavior) but that seems like a stretch to make something meaningful out of something that isn’t.
The women get nicknames – like they’re rollergirls or wrestling characters. None are from Atlanta. There’s:
- Paula “Hell on Wheels” from Chicago. “It’s going to go down in the A-town!”
- Nicole “The Jersey Joker” from Fort Lee, N.J. “I have two notches; loud and louder.”
- Stephanie “The Harlem Heartbreaker” from Harlem, N.Y. “I’m a stripper. I love women. I’m bi-sexual… I love drama.”
- Alicia “Ms. Chi-Fly” from Chicago. “I’m going to run the house and everyone knows I’m going to run the house… I don’t like blending in.”
- Janae “The Houston Hellraiser” from Houston. “I like to party.”
- Valentina “The Sexy Socialite” from Hyattsville, Md. “Some people go after the basketball players. I go after the owners of the teams… I don’t get along with insecure b****s – or ugly girls.” Yes, she sure likes to use the b-word!
- Shannon “Buff Barbie” from Portland, Ore. “I love nice things… I work really hard and nothing has been given to me. I went to military school. A girl will not fight me.” (She’s only 26 but…)
The most sensitive of the women early on? Janae, who gets drunk and then annoyed when Paula tries to help put her hair up in case she yakked and claps to get her attention. Later, she takes offense when Nicole says she isn’t interested in visiting Houston.
The man behind “Bad Girls Club”? Jonathan Murray, who also created the first notable reality program “The Real World” on MTV in 1992. Believe it or not, it’s in its 28th season (Portland, Ore.), outlasting every other MTV show to date, including “The Osbournes,” “Laguna Beach” and “Jersey Shore.” (By the way, Atlanta has never been home to any “Real World” season. Why?”It’s a perennial runner up. We talk about it. One time, we thought it was too spread out. It felt like a lot of little villages. We weren’t sure where to put the show. We did consider Athens, too..” It’s still a possibility, Murray added. “Maybe it’s time has come.”)
He also works on the Kardashian reality shows. (Ka-ching!) “They’re a real family that fights but always gets back together,” he said.
In 2006, he pitched the idea of ‘Bad Girls Club” with a two-and-a-half minute clip of job “bad girls” from past reality shows. Oxygen handed him a series, no pilot needed. “It was the easiest pitch I’ve ever done,’ he said. “The idea was women living out their lives loud, not being apologetic for who they are and creating their own rules.”
Murray isn’t apologetic either about “Bad Girls Club.” “Television is one of the most democratic institutions we have. People get to vote every day. This show has no ulterior motive. Luckily for us, there are a lot of people who like the show.”
Indeed, it is consistently one of Oxygen’s most popular shows year in and year out, drawing 1.5 million or more viewers (mostly younger women). In it, the seven “alpha” women are maneuvering to see who runs the house. “Who’s going to take it too far and find themselves at the bottom of the stairs?” Murray said. “It’s power plays like Washington D.C.”
Most of those nicknames? Created by the production company to better keep track of the women.
Interestingly, as creator, Murray does not interact with the women. “I keep a healthy distance,” he said. But he is deep into casting and following the storylines.
The show, he said, should have come to Atlanta earlier because it’s an “urban”-focused show. The women, he said, “loved Atlanta. And we felt more welcome there than any other city. They weren’t judged.” Better yet, with all the reality programming in Atlanta nowadays, the “Bad Girls” crew caused barely a ripple. “We were not the biggest news in town,” Murray said.
He encouraged the women to play out their dramas in the mansion, not in public. (Who needs an arrest?) Some of the hang-outs included Opera, Primal nightclub, Ru San’s and (for the crew at least) Taco Mac.
Murray said this show is much less “planned” as “Real Housewives.” “We give them a place to live and some opportunities to do fun things like kart racing. But we don’t orchestrate action between the girls,” he said.
Going back 35 years, Murray actually worked as a producer at WXIA-TV. “I lived in beautiful Sandy Springs,” Murray said. (Home of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, too!)
“Bad Girls Clubs Atlanta” 8 p.m. Tuesday, January 15, Oxygen