What happened exactly to turn us into a nation of lazy peeping toms, content to passively ogle people we’d never want to interact with in real life? Why would we tune in, week after week, to watch the Kardashians do nothing entertaining, exciting or even vaguely interesting? How does that clan of phony hillbillies on “Duck Dynasty” merit weeks of contentious discussion while a federal appeals court’s recent striking down of the FCC’s “net neutrality” rule garners barely a peep in mainstream media? Like it or not, we’re a nation addicted to reality. And by “reality,” I mean those heavily scripted faux-documentary shows that purport to capture the lives of real families of various demographic make-ups.
Hollywood is happy to indulge us, of course—mostly because reality shows cost next to nothing to produce. Simply pick an easily exploitable adjective (stupidly rich, Italian, Amish, redneck, gypsy or the heavily over-childrened), find a family, give them a topic to yell at each other over and turn on the cameras. Reelz Channel, formerly home to “TV About Movies,” has demonstrated an increasing fondness for reality shows lately. Hot on the heels of the cartoonishly awful hicksploitation show “Hollywood Hillbillies” comes the goombah-baiting docuseries “The Capones.”
Trotting out more Italian-American stereotypes than a 1950s joke book, “The Capones” introduces us to the “drama-filled, lasagna-loving dysfunctional family” behind a mediocre pizzeria in Lombard, Ill. The place is run by Dominic Capone III, the grandnephew of infamous mobster Al Capone. Dominic also happens to be an actor who starred as Al Capone in the 2001 TV movie The Real Untouchables and appeared in R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” video. Here he’s surrounded by his ridiculously clichéd family. There’s his hot, young trophy girlfriend—who lays around the house all day drinking cocktails. There’s his loudmouthed, overprotective mother—who mostly just yells at his girlfriend. There’s his “bad girl” childhood friend, just out of jail for (supposedly anyway) shoplifting a pillow. There’s his weird, Mafioso uncle—who sports a worse ’70s-style toupée than Christian Bale in American Hustle. They say “horny” a lot and manage to come up with a lot of not-so-clever sexual innuendoes involving meatballs and/or sausages.
The show promises that, in the Capone mansion, “the drama is always spicier than the pepperoni.” Lou Rago, president of the Italian American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago put it differently, telling Chicago’s NBC-5, “These shows throw functional illiterates in front of a television and celebrate things we shouldn’t be celebrating. There’s not another ethnic group that would allow this to go on TV, and I’m sure this will resurrect some nuances about Italian culture that are so stereotypical it’s beyond laughable.” I don’t know, Lou, does the meatball fight in episode one count?
Needless to say, “The Capones” traffics in all sorts of lowest-