Dan Rattiner's Stories

Summer House: Bravo TV Show Passes Muster If You Like That Sort of Thing

Bravo debuted a new TV series last week. It’s called Summer House, it’s set in Montauk (filmed largely in Napeague), and says so, and I watched an episode of it the other night. Here’s a review.

The house itself is a huge mansion that eight people ages 26 to 34 have rented for the summer. The rental price for the summer was likely around $160,000, because the house is available for that for next summer and prices have remained steady in real estate rentals in recent times. So they would have each had to pony up about $20,000 for 16 weekends last year, an amount that is about a quarter of their annual salary, given the level on the corporate ladder they are presented as coming from.

Christine is an entertainment reporter, Carl is a dental sales manager, Kyle is an entrepreneur and so forth and so on. All the guys and girls are attractive without being drop dead gorgeous, all have conversations that go something like “I heard that Lindsay and Everett are going to move in together sometime soon.” “Oh really, how come I haven’t heard about it?” Then this from Lindsay to the viewer: “Nobody likes to be told anything behind their back.”

Here are two other lines I recall: “You’re in a Christian college, how did that happen?” And “Well, she’s not expecting a ring like some 40-year-old would.”

In other words, it’s the kind of conversation young single people in a New York singles bar would have. But in bikinis, and in a house they couldn’t possibly afford without help. A smaller house, yes. Like this, no.

They shop for groceries, clean up the kitchen, jump in the pool, drink a lot, go to the beach, go to the gym and stay up late. They wake up hungover next to the boyfriend or girlfriend they are trying out. They’re all sincere and likable, or maybe not likable.

The typical TV viewer watching this is probably, in the absence of any middle class, a lower-class American. It’s hard to imagine a family of four living in a trailer park in Ohio relating to this. But they will. Kyle and Lauren and Carl and Lindsay will become their friends.

Although filmed in Montauk, as other TV shows have been, there’s not much Montauk in it. That’s because the Town of East Hampton refused to give Summer House a permit to film on public property last spring when the producers had asked. Other shows being filmed here got them. But with this one, everybody thought there would be 35 slobs with mattresses on the floor of a three-bedroom house all weekend, condoms hanging from the trees, people peeing in the pool and music playing all night at boom-box volume. Montauk has a little of that, but showing it would be bad. Anyhow, in the end, perhaps advised by Bravo lawyers or PR people or someone, the show doesn’t show much Montauk—except from the air.

There are frequent fly-overs of Montauk, however, apparently inserted there instead of scenes at Navy Beach or Shagwong or the fishing village or the lighthouse, because the suits must have said nobody can stop you from filming from the air. So Montauk looks like Anytown USA, but one with a beach and oversized homes.

None of the stars carry the day, and together as a group, they don’t either. The cinematography is fast cuts, partying, cooking burgers, lounging around, guzzling vodka, going off to ride bikes (but not being filmed riding on public streets). It’s shot with split-screen sometimes, and multiple images at other times. It’s ho hum, sort of Survivor meets The Bachelor.

Years ago, I interviewed a man who was a legendary figure at a New York City advertising agency. He now had a house out here. But back in his youth, he was in a Westhampton group house. Same crowd as now, but a generation earlier and with lower real estate prices.

“How did you meet your wife?” I asked him.

“It was in the wee small hours of a Saturday night at the group house I had just joined. She was there, too, it turned out. My key wouldn’t work in the front door, so in the dark, I went around the side and climbed through a kitchen window and into the sink where, as it happened at that hour, she was doing dishes.”

I say, next year, give these polite upscale people a license to film on public property.

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