Party Down South, the new CMT reality show from the same producers of Jersey Shore, is the show that CMT is banking on being their signature franchise in an aggressive move toward adding four nights of original reality programming to their lineup. Party Down South was one of seven new reality shows to debut on CMT this season, and has been heavily advertised across all of Viacom’s cable channels as well as across the internet. And now the show is facing serious trouble.
It was revealed Monday morning that one of the show’s eight stars, Louisiana native Lyle Boudreaux, was arrested in Maurice, LA for burglary of a vehicle. According to police, while at a Mardi Gras parade, Boudreaux found an unlocked car, rifled through a purse, and stole a credit card to fund the night’s drinking. When he went to the 2nd bar on the night and tried to start an open tab, bartenders noticed the name on the card and alerted police. The 28-year-old Party Down South star was arrested, and eventually released on $10,000 bond.
But that’s just where the Party Down South trouble begins.
Party Down South has been a ratings blockbuster for CMT since it debuted in January, and is now the network’s highest-rated show. However the cable channel appears to not be willing to share their Party Down South spoils with the cast.
According to TMZ, the eight stars of the show were dramatically underpaid for their first season of work, and are holding out on CMT, demanding more money from the network and the show’s producers before they will sign contracts to appear in a scheduled season two and three. The cast members were only paid $500 per episode for their services, while the cast of the similar Jersey Shore were making six figures a piece in the later seasons of that show.
Though the cast has agreed to a “reunion” show at $1,000 a head, there appears to be some question whether CMT will be able to bring back the original cast for future seasons. The cast has hired managers to represent them, and apparently the negotiations are not going well. On Friday, one cast member Mattie Breaux got in a heated exchange on a conference call and then hung up on the producers. Now producers are said tho be willing to let go some of the cast members instead of paying them. Part of the concern from the cast is CMT and the producers are demanding they shoot two new seasons back to back, making it difficult for them to maintain regular jobs.
The approach CMT and producers are taking with the cast speaks to the criticism from many that people from the South are seen as expendable by the entertainment industry. The gross discrepancy between the pay of the Party Down South cast and the cast members of other highly-rated reality TV shows, as well as their flippant attitude of replacing the cast if necessary, is the type of disrespect prevalent towards Southern talent in show business. Though it is not out of the ordinary for the Party Down South cast to receive minimal compensation during the first season, it is once the show has proven to be a ratings success.
Party Down South has received widespread criticism from Saving Country Music and other outlets for misrepresenting Southern culture and perpetuating negative Southern stereotypes. Ben “Cooter” Jones, one of the original cast members of The Dukes of Hazzard has also openly criticized the show, especially for showing commercials for the show with questionable content during reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard and other shows meant for a family audience on CMT and other networks. In an open letter to CMT and Viacom, Jones said about the show,
…without a doubt the most offensive and sleaziest thing ever to make it to a national audience already neck-deep in offensive sleaze, much of it courtesy of your corporation.
I am also offended by your portrayal of the South. Hollywood’s depiction of the South has famously been the stuff of scores of books, articles, and dissertations. We in the Southland are accustomed to being mocked, stereotyped and accused of all sorts of decadence and hatreds. The South has become a convenient whipping boy for the sins of the entire United States. But since we don’t produce the films and the television shows, your false version of us becomes the “accepted truth.”