If you missed the premiere of Bravo's "Shahs of Sunset" last night, you're not alone. I did, as did another colleague who was planning to watch. Perhaps ethnic reality TV has become less of a must-see. Not that most of these shows have been must-sees in the first place, though some have tried harder than others.
That said, there are some interesting conversations in the first episode, which Bravo has online, if one can sift through the rest of it. In this one above, one of the cast members, Asa Soltan Rahmati, chats with a girlfriend about the emotional and identity differences between Iranian Americans who arrived before the 1979 revolution and those who arrived afterward, or were born in the United States. It's a good conversation that reflects similar differences within other immigrant diasporas, especially those whose migration revolved around political upheaval.
Not that the show, which follows a group of wealthy, flashy friends (case in point, Asa's reference to a caged tiger at a pool party), has impressed too many Iranian Americans with its "reality." Even if, as one Iranian politics expert told the Christian Science Monitor, "it's showing a face of Iranians that's not related to terrorism or nuclear weapons." From that story:
Some Iranian-Americans are advocating a boycott of “Shahs” as they think showcasing the lives of Iranian-American socialites who flaunt their status as part of the country's moneyed “one per cent,” will merely worsen public views of the Iranian-American community, especially as the rest of the United States is still painstakingly climbing out of an economic recession.
“The people taking part in this show are a small percentage of our community and nothing like the rest of us. They're pushing stereotypes,” says 26-year old Sheeva Javid, a student at the academy of arts in San Francisco.
The story continues: "...if “Shahs of Sunset” had a more realistic, intellectual slant, would Bravo viewers watch the show? Probably not."
No, probably not. One reader who posted a comment under the CSM story mourned the recently canceled "All-American Muslim," a TLC reality show about Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan. That show, ironically, drew criticism for its own reality-show-style drama during a liveblog on Multi-American the night it premiered, but in the end won critical praise in addition to controversy. In one episode, for example, the show took on the cast's mixed feelings surrounding the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
There may not be anything that compares from the cast of "Shahs of Sunset," some of whom are Muslim, others Jewish. But there will likely be other interesting tidbits, like the one in the first episode involving the universal American daughter vs. critical immigrant mother argument. And the name of the Ryan Seacrest-produced show does prompt speculation: Who will come next? The Czars of Santa Monica Boulevard? The Máximo Líderes of Florence Avenue?
If anyone who saw the show last night cares to share their thoughts (or name the next hit ethnic reality show), post them below.