Here's a toast to reality
By SUSAN THURSTON, City Times Editor
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 22, 2003
In the next week or two, South Tampa's own Will Lawler could become a poster boy for Miller Lite.
It's not that he's a huge fan of the beer. Nor does he dream of being discovered and heading to Hollywood.
He just wanted the free drinks and a cab ride home.
Lawler, 29, was among a few dozen local "spokesdrinkers" who participated in Miller's new reality-based television commercials. Last weekend, camera crews hit a bunch of night spots to tape everyday people hanging out with friends over free, cold Miller Lites.
It was a tough assignment. Two nights, 10 bars.
FRIDAY THEY covered SoHo: MacDinton's, Dubliner, Mac's, Mangroves and Po'Boys. Saturday it was Ybor: Green Iguana, Coyote Ugly, Prana, Carmine's patio and Adobe Gila's.
In all, they captured about 20 hours of tape for four, 30-second commercials. Miller plans to air them starting the week of Sept. 1 during, naturally, reality shows and sports programs.
Sherri Boesel, 28, said the experience was more surreal than real. Sitting on the front deck of the Dubliner, she and three friends chatted about girls in showers, backup boyfriends and the C words - commitment and cheater.
"We made a lot of it up," admitted Heather LaBrecque afterward.
Understandable. Reality often isn't exciting enough for prime time, even with strategic editing and beautiful subjects.
LaBrecque, 28, ought to know. As marketing director for struggling Old Hyde Park Village, she's no stranger to making things look better than reality.
ONE HAS TO WONDER how real is reality TV. Is gorgeous Wade on For Love or Money actually falling for gorgeous Erin? Are contestants on Fear Factor really eating slugs and dipping their heads in cow's blood?
After watching the commercial taping, I have my doubts. Consider this:
- Kari Thompson, 27, isn't a single gal trying to pick up a guy in a bar. The reality: She's married but figured she'd leave her wedding ring at home.
- Commercial co-director Brian Jackson isn't a big beer drinker. The reality: He'd rather smoke cigarettes.
- People in beer ads aren't sucking down beer. The reality: It's against the law to show people drinking on TV, so they just hold the bottles and smile.
From Tampa, Miller heads to Texas to shoot glimpses of reality from Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. After that - Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia and beyond. There are 14 stops in all.
I suspect more of the same: a little reality and a lot of hoopla.
THE LAST DROP: Tampa is scrapping its facial-recognition program in Ybor City after it failed to nab a single criminal in two years.
Police spokesman Joe Durkin says don't automatically rule it a failure. We'll never know how many criminals avoided Ybor because of the cameras. Hmm. I would add that we'll also never know how many innocent people did the same. Let's hope the good guys rush to Ybor and the bad guys continue to stay home.
- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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