March 2, 2013

Myrtle Beach residents, leaders weigh in on “Welcome to Myrtle Manor”

Myrtle Beach, meet “Myrtle Manor.”

Myrtle Beach, meet “Myrtle Manor.”

After weeks of buzz, the first network TV show based in and filmed in Myrtle Beach hits the small screen with its premiere at 10 p.m. Sunday on TLC.

Prepare for crazy antics from the owners and residents of Patrick’s Mobile Home Park off Highway 15, where crews filmed “Welcome to Myrtle Manor” last year.

For weeks, locals have been buzzing about the show while browsing the mall, eating at a restaurant or having a few beers at the neighborhood bar.

Though the first episode doesn’t air until Sunday night, some locals already have seen and heard enough.

“It is a little upsetting to me,” said Natisha LaForce, who has lived in Myrtle Beach for 28 years. “Myrtle Beach for a long time has gotten a bad rap. There’s a lot of other reality shows they could have done.

“It brings Myrtle Beach down a notch or two, and I really don’t like it.”

Others shake off any idea of the show giving Myrtle Beach a bad name. After all, they say, do any TV viewers actually believe what they see on these “reality” shows? TLC, which airs the show, also is home to “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and “Breaking Amish.”

“It’s one of those crazy reality shows that is all fictional,” Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said. “Hopefully people will understand that it is a fictional show. … People are not ignorant of the fact that it is a show made for entertainment purposes.”

Sudden stars

For the record, TLC refers to “Welcome to Myrtle Manor” as a “docu-series.” The show – there will be 10 episodes, each an hour long – follows Becky Johnson, who is taking over the reins of the family-owned mobile home park from her father, Cecil Patrick. There are 17 cast members, plus Gus the Bulldog, who is the pet of one of the cast members but is listed separately on press materials as a Myrtle Manor resident.

Other cast members include the park’s security guard, a local club promoter, co-owners of a hair salon built at the back of the park for the show and women running a hot-dog business on wheels.

Promotional materials say the park was “formerly Patrick’s Mobile Home Park,” but that’s still the name of it. “Myrtle Manor” was set up at the back of the trailer park and included a large Myrtle Manor sign, an above ground swimming pool, a hair salon and old ‘50s style trailers.

“A transient community, the residents of Myrtle Manor come from all walks of life – some have lived there for 30 years, others only 30 days and like the legions of tourists visiting Myrtle Beach, they treat every day like a vacation,” according to press materials about the show. “From wacky hijinks and relationship drama, to evictions and backyard brawls, there’s never a dull moment inside the Manor.”

Alon Orstein, vice president of production and development East Coast for TLC, said the network has always been interested in Myrtle Beach.

“The town is a massive tourist destination, but we knew there was so much more to it,” he said. “We wanted to dig deeper and learn more about the local population and the town itself. We were intrigued by the Patrick family and wanted to follow their story of running a multi-generational family-owned trailer park.”

Some of the cast members shake off any criticism of the show, especially because it’s coming before the show has even aired. Taylor J. Burt, 28 and a Myrtle Beach native, told The Sun News last week that he gets angry to hear people say the show is going to make Myrtle Beach look bad. Burt, who owns Gus, is described in press materials as the “king of Myrtle Beach nightlife.”

Cast members also have said they are real on the show, and that it’s not scripted.

“The show’s not about Myrtle Beach at all,” Burt said. “It’s about a group of people that could be anywhere in the country.”

Even Myrtle Beach City Councilman Wayne Gray, who grew up in Myrtle Beach, might end up on an episode. The Patrick family – who he said he’s known for years – asked him to be a judge for a beauty pageant that was taking place at the park.

“I’m not sure if it was turned into an episode or not,” he said.

Tuning in

Gray and Rhodes said they don’t have any concerns about the show portraying Myrtle Beach negatively or turning off potential tourists to the Grand Strand, where 14 million people visit every year and keep the area’s economy humming.

“I’m like anyone else. I’m interested. I’m excited about it,” Gray said. “I recognize that they have a level of entertainment as much as reality.”

Ashley Deckard isn’t sure what to make of the show based on the commercials she’s seen.

“I don’t know. It kind of looks, I don’t know a word for it,” she said. “It might make us look bad, but it might draw attention. It might be good for us, it might be bad for us.

“I guess I’ll watch the first episode to see what the big hurrah is,” Deckard said, adding she’s heard lots of people talking about the show.

Ashley Jenkins said viewers will realize the show is about a handful of locals, not all of Myrtle Beach, just like Bravo’s “Real Housewives” shows don’t represent all the residents of Atlanta or the other cities where they are filmed.

“People like entertainment. I’ll give it a shot,” Jenkins said.

Rhodes will be watching, too, even though he’s not gung-ho about how Myrtle Beach might come off.

“I would love to see Myrtle Beach portrayed in a different light,” he said. “It’s not something you can stop or something you can control.”

Lights, camera, action

Though this is the first series filmed in Myrtle Beach, this is by no means Myrtle Beach’s first foray into TV.

On the other end of the TV spectrum, episodes of “Antiques Roadshow” that were filmed in Myrtle Beach last year aired on PBS last month. Myrtle Beach also has been featured on another TLC show, “Cake Boss,” as well as HBO’s “Eastbound & Down” and a Travel Channel show hosted by Samantha Brown.

Last year, the former Freestyle Music Park was the setting of an episode of NBC’s “Revolution.” Myrtle Beach officials say the N.C.-based show “Lizard Lick Towing” also had asked about filming here, but the city said it wouldn’t allow the cast to drive cars on the beach as they requested, so it filmed elsewhere.

And there’s more TV time on the way. BET is eyeing Myrtle Beach as a place to shoot its “106 & Park” show in April, and the third “Antiques Roadshow” episode filmed in Myrtle Beach is scheduled to air March 25.

Myrtle Beach leaders aren’t sure what’s sparked the recent flurry of interest from TV shows, but they like the spotlight.

“That is just recognition of the Myrtle Beach brand,” Gray said of the recent interest from shows wanting to film here.

As for “Welcome to Myrtle Manor,” Brad Geiger, who has lived in Myrtle Beach for 23 years and works along the boardwalk, isn’t taking it too seriously.

“Let ‘em try it,” he said. “It’s just a spoof. Everyone is going to see right through it – I would hope.”

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