A new reality television show is setting up shop in the Waccamaw Neck, and it’s lights, camera, action for Murrells Inlet.
The Burbank, Calif., production company that made “Jersey Shore” famous – 495 Productions – has a contract with CMT for eight episodes of a spin-off, but with a tweak of country living. A CMT representative confirmed the show’s existence and that filming in Murrells Inlet would last four to six weeks, but would not give any more details because the producers have not yet finalized the particulars of the show.
Details of the show have yet to be released, but a press release from CMT listed a show title of “The Dirty South” as scheduled for production this year.
Many locals, however, aren’t too happy about the upcoming spotlight on the inlet, especially if the show takes on a flavor similar to TLC’s “Myrtle Manor.”.
“I think it absolutely ridiculous,” said Kelly Shirley, Murrells Inlet native and owner of Drift Personal Day Spa. “It is humiliating. The kind of people that they are casting are not from here. We definitely have more manners than that.”
Known for its MarshWalk eatery offerings, quiet fishing areas and local businesses, Murrells Inlet rejects the “Redneck Riviera” title and prefers to be known as “nature lover’s paradise.”
“Murrells Inlet is like God’s country to me,” said Sean Sheely, a town native. “The people in the inlet are the best people in the world and I would hate to see them being portrayed as anything but that.
“The producers have it wrong if they think we are a bunch of beer drinking, uneducated, rednecks.”
Filming crews can be seen swarming around Kings Krest, an old waterfront home nestled on the marsh with screened-in porches and a dock. The house sleeps 11 and rents for about $2,500 a week.
Local businesses that have contract with the production company have signed nondisclosure contracts, which prevent them from discussing particulars of the series until everything is finalized.
Drunken Jack’s restaurant has been contracted to feed the crew of over 100 three meals a day for at least 30 days, and co-owner Al Hitchcock is thankful for the economic boost.
“It would be good for the area, since they’re renting a lot of hotel rooms and houses in the inlet,” Hitchcock said. “And they’ll be spending money, you know, you don’t have 100 people in the inlet without spending any money.”
To those who bristle at the thought of Murrells Inlet reality TV, Hitchcock encourages locals to embrace new business and appreciate the national attention.
“A lot of people don’t want to see things change – you’ve got to change if you don’t want to remain stagnant,” Hitchcock said. “It’ll get our name out nationally, and that’ll be good, if people can relate to us.”
Inlet Affairs will also be catering to the staff and stars, according to Hitchcock.
Many in the community aren’t focused on the economic impact of a reality show, but rather how the producers choose to represent the marshy area and why the crew even chose Murrells Inlet.
“I have no idea why they came here,” said Sue Sledz, executive director of Murrells Inlet 2020. “Obviously somebody tipped them off, but if the show is what everybody is thinking it is, why Murrells Inlet?”
Murrells Inlet 2020 works to improve the quality of life in the inlet, and Sledz said the group brands the area to tourists as a nature-filled, family-friendly getaway.
“We’re very careful about our brand in the Inlet, so turning over the brand to someone you can’t control is very frightening,” Sledz said.
Georgetown County councilman Jerry Oakley said he’s been getting plenty of calls about the reality show from concerned residents, but reminds everyone the government cannot control what television crews produce.
“I think there’s some folks that have questions about the tone of the show, the context,” Oakley said. “The tone of the show isn’t something a government can control – that’s just a First Amendment right – they can make the show about whatever they want.”
Oakley does appreciate the temporary injection of local jobs that comes with CMT, and said the county would never shoo away companies looking to bring extra money into the area.
“I don’t really have a feeling one way or the other about this show,” Oakley said, “but here’s a producer coming to town, offering to hire local people, and bring in jobs to the county.”
Still, some are anxious about the consequences of a reality TV show in the area, especially after the fallout of “Myrtle Manor.”
“I am all about people making a living, but not at the expense of the reputation of our community,” Sheely said.