EDITORIALS

Maine: A reality TV show?

In this photo provided by ABC, &quotBachelorette" Ashley Hebert, a Madawaska native, chooses J.P. Rosenbaum on the season finale of &quotThe Bachelorette."
Courtesy of ABC
In this photo provided by ABC, "Bachelorette" Ashley Hebert, a Madawaska native, chooses J.P. Rosenbaum on the season finale of "The Bachelorette."
Posted Aug. 20, 2013, at 1:20 p.m.

Our curiosity is officially piqued.

Soon enough, though, we should have an answer. Who is this “very unique Maine family” that could be the subject of a new reality TV series on ABC Family? On-location filming started last week — perhaps in the Bangor area, perhaps not.

That means Maine could be the setting for another reality TV series. The production company, Engel Entertainment, is the same one that last year transformed the encounters of the Maine Warden Service during hunting season into Animal Planet’s “ North Woods Law.”

Now, when a Maine warden is called to a Portland neighborhood to take care of a confused black bear, it’s TV. It’s TV when a warden has to put up with an aloof ATVer he suspects of operating under the influence. And it’s TV when a warden issues a summons to a man for shining his headlights on wildlife and the man jokingly blames his wife for pointing out a bear in the field.

So, what could be next? Apparently, Maine is rife with reality TV potential.

“Reality TV generally looks for really interesting stories,” said Karen Carberry Warhola, director of the Maine Film Office. “There’s a lot of interest in learning more about Maine.”

The Pine Tree State has its share of interesting and unusual jobs (think a “Dirty Jobs” special on the Gorham crew that cleans up murder scenes), and there’s plenty of landscape that’s stunning, pristine and secluded (think “Survivor: T14 R9”). And those from away love the accent.

If Maine is really a prime spot for filming reality TV, then there should be lots of interest in Keith O’Leary’s “Cowshit Corner.” It’s a reality series the Newcastle filmmaker is pitching to networks about the “Cherch of the Holy Cow,” a group of friends who gather outside Larry Russell’s dairy farm in Newcastle every Sunday to drink beer and muse about the state of the world.

With characters like Fuzzy Crockett and Marijuana Pete, a national audience is bound to get its fill of Maine humor from watching such a show — without the synthetic accents of Saturday Night Live.

The economic effect of broadcasting Maine’s distinctive qualities across the country could add up. According to the Maine Film Office, eight productions filmed in Maine last year that qualified for the Maine Attraction Film Incentive Plan spent more than $1.5 million in the state.

Since they spent more than $75,000 each, the production companies qualified for tax rebates worth up to 12 percent of the first $50,000 in wages paid to Maine residents and 10 percent of the first $50,000 each paid to out-of-state residents. Maine’s film tax credits also offer production companies rebates worth up to 5 percent of nonwage production expenses, though no production company has ever cashed in on that credit.

Lawmakers this past session debated whether the state should expand the incentive in an effort to land more productions. They ended up voting down the bill. High-quality data — expected from an evaluation due in February — will help them determine whether that was a wise move.

It’s worth noting that reality TV and Maine are not a new combination.

CBS’ “Survivor,” one of the first reality TV series, has featured a handful of Mainers, including a lobster-boat captain from Monhegan and the owner of Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show in Trenton. In 2008, South Portland resident Bob Crowley won the show, and, in 2011, former UMaine basketball player Ashley Underwood of Benton was among the final four contestants.

Also in 2011, Madawaska native and dental student Ashley Hebert starred as “The Bachelorette” and ended the season engaged to a 34-year-old construction manager from New York. They married last December.

This year, Houlton native Sam Johnson has lit his top hat on fire and doused his head with gasoline on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Previously on the show, he climbed to the top of an 80-foot sway pole and did a handstand.

While the intersection between Maine and reality TV is nothing new, more productions in Maine could be the next stage of their relationship.

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