Spain gets its own ‘Jersey Shore’ — but not everyone’s laughing

Politicians and locals in tourist resort of Gandia object to presence of reality show

A film crew follow the ‘Gandia Shore’ protagonists, whose identities are still a secret.
A film crew follow the ‘Gandia Shore’ protagonists, whose identities are still a secret.ALFREDO ARIAS-HORAS

Everybody's talking about Gandia Shore, the reality show that is due to be be broadcast in October on Spain's MTV channel. The program was shot this summer in the Mediterranean resort, but the filming was not without incidents -- many of which involved the participants themselves, whose identity is still under wraps. The show has also prompted protests from several local politicians, who fear that it will convey a negative image of Gandia and hurt tourism there. But what is Gandia Shore, really?

"It's a reality show that has more in common with Callejeros [a documentary] than with Big Brother," explains Óscar Vega, the program director, during a visit to the set in August.

The official version offered by its producers presents Gandia Shore as the Spanish adaptation of the US reality show Jersey Shore -- which was shot on the coast of New Jersey -- and the British version Geordie Shore, shot in Newcastle.

The mechanics are simple -- maybe too simple. Eight individuals, aged 20 to 27, with a specific personality ("they have tattoos, they are very concerned about their body image, they are beach-lovers" is all that the program makers will say about them) are thrown together for a month, living in a house in Gandia. There is no script to follow. But unlike other reality shows, they are allowed to leave the house and interact (and flirt) with other people who are not part of the program. They can go to the pharmacy, buy cigarettes, or simply go off to the beach to read a book -- although this latter option is not very likely. Program creators say that for participants, it was "the summer of their lives." Later, in the postproduction phase, the random recorded events are turned into a story with a beginning, a climax and an end. In the US and British shows, the central plots often derive into a crude yet addictive cocktail of fights, love, sex and hatred.

The mechanics are simple -- maybe too simple. Eight individuals, all very concerned about their body image, are thrown together for a month

As for the Spanish participants, there are four women -- two blondes and two brunettes -- all of whom are passionate about hair extensions, and four men -- three of them are buff, the other one wears braces -- who wear too much hairgel and are into body-hair removal. They all love going to the gym, going out and trying to get lucky. The only condition the program set out for them is that they must all work at a beach bar every morning, between 11am and 2pm.

Following them closely is an entire retinue of cameramen, producers, sound recordists and security personnel, who work together like a well-oiled machine. There are 70 of them in all, working in eight-hour shifts.

"We are not trying to generalize or to say that all young people are this way - we are simply reconstructing one part of reality," says Vega, who has years' worth of experience in this type of program (La hora de la verdad, El diario de Patricia, Me cambio de familia, Hijos de papá, and so on...).

"We have all had a crazy summer on the coast," he says. "You know, a week off with friends at a beach town when we were 20 years old, with all the good things and the bad things that means."

The US program has more fights, and the British program has more sex"

Of course they drink, go out, make noise, have sex (those who manage to), but the participants seem too innocent to turn into the kind of barbarians who would ultimately destroy the reputation of a city.

"There are several limits," notes Vega. "There is zero tolerance with drinking and driving, no drugs, abuse or sexism..." Other than that, participants are free to do whatever they like... as long as they give the producers a 10-minute warning.

"The US program has more fights, and the British program has more sex," explains the director, adding that the Spanish version of the show will have "more humor and more entertainment. Without forgetting the fights and the sex, of course."

The shooting of Gandia Shore has caused a minor earthquake in the Valencian town, because of the use of the name Gandia in the title, and because it means the destination will be identified with "drunken tourism." The conservative Popular Party, which is in power in the town, has made things easy for the producers, while the opposition -- the Socialists and the Nationalist Bloc -- have opposed it. It looks as if even the politicians want their five minutes of fame.

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