You may or may not have heard about the new show on CMT called “Party Down South” (originally called “The Dirty South”, or so the rumors go), a purposely stupid, sexy, boozy 10-week series about a group of 20-something southern rednecks, strangers to one another, thrown together in a house near Myrtle Beach for a month just to see what happens. The booze, provided by the production company, flows freely with no danger of running out, and the participants are encouraged (I hope that’s it) to out-dumb each other. The program is produced by the same folks who gave us the equally stupid, sexy, boozy–but popular– “Jersey Shore”.
I have never watched “Jersey Shore” but I’ve seen enough about it to know it’s okay that I’ve missed it. I watched the premiere episode of “Party Down South” on Thursday night, without knowing anything at all about it until earlier that day, when I saw on the local news that a reality show had been filmed last summer at Murrells Inlet and was about to be shown for the first time.
Our temporary winter digs are mere miles from there and if I stand in the right spot I can actually see the inlet from my house. Murrell’s Inlet is many things to many people but the leaders and promoters sorely want it to be known mainly as a quaint but hip fishing village with restaurants and shops and a fine old history. It is located on the banks of a wide and beautiful saltwater tidal marsh known for good fishing, crabbing and oystering.
There is a half-mile U-shaped boardwalk along the edge of the marsh (or “creek”, as they call it) that connects a long established grouping of bars and seafood restaurants–running from the cool kind of rowdy to the sublime and expensive. Around here Murrells Inlet is known as the “Seafood Capital of South Carolina”, and the restaurants are packed, even in January.
Mickey Spillane, author of dozens of detective novels and creator of “Mike Hammer, Private Eye”, fell in love with Murrell’s Inlet in the 1950s and lived there until his death at 88 in 2006. He was their honorary good will ambassador and he never missed a chance to talk up the place. He loved the beauty of Murrell’s Inlet but I’m guessing he also got a kick out of the rowdies. (I’ll go out on a limb, though, and bet he would have hated what is happening now with “Party Down South”.)
There are two biker bars down near the main highway, a couple of miles away from the MarshWalk, that give Murrell’s Inlet a different kind of attention.
“Suck Bang Blow” gets its name from motorcycle jargon, they say, and is large enough to open its doors wide and let the bikers roar right up to the bar.
“The Beaver Bar” started out as a roadside stand and got its name from its owner but it has no problem with you thinking what you’re thinking.
It could be that they were what brought TLC and the “Jersey Shore” producers to this spot, setting those doofuses up in a century-old historic home, but whatever it was, the producers’ reputations for sleaze no doubt preceded them, because right from the start the welcome mat was definitely not out.
(Coincidentally, “Trailer Park: Welcome to Myrtle Manor”, TLC’s controversial redneck reality show filmed in neighboring Myrtle Beach, began its second season on the exact same night and at the exact same time. Enough to drive a body crazy trying to decide. . .)
But about Party Down South: CMT hypes their new show this way:
“From the producers of Jersey Shore comes the most outrageous Party Down South. Follow eight young, brazen adults for one wild summer of extreme fun. Their summer vacation spot, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, may never be the same after these fast friends work, party and bond with one another over their common love of the South.”
So to understand why some people might not like this very public but skewed portrayal of their fair town, here are a few pictures I’ve taken of the area over the years, very near where the production company chose to film these episodes. This is the real Murrell’s Inlet. Or at least the one we’ve come to know and love.
But if you happen to watch the first episode of “Party Down South” (and why wouldn’t you?) be sure not to blink during the scenery shots. You won’t see much of Murrell’s Inlet. Seems a shame, considering the notoriety that lovely place will now have to endure.
But worse things have happened to this little community. Remember Hurricane Hugo?