The gang on “The Capones” includes (from left) “Uncle Lou” Fratto, Madeline Santarelli, Bart Tumbarello, Staci Richter, Dominic Capone, Dawn Capone, Carmine “Meatball” Perrelli and Jeff “Sausage” Vercillo. | Chris Frawley Photography ©REELZCHANNEL
9 p.m. Tuesdays on Reelz Channel
Updated: April 14, 2014 4:38PM
Reelz Channel’s newest reality show, “The Capones,” opens with Romeoville resident Lou Fratto boasting about his family’s ties to notorious mobsters.
Fratto, whose toupee, mustache and sunglasses make him look like he’s in the World’s Worst Witness Protection Program, introduces viewers to the star of the show: his nephew, Dominic Capone.
“Being a Capone, it ain’t what it used to be,” Fratto laments to the audience. “If Big Al could see how he runs things, he’d crap in his coffin.”
Big Al would have the same reaction if he could see “The Capones.”
This “workplace docuseries” feels about as real as Uncle Lou’s hair. If it were as funny, I might be able to overlook some of its felonious shortcomings. The show’s depiction of a “drama-filled, lasagna-loving dysfunctional family” is a contrived hot mess of stereotypes, staged scenarios and bad acting.
P.S. The cast isn’t supposed to be acting.
I realize there’s less and less “reality” in reality TV. From “House Hunters” to “Real Housewives,” the genre has developed a well-deserved reputation for playing fast and loose with the facts. But “The Capones” exudes a whole new breed of bogusness, one that either thinks I’m dumb enough to believe a woman will blow off steam by shooting a handgun from the deck of her fancy suburban home or, worse yet, thinks I’m dumb enough to find that entertaining. When it comes to veracity, “The Capones” makes “Mob Wives Chicago” look like a Ken Burns documentary.
The 10-episode series, which premieres Tuesday, revolves around Dominic, “The Boss,” who claims that his great-great grandfather was Scarface’s uncle, Michael Capone. Some folks, including Al’s grandniece, Deirdre Capone, dispute that. I’m willing to give Cicero-born Dominic, 38, the benefit of the doubt. Let’s just say his blood relationship with Al is distant at best, dubious at worst.
One thing’s for sure: Dominic wouldn’t have a show without the Capone name, a moniker that stems from his mother’s side. Cook County records show he added the infamous surname in 1998 to become Dominic Capone Pantone III.
“People are curious about the family. They’re curious about gangsters and the world and all of that,” executive producer Jonathan Koch told TV critics last summer in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Koch got involved with “The Capones” through a couple of California-based producers with Chicago area roots, Curtis Leopardo of Barrington and his wife, Cara, from Elmwood Park.
In the premiere, we’re told Dominic has “gone legit,” selling pizza and pasta with his mother, Dawn Capone, at the family’s eponymous restaurant in Lombard. We see him living in a sprawling suburban mansion with his longtime girlfriend, Berwyn native Staci Richter, 30. Her full-time job seems to be fighting with Dominic’s overbearing mom.
Not-so-subtle hints are meant to convince us that Dominic is connected and has a lot in common with the late Public Enemy No. 1. In one scene, he uses a tommy gun to turn a wooden board into a sieve while chomping on a cigar.
Dominic’s “crew” on “The Capones” includes Bart Tumbarello, described on the show as “a two-bit Romeo from the streets of Cicero,” and a couple of bumbling wise guys whose nicknames — Sausage and Meatball — and personas might as well be straight out of the Italian-American canon of stereotypes.
Rounding out Dominic’s posse is his did-they-or-didn’t-they gal pal Madeline Santarelli. In the premiere, Dominic picks her up from Cook County Jail, where we’re told she just got sprung after spending a few months behind bars. While the scene reeks of inauthenticity — Dominic thanks the jail guard by name before telling her “I owe you one” — Santarelli’s real-life rap sheet includes an arrest for retail theft and aggravated battery early last year. She pleaded guilty.
“There’s nothing fake about this show whatsoever,” the Elmwood Park woman said in an interview over the summer. “It’s definitely the real deal.”
Under questioning from palpably skeptical TV critics at the press tour, cast member Tumbarello put it this way: “Ninety-five percent of it is real and 5 percent is true.”
I think he was kidding. But the real joke is the show itself.