‘Reality’ satire rife with Chicagoans
Reality shows aren’t real.
That’s because people behave differently when they know that they are being filmed. But what if a family didn’t know it was the subject of a reality show?
That’s the premise behind Oak Park native Adam Rifkin’s TV miniseries, “Reality Show.” Rifkin is the writer, director, executive producer and star of the show, airing at 10:30 p.m. Thursdays on Showtime.
“I thought it’s time that somebody satirized the reality television show world,” said Rifkin, 45. “I wanted to do it in a really biting, really dark, funny kind of way. I thought what better way than to have an evil reality show producer and the lengths he’ll go to to get the best show possible.” Rifkin plays that producer, Mickey Wagner.
In the series, it turns out that the Warwicks, the family Wagner chose for his new show, are boring. So he decides to spice up the program by making things happen to them, from stealing the family’s dog to sabotaging the couple’s marriage and the husband’s career.
Kelley Menighan Hensley, who grew up in Glenview and moved back there earlier this month, plays Katherine Warwick. Hensley’s face will be familiar to fans of the soap opera “As the World Turns,” because she played Emily Stewart on that show for 18 years.
She thought the “Reality Show” script was hysterical and especially wanted to do the project when she learned that writer Rifkin was from the Chicago area.
“Katherine Warwick is your quintessential happy, happy housewife,” Hensley said. “She doesn’t wear a pinch of makeup. She is unaware of herself in every way — sexually, physically, mentally. She has this great husband who’s this sweet man. She crafts with her friends. She’s blissfully happy in that self-unawareness.”
Then, because of the manipulations of the producer of the show in which she doesn’t realize she’s a character, Katherine changes. “It’s sort of an awakening for her on many levels,” Hensley said.
Another North Shore native, Joey Christopoulos, who grew up in Evanston, plays Craig, the co-worker and best friend of Katherine’s husband Dennis (Chicago’s Scott Anderson). “As the series progresses and [Dennis] starts to become more suspicious and his life continues to twist and turn out of control, we go to the gym together, we go out together and he starts laying his problems and some of the issues he’s having on me.
“I’m there kind of as a guide for him, but I play more of a comedic role so I’m always giving him bad advice.”
Rifkin had a blast figuring out ways to mess with those unaware Warwicks. “I was tapping into my sinister side,” he joked. “There’s so many ideas that we didn’t get a chance to get to. I want to explore them further in future seasons.”
Of course, that will depend on whether audience response is good enough for Showtime to pick up another season of “Reality Show.” Rifkin is hopeful that people will be ready for “Reality.”
Myrna Petlicki is a local free-lance writer.