ake some affluent city slickers accustomed to a posh lifestyle, hand them a shovel and throw them into a situation a blue-collar worker struggles with everyday.
It's the synopsis of a reality television show filmed here in Somervell County this past weekend at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, taking the Henry Haeger family of Plano away from their comfortable surroundings and dropping them into a challenging, uncomfortable, and sometimes very sticky situation.
A crew from Temple Street Productions, based out of Toronto, Canada, visited the park for two full days of filming for their new primetime reality series, "Spoiled Rotten," which airs weekly on Canadian comedy channel Slicetm and premiered on April 7. A total of five episodes have been produced so far.
According to a TV show synopsis released by the production company, each week host David Rosser introduces a new "spoiled" family and cajoles and coaches them to labor together in unglamorous challenges. "These well-to-do families do not-so-well when it comes to communication, sharing and being on the other side of the fence. They are far more selfishly accustomed to indulging in the experiences and luxuries of life than doing the hard and communal work of creating, producing and contributing to the comforts that they enjoy."
Slated to air across Canada in late June 2007, the Plano family, including a mother and father with their three teenage children, spent two days working in some of the most intense, grueling, and at times boring, blue-collar-class jobs to get a taste for how the "other half" lives and works.
The reality TV series has families confront strange and often difficult circumstances, but the prospect of working together as a team is just as foreign and challenging, the synopsis states. "Every member of the family finds him or herself in the same predicament and must consult and cooperate with one another. This is usually a tall order for families who have everything - except the respect and admiration of one another."
Ultimately, "Spoiled Rotten" is a glimpse into the lives of wealthy families, taking them out of their comfort zone and reminding them of the good old-fashioned family values of cooperation and perseverance.
Billie Kinnard, director of marketing and communications at Fossil Rim, says Temple Street contacted her after finding the park's Web site online and asked if the staff would be willing to serve as a filming location for an upcoming episode.
Producer Catherine Annau says the location was selected due to its uniqueness and beauty. "We're looking for places where they (families) can get a reality check. In this case, there is a lot of hard work to keep a place like (Fossil Rim) running. We were able to go in and do a lot of different activities that was also visually engaging."
Annau says it was her goal to include teamwork and individual activities as part of the challenge by getting the children in the family to learn independence and responsibility.
"The Plano family had actually been out here before," said Kinnard, adding that they didn't know their destination until they pulled through the park's gates Friday morning. "There was a mom and dad, a 17-year-old girl and 15- and 13-year-old boys."
Kinnard and staff were glad to host the production crew and family, creating a full slate of chores for the "spoiled" city slickers from Plano.
"They scooped rhino poop, patched blacktop pot holes, they cleaned out an area we call the Boma Area where animals are trained to go into a new area for moving, and they cleaned the cafe on Saturday morning to get ready for operation," said Kinnard. "They also washed our animal care department's vehicles, but their last challenge was to load a trailer with 100 bales of hay."
Apparently, Kinnard says after seeing the family get their hands dirty, "they didn't do much at home - especially the kids."
Fossil Rim staff was there to witness the challenge and the family members complain about their assigned chores, said Kinnard. "We had all the challenges ironed out before they got here and we were there to make sure they were carried out. If they didn't do it right, we showed them how we do it."
At first, Kinnard says, the children were ready to give up almost immediately, asking to go back to the comfort of their Plano home. "They certainly didn't realize what they got themselves into."
Annau described the Haegar's as a typical upper-middle class family where the mother had a lot of responsibility during the week, but not having the children do many chores around the home.
"I know many teens don't feel like doing chores anymore and it leaves mom holding the bag and having to do a lot of work," said Annau. "Today, kids have no idea. None. Zero. There's no sense of any urgency to do a task or to work hard. That's pretty consistent with what we've seen in our shows."
Annau said producers had one family who couldn't cook a chicken breast, much less no if asparagus needed to be prepared or eaten raw. "The lack of household skills is breathtaking. The kids don't do housework and don't cook, and certainly don't know how to do laundry."
The show's producer puts much blame on the parents. "It's not easy, but they want the situation turned around. We can help change it and they can let go and allow their kids do things (around the home). After filming the show they can see the range of skills their kids can take on once they're able to. Once you give them the know-how you realize they're capable."
After two days of filming, Annau says the show seemed to have made a difference in the Haeger family. "For the parents, it was nice to come together to do something different. For the kids, I think they gained confidence by doing that kind of work. It was a great learning experience - the parents learned that they're getting in the way of teaching responsibility and that certainly happened here."
Although the prospect of "Spoiled Rotten" airing locally is slim, Kinnard says Fossil Rim staff were informed they would receive a tape of the episode.
"The PR from the family living in the area will be big," said Kinnard. "We're always excited to be on TV. Even though it's going to be aired in Canada, it may bring us some visitors from there. But, because the family is from Plano there may be a lot of word of mouth (about Fossil Rim)."
Other episodes "Spoiled Rotten" has aired include a family that finds itself plucked from their sprawling suburban home to do manual labor on a thriving, family-run dairy farm. Another episode takes a family from its downtown setting and places them at a beautiful country vineyard where they must pick grapes and perform other menial tasks in the winemaking process. Still another close encounter of the family kind involves working in the hectic kitchen of an extremely elegant resort.
Temple Street, an award-winning independent production and distribution company, counts among its productions the successful series Billable Hours (Showcase), Canada's Next Top Model (CityTV), Queer As Folk (Showtime, Showcase), Darcy's Wild Life (NBC, Discovery Kids, Family Channel, Nick UK) and Blueprint For Disaster (Discovery).
For more information about the reality television series, visit the show's Web site at www.spoiledrottentv.com.