Chicago’s warm again on ‘100 Days of Summer’
Despite the snow and numbing cold, it’s summer in Chicago — at least on TV.
A new Chicago-set reality series, “100 Days of Summer,” begins Tuesday on Bravo, the cable net that’s brought viewers Real (obnoxious) Housewives from around the country, spoiled Iranian-Americans living in “Tehrangeles” (“Shahs of Sunset”) and other city-specific programs built around casts that are equal parts attractive, affluent and catty.
The six “young, successful and driven Chicagoans” featured in the hourlong premiere come off a tad nicer than Bravo’s average “docu-series” denizens. This is the Midwest, after all. But previews of the rest of the eight-episode season hint at the usual assortment of smack-talking, back-stabbing and sexual shenanigans. This is reality TV, after all.
The just-diverse-enough cast includes former Chicago Bears defensive back Ray Austin; real-estate developer Jay Michael, who’s gay; veterinarian Tara Clack; jewelry designer Pascale Wellin, described in press materials as “a modern-day siren luring in suitors and would-be friends”; Phillips Demming, whose ASB fashion line matches dog outfits with human clothes, and Vincent Anzalone, co-owner of an event-promotion and marketing company. The Arlington Heights native also is the Tom Cruise of Chicago, according to Austin.
The premiere finds the bathing suit-clad cast on a yacht in a party-zone area of Lake Michigan called the Playpen, where we’re told bikini tops are optional. Anzalone says he prefers women who are super skinny — except in the chest. He reminisces about one “whored up” summer where he “probably slept with 60 girls.”
“I generally say inappropriate things,” Anzalone admitted in a recent phone interview from his Wicker Park home. “There were some things I wish I would have been a little less crass about.”
The former sportscaster found out about the series, which was filmed in the summer of 2012, through word of mouth.
“I had a friend who said they were doing a show on Chicago, showing something that wasn’t about mafia ties and Al Capone and all that garbage,” Anzalone said. “Originally it was supposed to be a show about single people.”
Like many reality shows built around groups of friends, “100 Days of Summer” feels as if the camera, not the camaraderie, is the common bond between much, if not all, of the cast.
“I’ve been told some shows are just random people put together; I wouldn’t have done it if that were the case,” said Demming, adding that Anzalone and Clack, her chihuahua’s vet, were some of the first people she met when she moved to Chicago four years ago.
A svelte blonde and proud member of Mensa, Demming calls her fake breasts the best gift she’s ever given herself. She might look like she’s straight off the reality-show assembly line, but she lacks one key part: a penchant for alcohol, the fuel that drives docu-series drama.
“I don’t like the taste of it,” she said. “Most people who know I’m on the show have asked me, ‘Do they force you to drink or do they force you to date crazy people?’ They didn’t.”
Bravo’s description of the series strives to give the show framework, even if it’s an arbitrary seasonal deadline: “Owing to Chicago’s long-lasting winters, these go-getters only have a scant 100 days to accomplish the lofty personal and professional goals they set for themselves.”
For Michael, that means selling his refurbished apartments.
For Clack, that means getting her boyfriend to commit. “Summer’s not that long in Chicago,” Clack notes in the premiere. “I’ve got basically 100 days to lock [Mark] in and get him to move in with me.”
Because a city ordinance precludes couples from moving in together the remaining nine months of the year?
“Chicago summertime is a time to make things happen,” said Wellin, 26, the youngest of the group. She grew up in Lake View and now bounces back and forth between her hometown and West Hollywood.
The first episode paints Wellin as the one setting off the most fireworks.
“It’s a reality show; there has to be some drama,” Anzalone said. “There has to be a story, something to keep you tuned in for the next week.”
As for how the characters in this drama will be perceived …“We all knew what we were getting into when we started this; you have to have thick skin,” Austin said. “I just want it to be entertaining and for people to see Chicago and what a great city it is.”
In the summer.