Producers of a new reality TV show for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network are looking for families from the Santa Clarita Valley who have problems with their children that other members of the community may be able to help solve.
Shannon McCarty, supervising casting director for Studio Lambert, producer of the new series set to premiere on OWN in August, outlined the concept when she guested Wednesday on KHTS-AM 1220’s “Life Leadership” program, hosted by Alex Urbina.
“The working title is ‘It Takes a Village,’ and the concept for the show is actually taking that well-known phrase, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ and making it real,” said McCarty, whose company also produces the hit series “Undercover Boss.”
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“Basically, neighbors these days don’t really know each other, so it’s sometimes hard for families to get help when they’re having a difficult time,” she said. “Sometimes people (look for answers) online, or listen to the radio or watch television, but the social interaction element, the face-to-face element, is missing. So our aim is to showcase that neighborhoods do exist, and I think they really do in the Santa Clarita Valley. I definitely was really impressed by the people I met yesterday and was able to talk to, and I know those communities do exist. I would love to showcase that.”
McCarty said she’s looking for local families experiencing typical lifestyle issues, not arrests or legal problems.
“We’re looking for families who are going through what typical families go through, having a difficult time with their teens or other typical teenage issues, whether their teens are having a difficult time focusing on homework or maybe dealing with peer pressuring or bullying,” she said. “And there’s a lot of stress for teens today. So we’re looking for a family to sort of stand up and raise their hand and say, ‘We’re having a difficult time with our teens and would love some advice.’
The family doesn’t necessarily have to be dysfunctional, just maybe not running as smoothly as it could be, McCarty said. “We’re mostly looking at problems that just need a little more support and guidance, but not something that can’t be solved just with the community around them.”
Once the family is chosen and the problem is determined, the next step is to find one or more members of the community who may be able to help.
One example might be a teen whose grades are less than stellar, but wants to get his driver’s license.
“Let’s say the parent tells him, ‘We won’t let you get your driver’s license until you get your grade point average up,’” McCarty said. “And if the parents were to then reach out to the community and find a retired schoolteacher who actually misses interacting with her students, she might like to step up and help out the son with tutoring. Then when he gets his GPA up to a certain point, maybe there’s a driver’s ed teacher in the community who would also like to help out. And the community builds from there. So it’s not just a Band-Aid approach – ‘this is your solution from now until the end of time,’ but we really build that community around the family. We’d love for the community to step up around them and be there for support and advice, and get connected with one another.”
“It Takes a Village” approaches family problem-solving differently from most reality shows, McCarty said. “I think there are a lot of other shows where experts come in and tell you how to live your life, but then don’t really stay around for support.”
The Studio Lambert crew shot the pilot six months ago. “We’ve already shot one episode in San Dimas and it went very well,” McCarty said. “Ultimately what we found out was that it wasn’t just about helping the one family out. That was the initial thing that everybody came together for, but actually once the whole community got together, it wasn’t just the family that was being helped out. This person brought over a casserole for somebody that had a surgery. That person was able to pick up somebody’s mail when they went on vacation. Another person was able to dog-sit when its owner was called away for some emergency. Six months later, the neighbors are still very close and do monthly dinners. So for openers the show is about surrounding that one family and giving it some support, but I think what happens is that people find out that when they help other people, they also help themselves.”
SCV families may apply for “It Takes a Village” in a few different ways, and can nominate another family or their own. “You can visit www.oprah.com/own and click on ‘casting call’ on the main menu, and fill out a form that goes directly to me,” McCarty said. “You could also call me at 424-258-2202 or send an email to email@example.com.”
Every episode of “It Takes a Village” involves a single family and a single community.
“So we’re looking for three more families in the greater Los Angeles area, and I’ve love to come to the Santa Clarita Valley for that,” McCarty said. “I would love for a viewer to get off the couch and maybe knock on someone’s door and introduce themselves and maybe start a block party or a dinner rotation in their own neighborhood. I do think it’s actually possible.”