Remember K-Town, the reality show set in the club scene of Los Angeles' Koreatown? With a guy called the Situ-Asian? Back in 2010, TV execs were salivating over its sizzle reel, and the self-described "Jersey Shore-type show" was on the verge of unleashing yet-to-be-cast Korean Jersey Shore doppelgangers on the unsuspecting American public. K-Town received mentions in the New York Post and the New York Times, as well as some shout-outs from Chelsea Handler and SNL's Weekend Update. Then, all of a sudden, the network that K-Town's producers nested at underwent a regime change, and, before anyone had time to mourn its debut on the stage of American culture, the show was put on extended hiatus.
After two and a half years of hiatus, K-Town aired its first episode last Wednesday on LOUD, a new YouTube channel from a studio startup called Electus. Executive Producer Mike Le, who developed the concept for the show with producers Eddie Kim and Eugene Choi, says that producing the show online has given him more freedom to make the show that he first envisioned (a creative independence K-Town's previous network seemed eager to stymie). The Wall Street Journal's Tao Jones writes that Electus, founded in part by NBC's Ben Silverman, is looking to create just the right amalgamation of traditional TV and YouTube qualities, and, in the effort to produce "high-impact" and "buzz-worthy" content, it has made K-Town one of its tentpole productions.
Preening with the tagline "the reality show no TV network could show you," K-Town, according to Jones, offers all the sleaze and drama we've come to hope for from quality reality TV.
The show's teaser trailer features epileptic flashes of castmembers bootyshaking in their lingerie, licking liquor off one anothers' bodies, tongue-tangling and pelvis-grinding in various gender combinations and drunkenly punching each other senseless - in short, engaging in activities that are not commonly associated with Asian Americans in mainstream media.
For Mike Le, the show's stereotype-shattering quality is precisely what will make it so appealing to viewers who think that all Asians are just "ninjas or dragon ladies or asexual IT guys."
Yes, the interest in the show is Asians going wild - you better believe that when we took it around to the networks, the old white execs we showed it to were popping their eyes out. But in reality, K-Town's about the fact that all the stereotypes, good or bad, don't fit when you're talking about real people. Our cast doesn't represent all Asians. They simply represent themselves.
Or they represent the stereotypical reality show 20-something that incubated in Real World houses for years before it got an immigrant-group makeover when the Jersey Shore decided to exploit all the reigning stereotypes about Italian Americans. Whatever stereotype-busting the show's producers think it's capable of, the fact is that K-Town exists at least in part to shock and awe its audience. "You mean to say Asian-Americans drink, have sex, and punch each other in the face the same way all those shifty Italians do? Get outta here!" That initial bemusement is something that Le and the other producers are counting on — it will draw viewers in much the same way that Jersey Shore seemingly validates all our ickiest thoughts about New Jersey and the spray-tanned cretins that inhabit it.
By the time that initial fascination wears off (if it even takes hold), characters like Steve "Mohawk" Kim (Party Animal) and Violet Kim (Drama Queen) will have either endeared themselves to YouTubers or the show will fizzle. In the meantime, we all get to watch as a yet another ethnic group in America gets to exhibit its finest party-goers. What about if, instead of shows like K-Town, someone did a reality show about kids' birthday parties? Kids could snark on each other's venues and get all crazy sugar-drunk on orange soda. It'd be wild.