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October 23, 2017

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(No) Sex in the City (Hall): Council approves reality TV show, with stipulations

Production OK’d despite concerns studio will ‘sex this up’


Steve Marcus

A view of the new Las Vegas City Hall during a tour of downtown buildings in Las Vegas Monday, March 12, 2012.

New Las Vegas City Hall

Mayor Carolyn Goodman, from right, stands with Thomas Perrigo, deputy director of administrative services for City Hall's sustainability office, Eric Louttit, vice president of real estate services for Forest City, Terry Murphy, a consultant for Forest City, and Michael Crowe with JMA Architecture Studios, during a tour of the new Las Vegas City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. Launch slideshow »

The inner workings of Las Vegas City Hall could be making their way to a television near you after the city council approved an agreement today allowing production to start on a new reality television program.

The issue: Council members considered an access and location agreement to allow Discovery Studios to begin filming material for a new reality television program, tentatively titled "Vegas 24-7," that would be shopped to networks.

The vote: Approved 4 to 3, with Councilmen Bob Beers and Bob Coffin and Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian in opposition.

What it means: Film crews will become a common sight at City Hall in the coming months as Discovery Studios begins work putting together material for a new reality television series meant to capture the "transformation" and growth of Las Vegas.

The agreement allows Discovery Studios, an independent studio that has produced shows for the Discovery Channel and other networks, to put together a promotional 10-minute "sizzle reel" to shop to interested networks.

If the pitch sells, the studio could ultimately produce 26 episodes for the first season of the show.

"We want to see how the city and the city employees are helping to transform Las Vegas," Discovery Studios representative Mike Maslin told the City Council Wednesday. "A lot of people identify Las Vegas with the Strip. I think this is an opportunity for the city say 'No. Here's who we are. Here's what we're doing to improve our community.' "

City staff have been working on the agreement for more than a year, ironing out legal details meant to protect employees and the city's reputation.

City Manager Betsy Fretwell said the show could introduce Las Vegas and the good things happening here to a broader audience, but that there are still risks because the city won't have editorial control over the final product.

Maslin said the show will be "documentary-esque" and won't feature any "gotcha moments" or exaggerated characters.

"That's not the kind of show this is," Maslin said, noting that the project's executive producer has worked on several other well-received programs, including Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs."

The city does have several escape clauses from the contract allowing them to cancel the deal if the "sizzle reel" isn't to their liking or after eight episodes have aired. The production won't cost the city anything and the city will receive $5,000 for each of the first 13 episodes produced, with payments escalating for future episodes.

The prospect of putting Las Vegas in the national television spotlight excited several council members, including Steve Ross, who said the show could give people a better understanding of how city government works while also creating some local film production jobs.

"I've worked many years trying to open up government and bring it closer to the people that we represent. ... I see this as an opportunity to do just that," Ross said.

Still, the potential for manufactured conflict or outlandish characterizations common in many other reality television programs worried other councilmembers.

"Somebody will be encouraging others to sex this up. It's inevitable because this is a boring thing. By definition it ought to be boring, this is serious business," Coffin said.

The presence of cameras could affect workplace chemistry if employees find themselves competing for screentime, said Coffin, who also raised concerns about giving greater access to television crews than is granted to the media or public.

No employees would be required to participate in filming under terms of Wednesday's agreement, an option Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian said she planned to exercise.

"I see some big dangers," she said.

Councilman Bob Beers said he was worried the film crews would distract city employees from their jobs, costing the city in lost productivity.

"I don't think this contract covers the cost that we're going to incur babysitting these guys," he said. "If we were to renegotiate the contract to make it a little more lucrative, I might go for it, but at this point I'm a no."

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