Much of the first episode of Most Eligible Dallas, one of those Bravo "docuseries" that looks like it has been dipped in gloss, takes place in Uptown Dallas, as six attractive 20- and 30-somethings navigate the singles scene in upscale restaurants and tony clubs.
Nevertheless, the show's director did find a way to insert a shot of a steer into the proceedings, even though any cattle spotted in Uptown Dallas are usually already butchered, cooked and served on a plate.
A couple of cast members, however, say they hope the show gets away from the stereotypes of, say, CMT's hit Texas Women, with its country singers and barrel racers. Yes, those people exist in Texas, but the Most Eligible Dallas folks want people to see another side.
"People that are from the coasts, I think, sometimes believe that we all ride horses and wear cowboy boots and we all have oil rigs in our back yard," says Courtney Kerr, 29, a Weatherford-born, Fort Worth-raised fashionista who was one of the first people cast on the show.
But in trying to defy one stereotype, are the cast members playing up to another? The premiere includes lines about big hair, big boobs and the self-centered shallowness of Dallasites. And it takes place in a big-moneyed social scene that doesn't include a majority of Dallas' residents. But one of Kerr's castmates says she thinks the show justifies the picture it paints of Dallas.
"By me saying, 'Oh, the blond hair, the big boobs,' we're kind of making fun of ourselves," says Tara Harper, a 36-year-old San Antonio native who has called Dallas home since she attended Southern Methodist University in her 20s. "But at the same time, I know we're going to portray Texans very, very well."
The seeds for the show were planted when producers approached Matt Nordgren, a 28-year-old former University of Texas at Austin quarterback whose chances at a pro career were shut down by an injury. That led to the casting of Kerr, who has been best friends with Nordgren for five years.
"I was a little apprehensive at first," Kerr says. "But we would have lived this life whether there were cameras around or not, and we're all so different that it definitely sheds light on a great group of friends."
Kerr had met Harper through charity and social events. The other cast members -- Neill Skylar, a 23-year-old actress-musician and single mom who returns to Dallas after five years of trying to make it in New York and Los Angeles; Drew Ginsburg, whose family runs Boardwalk Automotive Group, which specializes in luxury cars and high-end sports cars; and Glenn Pakulak, a punter for the Oakland Raiders -- all know one another or have at least crossed paths.
"In Dallas, the social circle is so small, you kind of loosely know everybody," Harper says. "There were very close friendships like Courtney and Matt's and things like that that brought us together, but we became a lot closer during the filming."
Much of the first episode's drama, in fact, comes from Kerr and Nordgren's friendship, which both insist is platonic -- although when someone else enters the picture, Kerr's reaction shows that there's something more going on than just platonic feelings.
"You don't have a friend for five years who's of the opposite sex and not have some sort of chemistry," Kerr says. "Matt and I do have that. And we will always have that, regardless of whether it's platonic or not. It creates a fun energy sometimes, it creates a tense energy sometimes, and you'll definitely see it play out throughout the season."
You see a lot of it play out in the first episode, in which the crew goes to Oak Lawn dance club Teddy's Room, and Kerr gets upset that Nordgren invites several female friends along. But that's nothing compared to later in the episode, when Skylar enters the picture and Kerr becomes judgmental and seemingly threatened by her presence. Judging from a coming-attractions trailer at the end of the episode, she has good reason to feel threatened.
So all the expected soap-opera stuff is here, but Kerr and Harper say they hope that the series will also highlight Dallas' dining, arts and fashion scenes. And for Harper, there's a bonus: The show heavily features Paws in the City, the animal-rescue charity she co-founded.
Of course, success isn't preordained. The last time Bravo did something similar -- 2009's Miami Social, which followed the adventures of "corporate types by day, and party animals by night" -- it was one of the network's rare flops, dying a quick death after six episodes. Bravo is launching Most Eligible after the season premiere of one of its hits, Millionaire Matchmaker. But is the setting of Dallas enough to hook viewers who won't see anything as dramatic as a Real Housewives of New Jersey table-flipping during the first episode?
Kerr, for one, believes people will stick around after the premiere.
"[The show] sheds a good light on a great group of friends who all share the commonalities of being from Dallas," Kerr says. "But we're all different in the sense that we're all looking for different things. We all have different personalities. Some of us are straight, some of us are gay. So I think any viewer will be able to relate to at least one character."
Robert Philpot, 817-390-7872