While trashy, exploitative reality television shows such as Jersey Shore, Mob Wives, the short-lived Russian Dolls and now Brooklyn 11223 continue to multiply like cockroaches, making America see orange as our books feel increasingly lonely and dejected, there is hope on the horizon.
Bensonhurst native and Brooklyn’s Prince of Pizza Tony Muia is starring in a new reality show which premieres on the Travel Channel one week from today. The program, which is named after his A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour, is according to Tony, a far cry from the catfights and hooker outfits of Jersey Shore.
“We’re not talking about the Jersey Shore or Brooklyn 11223 version of Brooklyn,” Muia told Bensonhurst Bean. “We’re the guys you still see in the neighborhood shopping on 18th Avenue, Bay Parkway, and 20th Avenue. In fact, I’m hoping the backlash of those shows helps us out.”
After 20 years of caring for patients as a respiratory therapist, Tony decided to follow his dream of “showing off our amazing borough to people from around the country and around the world and turning my passion into my new career.”
Slice of Brooklyn also stars Tony’s family and friends who help him in his endless war with a competition made up of Manhattan-based corporate tours. Tour companies which are slowly and surreptitiously encroaching on his formerly sacred stomping grounds – territory that includes such shrines to pizza as L & B Spumoni Gardens (2725 86th St) and J & V Pizzeria (6322 18th Ave).
“We’re a family run business so the show features me, my cousin Paula, my Uncle Louie as well as family and friends who’ve helped me along the way like Fat Sal and Frankie Pancakes,” Muia explained. “It shows what it takes to run a company like mine, being the the first one of its type as a Brooklyn based company doing guided bus tours of ONLY Brooklyn, and the challenges we face as the large corporate bus tours of Manhattan, as well as some local copycats, try and copy what I do.”
After a press screening of the first episode, Tony’s words do seem to ring true. The series stars a group of people, some of whom do seem more like the goofy, lovable stereotypical Brooklynites so popular in American culture since WWII, than others – like his cousin Paula – who seem ready to drop convention and break the old school mold at every turn. At the end of the day, they are all self-aware, real people.
This could very well prove to be a smart bet for executives at the Travel Channel, who seem to be marketing the show to a wider, more family-oriented audience than the most recent crop of reality shows like Lifetime’s unsuccessful Russian Dolls. At the same time, they follow a formula similar to that of other consistently popular reality programs, such as Cake Boss.
One of the main themes of Slice of Brooklyn seems to be change. It shows the compelling struggle of a traditional small business as it attempts to grow in a cutthroat corporate environment. In a myriad of ways, it presents America with two Brooklyns – the one Thomas Wolfe described, or at least what’s left of it, as well as the new Brooklyn forming before our eyes.
And no matter how well the program’s characters reconcile the past with the present, Tony and his cast mates will hopefully continue to wear their hearts on their sleeves as the prosperous future unfolds.
“(Slice of Brooklyn) shows the real Brooklyn,” Tony told Bensonhurst Bean. “Those of us who grew up here as hard working people with a pride for our hometown as big as our hearts.”
The Travel Channel will premiere back-to-back pilot episodes of “Slice of Brooklyn” on Wednesday, March 7, at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time.