Sally Ann Salsano and her Burbank-based prodco 495 Productions is behind reality fare such as A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila and the recent Jersey Shore. Here, she takes realscreen through why she didn’t expect the success or the controversy Jersey Shore‘s received, having grown up visiting the locale.
The founder and president of 495 Productions grew up living the life of the self-proclaimed ‘Guidos’ and ‘Guidettes’ of the recent MTV hit, living with a group of people in a house on the New Jersey Shore. Shooting the series, Salsano had a feeling the show would be big when the crew would arrive to shoot the next morning wanting to know what happened with the cast while they were gone. ‘I would get texts from my shooters asking, ‘Did Snooki do it? What happened? Are they still fighting?’ When everybody who works on the show can’t get enough of it, it’s generally a pretty good sign,’ she says.
The series, only eight episodes long (with the finale and reunion show to air January 21), has managed to bring in nearly four million viewers to MTV. But with the viewers came controversy. The show and MTV were attacked for what some detractors felt was a racist representation of Italian-Americans and the use of the term ‘Guido.’ Advertisers dropped from the show and there were calls from Italian-American groups for its cancellation before it had even aired. Salsano was floored by the negative response, having grown up as an Italian in Long Island, living the lifestyle depicted on the show. ‘It’s almost like when people were offended, I was offended, because I was like, ‘Wait a minute, are you guys telling me how I was raised and grew up was wrong?” says Salsano.
A second season of the show has not yet been confirmed, Salsano admits, but she does say that if 495 Productions were to do another season of Jersey Shore, it could contain the same cast or feature a whole new one. ‘I don’t think we’ve seen the last of our cast, but there’s a wealth of those kids out there,’ she adds.
While it remains to be seen whether another season is in the works, Salsano and 495 are busy at work on many different projects. She phoned while on the set of Disaster Date, a series for MTV, and also has VH1′s Tool Academy in the pipeline, set to premiere on Valentine’s Day. She also says that 495 is doing a new show for ABC Family, and four or five new pilots are also under wraps.
The thread among all of 495 Productions is programming that comes from an honest, non-judgmental place, says Salsano. ‘I think our shows are always really honest and we always play everything completely straight and in playing it straight, I think the humor naturally comes out. I think it’s when you go for the ‘funny,’ that’s when you miss.’
Another characteristic of the prodco’s output involves the personalities who become popular beyond the show. Tila Tequila is still on people’s radar, despite the fact that the last Shot at Love aired in the spring of 2008, and the current cast of Jersey Shore is appearing in magazines, late night talk shows and viral videos. Salsano chalks that up to watching a ton of reality programming, spending time getting to know cast members before the show begins, and gut feelings. ‘I think I read people well,’ she says. ‘The moment I met Snooki on Jersey Shore, I fell in love with her. Everyone said, ‘I think she’s quiet.’ I thought, quiet? That girl’s going to be a party in a box.’