In the first episode of TLC series Buying Naked, a young woman arrives in a nudist community in Florida in hopes of landing a job with Jackie Youngblood (pictured), a local real estate agent whose specializes in property in the state’s clothing optional and nudist resorts.
The hopeful realtor, Alex, must prove she can handle working with nudists by showing a home to a pair of naked buyers, Amanda and Paulie. Alex tells TLC’s cameras that she is nervous and spends the drive in audibly gawking at nude neighbors frolicking happily on their lawns.
During the showing, several ‘tidbits’ appear on screen, Pop Up Video-style, as Youngblood and the couple school her in nudist home specifications, such as the all-important bidet and high counter tops in the kitchen to minimize “unfortunate accidents,” as well as nudist etiquette (“Keep your eyes up!”) and terminology (it’s “nudist community” not “nudist colony”).
The process was not dissimilar to what the crew from the U.S cable network and its production partner Paper Route went through upon arriving in Pasco County, Florida to shoot the eight x 30-minutes series, which the network greenlit earlier this year after airing two backdoor pilots last fall.
“I went down there to scout out a couple locations and what surprised me the most is how quickly it starts to feel normal,” says TLC executive producer Mike Kane. “The taboo element dissipates.”
TLC is hoping a similar effect will occur among viewers when the first two episodes begin airing this Saturday night (June 28).
Initially, Paper Route pitched the show to TLC after reading an article in the Tampa Bay Times newspaper about Youngblood’s agency. Execs were on the lookout for a series about lifestyle subcultures and naked people are currently en vogue in reality TV thanks to the success of sister net Discovery’s survival show Naked & Afraid.
The pilot episodes largely focus on the quirks of the nudist real estate market but as the series progresses, the story becomes more about Youngblood and the personal lives of her agents and clients.
“It’s gone from just focusing on real estate, which we do in the first two half hours, to the subculture,” says Kane. “People are going to tune in for the nudity first so then we’re trying to hook them with the real estate angle and then the personal angle.”
Producers spent six weeks in Florida building the trust of community members while working on the two pilot episodes. Once they aired, the nudists liked the results and felt comfortable opening up more.
“It’s got nothing to do with sex,” explains Kane. “It’s about people living a very free lifestyle and when they realized we weren’t trying to make a raunchy show, their trust level went up fairly quickly.”
Episode one – entitled “Brave Nude World” – introduces viewers to Youngblood, who delivers a brief monologue designed to humanize her clients (“They even fish naked!”). We meet two pastor’s sons who work for Youngblood as well as Alex, the newbie agent angling for a job.
As Alex shows the property to Amanda and Paulie, the couple’s genitals are occasionally blocked from camera view by objects – a wine bottle on a rack, two oranges on an elevated platter – strategically positioned around the home.
The creative blocking is not just a running visual joke, but integral to Buying Naked‘s tone, which tries to be playful without being mocking.
“Anybody can go down there, shoot and just blur it. We’ve tried to challenge ourselves to do it with as little blurring as possible,” says Kane. “We have objects that professional stagers [set up] and then it’s a matter of the production team getting creative with angles to get the right shot.”
Unlike the viewers, Alex and Youngblood are spared nothing and can barely contain her laughter when Amanda and Paulie decide to test out their taekwondo moves in large spare room. In another awkward moment, Paulie drops a folder and Alex gets an eyeful when he bends over to pick it up. “It was like a jungle in there!” she exclaims.
The second half of the episode revolves around Youngblood’s attempt to lighten the mood at a mixer between her clients and a group of (clothed) mortgage brokers and bankers by instigating a series of team-building exercises.
The biggest challenge for TLC is editing these sequences is ensuring that stray breasts and private parts remain firmly out of sight. “We’ve got to go over it 10 times with a hawk eye to make sure someone in the background didn’t walk into two frames,” says Kane.
Although Youngblood is a nudist in her personal life, she and her agents remain clothed when on the job. She is constantly brainstorming strategies to raise awareness around nudist lifestyle among “textiles” – the nudist term for people who wear clothes.
In later episodes, she arranges a social mixer in a bowling alley and embarks on a road trip to drum up business in northern states. If the show is a hit, Kane can imagine adding more “textile” characters and following others who decide to take it all off.
“A lot of the characters who keep their clothes on wrestle feeling like the odd man out. Now I have to consider whether I’m going to keep my clothes on or not?” Kane explains, adding he heard some crew members got into the spirit and conducted interviews in the buff.
“Jackie’s team has a lot of potential for growth. She could expand that team and we could bring in new people,” he explains. “It makes for great television because as a viewer you’re watching it wondering if you would respond the same way being in a nudist community for the first time.”
Watch a teaser for Buying Naked below: