'The Catalina' shows the fun side of South Beach
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- South Beach is known for its sun-filled days and alcohol-fueled nights, and the CW network's summer reality series "The Catalina" gives viewers just that.
Filmed this past spring, the show follows the staff of the Catalina Hotel & Beach Club as they interact with guests and each other. The show's six-episode run began in May, and its season finale is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Tuesday on the CW.
Nathan Lieberman, who owns the hotel and appears on the show, developed the series through a production company he helps run.
"It was the mix between me having relationships with the networks and then having the perfect set in the perfect location with the perfect staff ready to go," Lieberman. "It was just the perfect storm."
Working with Beach Pictures, Lieberman and his partners had initially wanted to develop a reality show that featured hotel guests, but the focus eventually shifted to the staff. Lieberman, who co-owns several South Beach hotels with his father, sent out a casting call to about a thousand employees working at the various locations and about 150 auditioned. Nine employees were ultimately selected and transferred to the Catalina to appear on the show.
A stand-out on "The Catalina" has been Morgan More, who manages Kung Fu Kitchen & Sushi at the 190-room hotel. Executive producer Jorge Moreno said he first noticed More nearly two years ago.
"I saw this tall, beautiful Eastern European girl screaming at a customer. I thought, that's nuts. The customer's always right. You're not supposed to scream at your customers. And then I saw her screaming at employees."
Moreno said a film crew followed More around last year as a test, making her an obvious choice when they started selecting hotel employees to use on "The Catalina."
On the show, More's temper has flared at just about everyone, from her subordinates to Lieberman himself. But despite the apparent stress she's under, More said she enjoys what she does.
"I like my job a lot," More said. "It's not easy, but it is fun."
As the authenticity of reality television is often called into question, the staff of the Catalina insists the situations presented in the show are toned down, if anything.
"It's not real for a lot of people, but it's real for us," bartender David Turetsky said.
In one episode, the hotel hosted a bikini fashion show. In another episode, staff members participated in the Miami Beach Gay Pride festival.
Lieberman does, however, acknowledge that the social situations that took place outside the hotel were mostly set up.
"The things that we staged were us all going out and partying together," Lieberman said. "Anything that happened at the hotel, that's what we do. That's just our daily grind."
Filming in a working hotel did present some practical problems, including which guests the staff could interact with.
"A lot of guests that come here, they don't want to be filmed," general manager Stephanie Andron said. "But then there are people who want to be on camera, who want to be seen."
As a Miami native, Moreno is quick to point out that South Beach -- which has a rich culture and history -- is much more than what "The Catalina" presents every week, but he does believe the show accurately portrays certain aspects of the community.
"It's a good representation of young, party South Beach," Moreno said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)