It may be up for debate whether Washington, D.C., is Hollywood for ugly people, as the joke goes, but there's little doubt that the television industry likes what it sees in the nation's capital.
Whether for appearances or patriotism, a throng of new television shows, particularly reality programs, has chosen the venerable city of marble and monuments as its location.
MTV, a pioneer in the reality genre, opted to take its long-running series "The Real World" to Washington for its 23rd season. The D.C. version of the globe-trotting show, which has filmed in New York, Paris and Cancun, Mexico, will premiere Dec. 30. The outcome of last year's presidential election helped sway the network to film in the nation's capital.
"We've always wanted to come to here," the show's executive producer, Jim Johnston, said during filming over the summer. "It's been scouted off and on for the last 10 years. Plus, you want to be here because, let's face it, it's the election . . . you can feel the energy on the streets. Everyone is just so proud to be here right now, and the potential for change and being a part of it, you just feel it."
The show filmed in a four-story brownstone in Dupont Circle, in the northwestern part of town. The neighborhood, known for its historic buildings, dining establishments and embassies, is close to the White House, so viewers can expect sightings of congressmen and even the president, Johnston said.
The network hasn't announced its cast yet, and it's still unclear the level of political involvement the "Housewives" will have (or whether the Salahis, those infamous gate-crashers, will be part of the show). An air date for the series has not been set.
On the CW, the D.C. social circuit - packed with charity galas and society parties - gets put under the reality lens in "Blonde Charity Mafia," which chronicles the lives of three D.C. junior socialites.
"There are more reality shows being filmed here," said Josh Friedman, communications director of the city's Office of Motion Picture & Television Development. "It's just an exciting, interesting time to be in D.C. There's a lot of great energy and enthusiasm. Whether that can be attributed to the administration or something else is debatable."
In the scripted arena, HBO's comedy pilot "Washingtonienne" centers on the exploits of a young woman who moves to the city to become a speechwriter but first must pay her dues as a low-level congressional staffer. The show is based on the semiautobiographical book by Jessica Cutler, a former congressional staff assistant who was fired for blogging about her sex life.
Comedy and politics are still mixing in D.C. as well.
And this month, the premium cable network has been airing the show "Robin Williams: Weapons of Self-Destruction," which filmed at DAR Constitution Hall last month.
It's hardly the first time the Beltway has served as host to comedians. In 2004, Chris Rock's fourth HBO special, "Chris Rock: Never Scared," was filmed in Washington. And in 2006, comedian-author-playwright Lewis Black, a D.C. native, filmed his cable special at the Warner Theatre.
"Obviously, with Obama in the office, there's a lot of buzz around the city," said Nancy Geller, senior vice president of programming who oversees the network's stand-up specials, music specials and late-night programming. "But it'd be that way whether it's this administration or another one. Comedy just loves politics."
THESE SHORT-LIVED D.C.-BASED SHOWS GOT VOTED OUT
BY ANDY EDELSTEIN
Setting a show in Washington, D.C., can be part of its success - think "The West Wing," "Murphy Brown" or last season on "24." Or not. Here are several D.C.-set shows that seemed to last shorter than many Senate filibusters.
Capitol Critters (1992, ABC) - Stephen Bochco ("Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law") created this cartoon about the rats, mice and roaches who lived under the White House. Neil Patrick Harris voiced the central character, Max the Mouse.
The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer (1998, UPN) - In this nearly universally reviled comedy, Chi McBride was Abe Lincoln's butler. The president was portrayed as a dope, Mrs. Lincoln as a sex-crazed harpie. Only the butler was smart. The show lasted less than a month.
Mister Sterling (2003, NBC) - In this drama created by
"The West Wing's" Lawrence O'Donnell, Josh Brolin starred as an idealistic U.S. senator. Canceled after 10 episodes.