Green Bay Packers fans are about to get their closeup, and they may not like what they see.
The TBS cable network is developing a show tentatively titled “Cheeseheads.” It’s being billed this way: “These citizens don’t just bleed green and gold; they eat victory for breakfast. For them, being a Cheesehead is more than just being a fan. It’s a way of life.”
TBS says this “hilarious subculture” will be seen through “the eyes of a group of proud Wisconsinites as they navigate life in the only way they know how — loud, proud and with lots of beer. For these folks, there is no off-season.”
According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the show held a casting call in Titletown in December, looking for “passionate Wisconsinites with big personalities.”
I think those of us who don’t bare our chests in subzero temperates or wear wild animal pelts on our heads or name our baby girls Vincent should feel extremely nervous. We’re about to be lumped in with our Packers-obsessed brethren in a nationally televised freak show. It’ll be a case of guilt by association.
Being seen as odd is nothing new for Wisconsinites. The only time we make national news is when some guy in Fond du Lac eats his 26,000th Big Mac, or a joker in Eau Claire lets his buddy douse his crotch with lighter fluid and set it ablaze.
Yes, we produce a lot of weirdos here, from flesh-eating serial killers to the people who insist upon wearing foam rubber cheese wedges on their heads in public. But Wisconsin also is home to lots of perfectly normal folks. Those are the people you probably won’t be seeing on “Cheeseheads.”
We all know how reality shows work. The squeakiest wheel gets the grease, and the most audacious reality show stars get their own spinoffs. So instead of being celebrated for an admirable loyalty that has kept Lambeau Field full for decades, even during the 1970s, when the team hit about as hard as Captain and Tennille, we’ll be portrayed as fanatics who skip our children’s weddings to watch the third round of the NFL Draft.
TBS, we don’t need help making fools of ourselves. We do a fine job of that on our own. Our Legislature once banned margarine. We put Socialists in charge of our largest city. Our current governor rejected millions in federal transportation money because, well, who needs money? Or transportation?
What’s disheartening about “Cheeseheads,” if it turns onto to be as bad as I fear, is that television historically has been kind to Wisconsin. “Happy Days” and its spinoff, “Laverne and Shirley,” brought fame to our state a generation ago, and “Joanie Loves Chachi” brought us … well, 13 episodes you can watch sometime at 4 a.m. when you’re sick of male enlargement infomercials.
Then there was “Picket Fences,” “Step By Step,” “That ‘70s Show” — and don’t forget “The Young and the Restless.” Wait, maybe we should disown “Young and the Restless,” lest we be held responsible for David Hasselhoff.
My point is that for the most part, these programs showed Wisconsin in a sympathetic light. Sure, there are some unusual characters in these parts — “Aaaaayyy” — but everywhere you look, there are caring parents looking to guide their children toward healthy adulthoods. The characters had jobs and cared about their neighbors and delivered witty quips. One of them has even figured out how to operate a jukebox with his fist.
I’m concerned “Cheeseheads” won’t present quite so flattering a portrait. Who knows what kind of yahoos showed up for that casting call? The leader of a cult that worships Bob Skoronski? Memorabilia hounds who proudly display Gilbert Brown’s discarded athletic tape? The people who still claim we’d be better off today with Brett Favre?
Whoever gets cast will enjoy some moments of fame, but I beg them to think of the rest of us when the camera rolls. Remember, the picture you’re painting of Packers fans depicts us all.
If columnist Ben Bromley were to worship a Packer, it would be Chester Marcol. Submit feedback to email@example.com.