What on earth would possess an ordinary family to allow cameras into their home to film them for three months?
The Cardamones seem like a pretty ordinary bunch to me. Sure, they have a 1 acre block with a pool, two Italian “nonnas” and three teenage boys -but they appear to share the same hopes and dreams as the rest of us. Happiness, health, security, loving friends and family.
Angelo Cardamone, 49, is a sales manager for a concrete company. With wife Josephine, 49, they have three sons, David, 20, Stefan, 18, and Adrian, 14.
Angelo says the idea to apply for the family was all David’s doing.
“David is part of the Italian Committee at University and he got an email about SBS looking for a family interested in being followed around for 100 days. He came home and said ‘I’m going to reply to it,’” he says.
“I said ‘Yeah whatever!’ as parents do, totally ignoring their kids and thought nothing of it.
“Three months later he got a reply saying Shine (Australia) wanted to come and meet us.”
Producer Richard Campbell joined the Cardamones for a family meal and outlined what he had in mind: a local version of the UK factual.
“I never knew how many were short-listed but when then they told us they were down to 2 or 3 and it was getting serious. Up until then we were pretty blasé about it. Then they said ‘We’d like you to do it,'” says Cardamone.
Cardamone says he doesn’t remember Sylvania Waters, the series that arguably ignited Reality TV in Australia. The family that agreed to the UK series became overnight sensations, including with volatile and negative press.
“We’re not them but we’ve never had anything to hide. I’m really proud of the boys, the way they’ve grown up and the way they hold themselves in the community. So I’d like that to be out there,” he says.
“I’ve got nothing to hide.”
Producers installed a fixed rig of remote controlled cameras into their home in Donvale, east of Melbourne, and filmed their daily life for 100 days. With cameras included in bedrooms, the only off-limit areas were toilets and some areas of the bathrooms. A crew was buried away in a makeshift production unit in a nearby field, with only select occasions when a manned-crew would film on the property.
Cardamone says getting used to the remote-cameras wasn’t easy, especially when they would turn and follow him.
“It took probably three or four days to get used to the fact they were there. But it’s quite surprising, you become a creature of habit after a while and block them out,” he says.
“Probably the most daunting part was the lights because the house was lit up like a studio and it was through summer, so it was stinking hot.”
The series captures dynamics across several generations, with family life lived between the cracks. Unlike the UK series on which it is based, the SBS series doesn’t seek to showcase its participants as larger-than-life characters, but as a snapshot of suburbia and domesticity. At times it is even affectionate.
“We were just being ourselves. If I had to yell at the kids about something, because the cameras were there I wasn’t not going to do it. I still had a go at them,” he says.
Pressures for the five include VCE exams, ground rules about sex, and tradition versus modern standards.
Cardamone, who is often caught on camera in his underwear, says one of his biggest fears is having his handyman skills -or lack thereof- exposed.
“I’m not a handy person. Everything I do I destroy. I try to fix the lawnmower but I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing,” he says.
“I’ll put up a picture frame and wreck that too.
“I’ve got two left hands.”
But is he ready for the downside of being on television? What about fame, the media, Facebook and Twitter?
“I’m not ready for that,” he admits. “To be honest I thought with SBS it wouldn’t reach a big market, and what’s so special about us? We’re just normal people. I don’t think people are going to want to mob me or throw stones.”
Cardamone doesn’t consider the show to be Reality TV. He hates the stuff.
“I don’t watch the Big Brothers or those home shows, renovation shows. Don’t like them,” he insists.
“But this was us being ourselves. So I don’t look at it as a Reality show I look at it as a Documentary and I look at it as a great memory for us in the future. In 20 years’ time I can look back at this like a home video they filmed for me.
“Because I’m no good with videos either.”
the family premieres 8:30pm Thursday on SBS ONE.