Josie Cardamone, mother of three boys in SBS reality series the family, was worried that allowing cameras to film her family 24 / 7 might lead to a new version of Sylvania Waters.
That 1990s series turned Noeline Donaher into a household name, and not always for the right reason.
But Josie and husband Angelo agreed to the concept after building up a level of trust with producers from Shine Australia.
“That’s when we thought of Sylvania Waters and thought ‘Oh my God.’ And they said ‘No we want a nice clean, family life. Not negativity,” she says.
“We didn’t want any negativity to make us look awful, if that makes any sense.
“Because we built a rapport with them we trusted them and went with it.”
The Melbourne family was put forward for consideration by eldest son, David.
Together with sons Stefan and Adrian, they have opened up their lives to the fly-on-the-wall series for SBS. The UK series on which it is based attracted considerable media with the frequently-amusing antics of an Indian-UK clan.
The Australian series is decidedly low-key by comparison, leaving some critics to label it as too dull. Should it have been more like Sylvania Waters after all?
Yet the aim was not to sensationalise the Cardamones, but show what makes an ordinary family of Italian-Aussies tick.
There are three generations showcased in the series, the boys, their parents and two “nonnas” –who add a traditional element to the more modern lifestyles embraced by the boys.
“We keep asking ‘What’s so interesting about is? Why would people want to watch us? We’re just an everyday family with a bit of an Italian influence in it,” says Cardamone.
“I asked David ‘Why do you want to go through this type of thing, what are you getting us into now?’ And he said, ‘I’m proud of our family, and proud of being Italian.’
“So when Angelo and I heard that we didn’t want to discourage that. We thought we’d give it a whirl and have a bit of fun.”
The show was filmed predominantly by a fixed rig of installed remote cameras.
“(Youngest son) Adrian just loved the cameras. They became his little mate, in his room,” she recalls.
“I’d go to work, the gym and go for a walk, but the microphones were a bit of a menace, always having to put them on and switching batteries. I’d never make an actress.”
Aside from bathrooms and toilets, few areas were considered out of bounds to cameras. Bedrooms had a voluntary “kill-switch” for intimate moments. A crew occasionally filmed backyard scenes that were less accessible.
Episodes packaged for SBS are linked by themes, such as the subject of sex, study, or planning a surprise party.
“We had issues with Stefan, and with David with the girlfriend sleeping over, but they’re issues everyone has. It’s how you deal with it. I’ve got friends who say ‘I don’t know how you do it’ because, they’re not allowed to sleep together in our house. But we just do,” she says.
After three months of being monitored, Josie admits she got so used to the experiment that it had a surprising effect on her.
“People asked us, ‘How did you feel when the cameras were gone?” and we actually missed them. We missed the crew,” she says.
“But we just always kept saying ‘Why would you want to film us?”
the family airs 8:30pm Thursdays on SBS ONE.