We’re not Sylvania Waters

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.


  1. My observations are;
    Josie is a quiet achiever who lacks in getting attention when it’s needed. She can get angry, only to have the anger filmed go to deleted scenes. She also comes off as a firm believer. “No means no”.

    Angelo is a Dad who can’t swear by his words. He tell us on SBS site I don’t like the swearing, be it casual or not. Yet he actually swore like my head chef when he planned and prepared Josie’s 50th birthday.

    David is a 21yr old who needs to chill. He comes off as a serious type who can’t handle small situations. He desperately wants to sleep with his girlfriend in the bed, but he knows the rules and I agree with them.

    Stefan ended his VCE, he would want a good score He also wants to do things his way. In a deleted scene on the SBS site, he wants to make it 19yrs old sleeping with girlfriend in bed. Mum gets snappy and makes him get a car.

    Adrian seems to speak in half finished sentences and thinks it’s best if Mum & Dad asked what do you need for this camp, he can answer “I dunno stuff!”. That’s not an answer and “stuff” means anything!

  2. Graeme the father specifically said ‘don’t drink and swim’ good comprehension you have there.

    There is nothing abusive about the children either.

  3. Its a feel good show and brings back memories of growing up in my family, its nice to get your head out of the real world once in a while and this show does that for me.

  4. Graeme Ettinger

    Moanique I can see why you like the show.
    If you think it is OK to swear at home, where does it stop. Swearing at teachers, police etc.And their swearing at times is abusive.
    This is want is wrong with the country the lack of discipline in raising children.If the basic fundamentals are not instilled at home, what hope is there.
    The father last week was more concerned about the rips at the beach, than the fact his son was going to be binge drinking or unsafe sexual practises.

  5. Moanique in Brisbane

    I’ve watched every episode so far and have loved it. They seem like a great family to me. I don’t see a problem in the boys swearing in front of their parents, as long as it is not in an abusive context.

  6. @ Greg & Ben – I am with you. This show is great. I love watching dad and the boys together it’s like a nature doco 🙂

    I see nothing ‘wrong’ with any of them!

  7. I’m enjoying the show, it’s a refreshing change to see a reality show which isn’t just about “drama!”. Yes it’s a bit slow at times, but so is life. I liken it to watching the cricket – Not much happens for the most part, but every now and then something exciting happens and you really enjoy the moment. It’s also nice to be able to sit back relax and take it all in. The father is my favourite, he’s pretty quick with the smart a*se lines at times.

  8. It’s so boring with 3 sons, a family with 1 son and 1 daughter would have been much better.
    Having a house of 4 males and 1 female bored me within 15 minutes, not watching any more…

  9. I enjoy this show! Yes it is certainly slower than 99% of other shows I watch, but that change of pace is kind of a relief to be honest. I think they are hilarious, although watching them eat is a little gross!
    I always laugh when they show scenes of them simply watching TV…exactly what I am doing!
    A brave thing to do, hats off to them.

  10. I’ve been watching this and I have to say its incredibly dull. I keep watching expecting it to get better but it doesn’t. Not terribly entertaining.

  11. Graeme Ettinger

    I think it is very much like Sylvania Waters. It shows the family in a very poor light, especially their table manners or lack of, and the way the children relate to the parents. The boys are so spoilt and to swear at their parents and not be reprimanded is poor parenting.

  12. Bulldust, they are the same, someone tell me that when people know there are cameras all over your home, you are not going to act as you normally would and play up to them, all an exercise to get exposure and fame ongoing…joke of a show

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