The Catalina

Ah, South Beach. Where people still unaccountably wear bikinis and roller blade everywhere, and the décor hasn’t changed a wit since the days of Scarface. At least, according to the montage of beach stock footage that introduces The Catalina, a reality show about a Miami Beach resort of the same name and its attractive staff. The Catalina is a tried-and-true entry into summer reality fare, with occasionally entertaining results. Its a little bit of The Real World meets the second season of The Jersey Shore, except just the scenes of the housemates being bored at work. 

For the general manager Stephanie, who traipses about in dizzying heels, this means yelling at the staff to not be so drunk all the time. You feel a little sorry for her. It’s like being the killjoy camp counselor while everyone around her is giggling, making out, and spraying each other with champagne. This includes hotel owner Nathan, who doles out free shots to a couple shamelessly fondling each other poolside because “these are the kind of guests we want at the Catalina.” Before a major pool party event, he chides the bartending staff that drinking at work is “totally unprofessional,” but the night ends in him buying a round of shots for everyone and toasting to “boats and hoes!”

You probably already know the characters by heart if you’ve ever stayed in to watch MTV in the air conditioning. The bickering, on-again off-again couple is Nancy and Chris, who both work as pool bartenders. Kris is a shameless flirt—he even hits on the camerawoman early in the show—and Nancy is a world champion pouter and hair-flipper. Their will-they-won’t-they dynamic is one that the show hopes to get us invested in, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much there aside from Nancy drilling Kris on whether he kissed the receptionist or, like, made out with the receptionist. They tend bar with David, an awesomely ripped prankster who dresses in the cool dude uniform circa 1993: backward white mesh baseball cap, aviators, and a smirk. Dede, a VIP pool waitress, seems to mostly hang out and give boilerplate advice to the others, and occasionally yell “Get a room! We’ve got plenty of them!” to canoodlers. 

Eyal is the flamboyant and cutesy one, who drops sayings that sound like they came straight from a tacky neon keychain, like “If you’re pretty, you’re welcome” and “I’ll be the one with the big sunglasses and the small Speedo.” His partner in crime is by far the best character in the bunch: Morgan, a no-nonsense Polish immigrant who seems to be the only one aware of just how incompetent the rest of the staff is. “My employees are all very stupid,” she deadpans in her introduction. “They call me the Russian baby killer. It’s absurd because I hate Russians. And Germans. The French are not my favorite.” Morgan’s interactions with the laid-back bartenders are like watching Daria talk to The Situation. 

Of course, it’s mostly a ruse. The only point of real tension in the first episode of The Catalina was about a beach volleyball match for charity. After Morgan lectured Nathan for wasting booze and egging on the staff, Nathan told Morgan that he had selected her to play as the hotel’s representative on the team. Why? She’s tall, and European, and therefore and presumably can eke out a win against some supermodels. Morgan looks like she’s about to cry. Nathan adds the empty threat that if she doesn’t win, he’ll fire her. Clearly if he did, the entire hotel would fall into utensil-less shambles. But Morgan at least pretends to take the idea of getting sent back on a banana boat seriously. Of course, her team wins and the hotel staff goes out to celebrate with a round of cooler-sized margaritas with sparklers in them. “We’re all a family,” Dede coos at the end. I suppose so, in the Kardashian way, if not in the nuclear sense. The Catalina is a show that’s just fun enough to keep you inside on a brutally hot night, but not one that’ll have you missing a day at the beach.

Stray observations:

  • You know it’s going to be a tough conversation when your boss begins with “I’ve invented the pocket panty!”
  • I wonder if being picked up, potato sack style, by burly men was part of the “desk receptionist” job description. They don’t teach that in hospitality school, presumably. 
  • When a glass breaks at the restaurant, I love that Morgan yelled “Five dollars!” and Eyal yelled “Three dollars!” simultaneously.  
  • "Boats and hoes!" is actually a pretty great toast. Thanks, Step Brothers.
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