A&E’s new reality series, “Godfather of Pittsburgh,” doesn’t have anything to do with the Mafia.
The show, which premiered this month, follows the life of Allegheny County entrepreneur Vince Isoldi as he manages multiple strip clubs and a limousine business, in addition to living with his wife and three sons. Isoldi makes it clear from the first episode that he is no mobster, but he admits to committing some petty crime as a young man.
“Godfather of Pittsburgh” is very much in same the vein as “Amish Mafia” and “Mob Wives” — highly contrived and inauthentic to the core. The first three episodes deal mostly with Isoldi’s ongoing feud with his former business partners: his sister and brother-in-law.
It’s clear the producers were trying to capture something similar to the fascinatingly dysfunctional family dynamics on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” but they came up quite short. The excessive Cosa Nostra (Sicilian Mafia) allusions, from his 11-year-old son’s fedora to unnecessary assurances from Isoldi that he is not in fact a Mafioso, fail to make “Godfather of Pittsburgh” any less boring. Isoldi’s unmistakable yinzer drawl is a far cry from Marlon Brando’s vernacular, and it only makes the series that much more cringeworthy.
Most of the scenes portray Isoldi’s interactions with his family members. In the first three episodes, we see him deal with his 18-year-old son, Enzo, whom he encourages to attend college instead of pursue an acting career. Isoldi also teaches his 11-year-old son about how he runs his enterprises. Only slightly more interesting is Isoldi’s conflict with his estranged sister and her husband. Even those scenes come off as fake and put on, especially considering that we never actually see either his sister and brother-in-law but are only filled in on the details by family intermediaries.
The scenes that capture Isoldi at work are even duller. Viewers looking for the portrayal of an interesting career would be better served by “Cake Boss.” Played up to be something of a gangster, it’s painfully obvious that Isoldi is nothing more than the proprietor of some pretty scummy strip joints, even by strip club standards.
For its next venture into reality television, A&E would do well to look to another Pittsburgh-based reality show: “Dance Moms.”
Where “Godfather of Pittsburgh” is off-putting and affected, “Dance Moms” is visceral and raw. As over-the-top and bizarre as the portrayed lifestyle and antics are, the women of “Dance Moms” are undeniably authentic, epitomizing the aggression and callousness of helicopter mothers.
The attempt to trick viewers into believing that Vince Isoldi is anything close to a real mobster fails because it’s apparent that no true Don Corleone would stoop low enough to star in a cable reality TV show. In the end, nobody is buying it and Vince Isoldi’s show seems about as “real” as his wife’s platinum blonde extensions.