Maddening 'Vineyard' withers on the vine

The old adage goes that television rots the brain, but I never believed this to be true until I flipped through the channels and came across ABC Family’s “The Vineyard.” After less than one episode, I could already feel my intelligence withering away as I sensed its contrived and shallow premise. If anything, the show portrays a beautiful and historic island as nothing more than an area filled with washed-up Barbie dolls.

As its title suggests, “The Vineyard” takes place on Martha’s Vineyard, a well-known island off the coast of Massachusetts. The show focuses on a handful of 20-somethings as they spend the summer working at The Black Dog, a popular restaurant and souvenir shop. The show is structured like a documentary but is clearly scripted. Like MTV’s “The Hills,” conflict originates from love triangles and compromised friendships, and at the center of the drama is Katie, a bleach-blond “girl next door.” She develops a relationship with her childhood friend Luis, but their relationship grows complicated when other members of The Black Dog house question her romantic involvement with another man.

Contrasting these summer “wash-a-shores,” are the island’s natives, Ben and Cat. Unsure about their future on the vineyard, their relationship also becomes compromised when others arrive at The Black Dog. The cliché romantic entanglements would already drag the show down, but the unlikable characters and juvenile acting turn a sinking ship into a Titanic disaster.

It’s not surprising that ABC Family picked up “The Vineyard.” The network is known for airing shows focused on teen drama and relationships — enough to earn the label as the “teenage soap opera” channel. But even as shows like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Greek” gained a strong fan base from viewers, other programs like “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” faded out because of stale acting and thin storylines. There’s no question that “The Vineyard” will follow suit.

Though it may seem like an advertisement for Martha’s Vineyard and The Black Dog at first, it actually gives the island a bad name. Filled with cheesy lines, selfish characters and melodramatic “reality,” the show fails to highlight any of the elements that make Martha’s Vineyard special.

The farcical drama could be set almost anywhere, though thankfully it’s not — the only positive aspect of the show I can think of is the scenery. But while the location is visually appealing, the terrible acting, shallow characters and unrealistic script is overpowering.