Tampa first responders subject of new A&E show

Posted at 6:50 PM, Apr 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-07 00:57:01-04

Florida has been the back drop for plenty of movies, TV shows and reality shows over the years, including "The Real World" in 1996, "The Real Housewives of Miami," and even "Hogan Knows Best," to name a few.

Now the ranks of Tampa's firefighters and police officers will join the list.

There’s flames, and explosions, and yet local men and women right here in Tampa are running into scenes like this daily to save people like you and me. It’s why producers at A&E started the show "Nightwatch." Its first season features emergency responders in New Orleans.

Next season you may see familiar faces from right here in Tampa, when producers start filming next month.

“We asked the same question, why Tampa? They said based on the size of the population and the diversity of the departments they thought our city would be a good fit,” said Jason Penny, Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman.

So we wanted to get an inside look at the department ourselves, the camaraderie between the firefighters and of course the job.

“You’re up all night. Sometimes we’re up for 24 straight hours," Capt. Stephen White said.

The docu-reality series will also follow Tampa police officers and paramedics.

“I think adding the fact that this is Florida and you never know what’s going to happen that might have had something to do with it as well,” Penny said.

“It’d be nice for them to see this is what we go through on a daily basis and it's not something we complain about. This is the job we signed up for,” White said.

They work 24 hours on and 48 hours off. It’s the surprise of the job and the responsibility put on these heroes that potentially making a show about them interesting.

“A lot of these homes we go to, we don’t know what we’re getting into,” White said.

The reality show filming in Tampa didn’t come without controversy. In January there were talks of city council members not approving it out of concerns it would hurt the city’s image.

“It’s more about show casing what we do. This is not the Kardashians. This is Tampa Fire Rescue and the Tampa Police Department,” Penny said.

Like any reality show, producers will be looking for those ratings-driving moments.

“Mistakes. We don’t make mistakes, that will never happen," said White, laughing. "No, I’m sure things like that will happen, but hopefully we learn from our mistakes."

Now with the world getting an inside look into their lives, the pressure is on to perform. But these men and women say they can handle it.

“You can have your days when it's tough but we enjoy what we do,” White said.

The idea for the show comes from the TV-making forces of Dick Wolf (the “Law & Order,” “Chicago fire,” and “Chicago P.D.”) and 44 Blue production (“Lockup,” “Wahlburgers”).

Producers haven’t decided who will be cast on the show, or the number of episodes. Filming in Tampa is set to begin in early June.