There is a trend in reality TV, where business leaders help those less fortunate (Secret Millionaire, Undercover Boss). And now Baltimore is on the bandwagon with a new show called Good Fellas of Baltimore.
The show, which premiered in March on Fox 45, has a basic premise: In every episode, an entrepreneur teams up with a charity to help a family in need. In turn, the show's creator, A.J. Ali, hopes to inspire viewers to help as well.
"We're all doing things to help people, but a bigger vision came to me," says Ali, CEO of sports marketing firm Eclipse Sports & Entertainment. "We need to come together and inspire everyone to help."
Ali says the idea came to him in the middle of the night last April. He bolted straight up in bed—and immediately knew the name, look, and concept.
"It was as if God downloaded a vision to me," he says. "But, I didn't have any money or rational hope for it becoming a reality."
He then called on some of his close friends—including Steve de Castro, CEO of Big Steaks Management—to lend a hand in getting the show off the ground.
"I liked helping a family directly," de Castro says, "instead of just writing a check, not sure where that money will go."
Eventually, they formed a group of seven entrepreneurs and got under way. The group self-financed six episodes to air on Fox 45 this spring. The episodes can also be viewed on their website, www.goodfellasofbaltimore.com.
The pilot focuses on the Chiosi family, whose East Baltimore row house was destroyed by a fire last June. Working with the Living Classrooms Foundation, the Good Fellas help to rebuild their home.
Beyond the seven men, the show asks people to join the MOB (Mentors of Baltimore) in order to donate money and help families. As of press time, 300 people contributed more than $200,000 worth of goods and services to the family.
"The beauty of this model is we want everyone to step up," Ali says. "With this economy and so many people hurting, it's a natural reaction to reach deep down and help each other."