Premieres 10:30 p.m. Sunday on E!
When detectives investigating burglaries at the homes of young celebrities raided a Westlake Village, Calif., house in October, they turned up a Marc Jacobs handbag reported stolen by actress Rachel Bilson, a Chanel necklace reported missing by Lindsay Lohan and an E! channel camera crew filming a reality show.
Police booked an 18-year-old who lived in the home on a burglary charge, a felony that carries up to six years behind bars. But for the young woman, Alexis Neiers, and her family, there were worries beyond prison.
"My family is in so much debt. If this TV show falls through, you don't know how bad this is going to be," her sister complained to a reporter a few days later.
As it turned out, E! not only continued filming "Pretty Wild," a show about wannabe-starlet sisters, but seized on Neiers' connection to the so-called Bling Ring to promote it.
If anyone is still keeping track of the lines transgressed in reality TV, "Pretty Wild," which premieres tonight, this would be a moment to note.
Unlike celebrities who've turned their criminal cases into reality plot lines of redemption - rapper T.I. or quarterback Michael Vick - Neiers has no fame outside the burglary charge, making her story seem less a fall from grace than a rise through infamy.
Suzanne Kolb, E! president of marketing, news and online, defended the decision to continue with "Pretty Wild."
"You can't be shooting a reality show and be upset when reality happens.... (Neiers' family) didn't become less interesting when this happened," she said.
She denied that E! was rewarding bad behavior with fame and said the series will show the fallout "of being accused of something that Alexis maintains she didn't do."
"We're really heavy on the consequences, which is the reverse of glorifying it," she said.
E! greenlighted the show in August after the Bling Ring robberies started but before Neiers was identified as a suspect. The network is positioning the sisters - Neiers, Tess, 19, and Gabby, 15 - as coarser versions of the Kardashians, the network's marquee reality family. Like the Kardashians, there is a family matriarch, a reserved stepfather and a burning desire for the limelight, but the Neiers family is portrayed as a hard-partying bunch - "Three sisters raising hell in the city of angels."
The two older sisters writhe through a nightclub in the opening episode, spinning around a stripper pole, throwing themselves at a street hustler-turned-rapper who's casting a video, and ignoring cell phone calls from their mother.
The mother, Andrea Arlington, brags about giving all three of her "wild and crazy" daughters the prescription stimulant Adderall each morning as a treatment for attention deficit problems and regales the camera with tales of her own out-of-control youth.
The show was in its initial days of filming when police arrested Neiers.
The surprised producers quickly adjusted to the charges. The lead investigator said that when officers served a warrant on Neiers' home, an E! camera crew asked to film the search.
E! declined to say how much it was paying Neiers, but successful reality TV participants can parlay their fame into lucrative endorsements and additional television gigs.