It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these lengthy TV write-ups, but what can I say, Real World brings out the blogger in me. I did a lot of writing earlier today about older, classic seasons of the perennial reality TV series, but now it’s time to start talking about the latest batch of kids agreeing to let their lives be taped while living in a loft — their words, not mine — and whatnot. For what it’s worth, I know absolutely nothing about Portland aside from what I’ve seen in Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s Portlandia, so if I wind up not liking this season, I’m going to re-write it in my brain as one big, extended sketch.
Alright, let’s break this down. We’re first introduced to Averey who seems pretty pleasant aside from the extra “e” in her name which makes me misspell it nearly every time I type her name. She lives in Arizona with her dog Daisy, but is actually from Ann Arbor which is about 45 minutes away from my home town. Daisy comes along with her to the house because she has no other family. She works at Hooters and loves it because it gives her the opportunity to provide for herself and not live off her parents. She’s the first one at the house.
Meanwhile, Jessica who’s 21, from North Carolina and lives with her parents. She admits to being sheltered and doesn’t seem to make much of an impact overall on the episode aside from wearing a g-string bathing suit and being a little more surprised than the others when they go to a burlesque club. She meets Boston-ish boy Johnny who has a bit of a cocky exterior but freely admits to being wildly insecure about what other people are thinking about him. When he gets to the house and sees Daisy he’s happy because, even if all the other roommates dislike him, the dog will probably still dig him.
You’ve also got Joi from Seattle who’s a big fan of her own body and shows it off at seemingly every turn. Marlon, who’se 24 and an Army brat from Texas who played football for Texas Tech picks her up in one of those bike taxis before heading towards the house. You’d think they’d be next there, but it’s all a ruse!
Instead, we meet Jordan who gets to the house by himself. He’s from Oklahoma, has several fingers missing from his left hand (he was born that way) and is super competitive which seems to stem from a dad who pushed him ultra hard at everything, possibly because of his hand.
The next roommate to reach the house is Anastasia, a model who hails from Detroit where she was raised by her mom and grandma. Within moments it seems like she and Averey are talking about how their alcoholic dads were never around, something Jordan says he can’t relate to, though he does reiterate that his pops is a hardass.
After that Johnny and Jessica get there next. They start hanging out and we discover that Anastasia has a boyfriend, something that Jordan does not think will last, mostly because he’s got a thing for her. Finally Joi and Marlon get there and everyone’s all together. “But wait!” you say, where’s this Nia person I’ve been seeing on all the commercials and promos? Isn’t she supposed to show up? Well, it doesn’t look like it. This first episode seems to cover several days and she has yet to show up which either means that MTV really wants to throw the cast members a curve ball or she comes in to replace someone who leaves or gets kicked out. From the clips they showed at the end in the “this season on the Real World” thing, it could definitely be for fighting, though it certainly looks like Nia does her fair share of it.
Here’s something interesting that popped into my head while watching these kids all get to the house: I wonder how much of day one is actually reacting in the moment and how much is reacting how you think you’re supposed to react in the situation. By this point there have been 27 seasons of this show and, for the most part, the first episode seems pretty formulaic. The people show up either on their own or with a roommate and either take a moment to get to know each other or run around like crazy trying to figure out rooms. I was actually a little surprised that they didn’t make a big deal out of that old chestnut this time around. In fact, we’re not even directly told who’s living with who throughout this whole episode!
Anyway, after everyone (but Nia) gets to the house, they decide to have a cook out which is actually kind of cool. We see Marlon ask Jordan about his hand and Jordan give a fake answer before telling the truth and explaining that his dad told him when he was a kid to make up a story whenever he saw fit. There’s a lot of subtext there, but I won’t get into it just yet. So there’s eating, Johnny makes a burger for Daisy, the girls talk about the guys, the guys talk about the girls (as far as we know at this point, everyone in the house is straight) and things seem to go pretty well.
They head out to a club the next night which makes me wonder when that became a thing for the casts. They used to usually have at least one person under 21 so they either weren’t interested in going to the club, MTV couldn’t get clearance to shoot at one or the cast decided to skip it so their fellow could hang out with the group. Even though I’m programmed to expect it, nothing bad happens at the club. Johnny makes a bit of an ass of himself in front of Averey, but nothing too severe. At the halfway point of the episode I wondered to myself if they would get along for the whole thing.
The next day, the guys play some basketball and Johnny runs into Jordan (or vice versa) and Johnny comes away with a lump on his face. They decide to play a joke on the girls and tell them that Jordan punched him. The girls are shocked and Anastasia is particularly displeased with the news because it’s an obvious sign of violence and who wants to live with that? It’s interesting to me that the guy who seems like one of the more angry people in the house decided to joke about violence. It’s almost like a precursor to what looks like is coming up this season.
The first cracks in the happy new family start to form when Marlon and Jordan are evaluating and ranking the girls’ hind quarters in front of the girls. Anastasia is really unimpressed by this and thinks the whole thing is just mean, which I can understand. Unperturbed, Marlon and Jordan head to a club and bring some women back to the house for some hot tub action, but once they get them there, they realized these are not the caliber of ladies they hoped to meet. At this point Marlon tries to devise a plan, but he’s pretty drunk, so Jordan just tells them they need to get out which upsets Anastasia and either Joi or Averey (I looked away for a second to take notes and missed the offended parties) who actually invited the girls to hang out with them at some point in the future. The bar girls just left.
But that wasn’t the end of it. The offended roommates went back to the boys and told them they should have manned up and handled the situation better. It basically turns into Jordan and Anastasia yelling at each other and Jordan spilling wine in the general direction of her feet. They did this right before a commercial break and I looked away again, so I thought something a lot more intense happened, but I think that was it. After the break there’s more shouting which devolves into Jordan saying he doesn’t respect Anastasia because he just met her and her saying she doesn’t want to deal with that kind of nonsense. Can’t say I blame her, he’s acting like a child who gets told what to do. Huh, Jordan doesn’t like being told what to do, wonder why…
And that’s that. We end the episode on a bit of a down note followed by the aforementioned “this season on” montage which makes this season look insane. This Nia woman describes herself as a snake in the grass and loves to cause trouble so why not put her on a show that’s ostensibly about people from different places coming together and learning from one another. It actually makes me wonder if there’s an legal recourse for cast members who get put in situations with obviously unstable people like this (she talks like a super villainess and appears to hit at least two people just in this one clip) who cause either physical or emotional harm. From what I’ve heard, those contracts are incredibly tight, so I’m guessing not, but it’s definitely something you’ve got tot think about when deciding if you want to go on The Real World these days. The again, Puck wasn’t exactly the best roommate, so maybe things haven’t changed all that much.