Real World Watcher: New York, Las Vegas & San Francisco

real world logoI’m a big fan of weekends spent without too much on the schedule. I like going out and doing things, of course, but I also very much enjoy just hanging around the house with no responsibilities. As it happened, this past weekend was one of those weekends and it thankfully coincided with a Real World weekend on MTV. Instead of doing what you might think they would leading up to the launch of the 28th season of the reality TV frontrunner, the network decided to feature classic seasons like New York (the very first season), the game changing first Las Vegas (which set many of the precedents not only seen on The Real World to this day, but also at least half of all other reality shows) and the epic, heartbreaking and concept-proving San Francisco. I’ve heard here and there that the network doesn’t actually like this dinosaur of a show (28 seasons?!) so I was surprised when I hear about this.

I caught huge chunks of all three marathons. I didn’t get into the show until about 1996 with the Miami season and was hooked from there, so I only really saw the first four seasons when MTV would run marathons. It was cool sitting down and looking back at what had come before with the series.

real world new york

While watching 1992’s Real World¬†New York I was mostly taken with how driven Heather, Kevin, Eric, Norman and Andre were. Becky and Julie had their moments, but the others really seemed to know what they were going for and doing what they could to do it. A big part of this seems to be the fact that MTV and the production company probably did most of their casting in NYC with just a few other places, hence Julie coming from the south. I’m not one of those people who’s constantly saying that Real World has changed over the years — I mean it has, but is that the show, what they’re now comfortable showing and/or a shift in youth culture? — but it was interesting seeing so many people going out and doing their own thing while still trying to show their roommates what they were all about and reacting to what they thought they were all about.

You know what tickled me the most though? How low rent the house was. I mean, it looks like an apartment in New York. I’m sure it’s even a fairly large one by today’s standards, but look how bland it was. Heck, the ironing board and iron feature prominently in several key scenes! There’s a lot of that kind of charm in this season, but we also get a lot of the stuff that made this show famous: discussions about race, homosexuality, breaking away from parental ideals, politics, education, homelessness and more. I didn’t mention Julie above as being creatively driven, but holy crap, I was incredibly impressed with not only her desire to learn about her roommates, but going even further and trying to experience life as a homeless person. If this season came out today, she would not only be offered all kinds of freelance writing work — she’s a better, more natural interviewer at 19 than I am at 30 — but also probably her own show called Julie’s World where she travels around making connections with people. Yes, she comes off as ignorant at time — something Heather raged against, though I think she was more specifically talking about willful ignorance and plain old stupidity — but she also perfectly¬†encapsulates¬†what I want this show to be about: people coming from different backgrounds to live with and learn about one another. That’s one of the reasons I had such a problem with Zach and Ashley from the second San Diego season, they basically glommed on to one another, shielded themselves off from everyone else and didn’t do or learn anything (or at least that’s how they were presented on the show).

real world las vegas

From the innaugural season of one of the most famous reality shows of all time, Real World decided to jump ahead a decade to the first season of Real World Las Vegas which many claim changed the face of the show permanently. This new batch of kids — Trishelle, Steven, Alton, Arissa, Irulan, Brynn and Frank — seemed a lot less focused on going for their creative or career goals and instead just wanted to party. But, what else do you expect from a bunch of 20-somethings sent to live in freaking Vegas? These kids lived and worked in the Palms and the glossy, partially remembered milestones for the show seem to revolve around Steven and Trishelle hooking up on day one, a three way hot tub hook up between those two and Brynn, Frank getting jealous and grossed out by a lot of this and Brynn almost getting kicked off the show for throwing a fork at Steven.

Those are the bits that I remembered, at least. This cast has also been pretty present on The Challenge, so there’s some added baggage there as well because Alton seems completely crazy these days. But even though this is considered the sex-drenched season that changed the series for the worse, there’s also a lot of emotional stuff going on that gets passed over for the more salacious bits. Cast members talk about dealing with sexual assault, Brynn has a mountain of trust and love issues, so does Trishelle and there’s the so-gross-it-made-me-want-to-punch-him dealings with their boss, a guy named Marc who was clearly using his work-related power over them to try and hook up with Irulan and Arissa. I don’t remember what I thought of all that at the time, but I was outraged this time around and hope that things like this being on TV helped people understand what was over the line and that they didn’t have to take that kind of crap from dorks who get the tiniest bit of power and use it to get what they want from the girls who used to make fun of them in high school.

I missed most of the end of this season because, just like the first New York, it’s actually on DVD. I also realized something while watching this particular marathon: these seasons can be tough to watch in big chunks like this. I’m a lot more attuned to emotional states now than I used to be and watched some really troubled people either struggle to deal with their issues or do their best to ignore them with sex and booze hits me in the gut a lot harder these days. Watching something like 14 hours of that in a row is just too much.

real world san francisco

 

Which both thematically and chronologically brings me to Real World San Francisco from 1994. This might have been one of the first seasons I watched, but I remember it more from latter day marathons. I caught it off and on on Sunday as I had a lot of errands to run both on my own and with my wife and unfortunately/fortunately missed the last episodes. Like with all the other seasons from so long ago, I remembered highlights like Pedro’s battle with AIDS, Puck’s bad behavior and subsequent ousting and Cory really not knowing herself, but there’s so much more going on. I also know, of course, that Judd and Pam get together and are married to this day, but I’m not sure if they actually got together on the season or later. I was actually surprised to see both of them with other people. They’re supposed to be together, how can he kiss that other girl?!

The main thing everyone remembers about this season, though, is Pedro and his heroic and inspirational nature. He’s not only a gay man who finds love on this show, but also one whose health deteriorates significantly. To their credit, MTV didn’t shy too much away from all this and put it out there for the world to see. Would they do that these days? I tend to think not, but who knows? They seem to go for more mental disorders these days (I’m looking specifically at you Ryan from New Orleans 2010). What I think the show lacks these days is people who are truly inspirational like Pedro and like Julie, people who put themselves out in the world as much as possible, take in everything they can and try to make things better. I made a similar point on Twitter to which my wife very pointedly reminded me of Ryan from Real World Brooklyn. Very true, maybe I’m letting myself forget the smaller moments and quieter characters.

It’s so easy to boil these seasons down to just a few headlines, but the reason I keep coming back to the Real World — and will be watching and possibly blogging about tonight’s premiere of Real World Portland — is that, no matter how much you don’t like the people involved, they’re still people with all kinds of quirks, damage and weirdness. The show might not be the place that weird kids try to go to show the world how unique anymore — we’ve got YouTube and podcasts for that now — but it’s still an excellent source of humanity in all its weird and wonderful forms. Let’s see what Portland has to offer!

One more quick thing while I’m on the subject of this show and its long history. I mentioned New York and Las Vegas being on DVD, but they’re the only ones to ever be put out in the format. I’ve heard some of the earlier seasons are on Hulu Plus, but I don’t have that service and I believe you can download some on iTunes, but I have a proposal for MTV: take one half hour or hour out of your daily programming and show an episode of Real World. Start at the beginning and go through chronologically and just see what kind of reaction you get from live viewings, social media and DVRers. I bet people will get into it because no matter how funny the clothes might look and crappy the footage might look (yes, your phone shoots better video than the entire first decade of the show) the real worries of 20-somethings haven’t changed all that much over the years and there’s still plenty to learn from the older episodes. Either that or get these things on Netflix Instant already!

 

Real World Watcher: Las Vegas The Reunion

Maybe I’m looking back at these thing with rose colored glasses, but didn’t Real World Reunions used to be at least sort of fun? A regrouping of people who had gone through something strange and possibly important (to them at least) on the other side laughing about what had gone down? Sure, there was that time with Puck but…oh nevermind. This is all a long winded way of saying that most of last night’s Las Vegas Reunion was either painful or boring to watch as host Maria Menounos once again bumbled through awkward questions that were already extensively covered in the season itself. It seems though that this cast has gotten not only less friendly with one another (things seemed pretty happy during the season finale last week) but downright nasty. Mike’s reaming Dustin out for being ignorant, though I don’t remember Leroy or Adam or the girls exactly being geniuses either. Heather’s writing mean Tweets about Cooke instead of calling her and being a normal human being or just not saying anything. The only interesting part of the show is seeing what the cast members are up to now, which is all pretty boring (back to school, back to work, back home) so that’s not saying too much. I’m going to skip the play by play prose run down and just copy and paste my notes here because there’s just not enough of interest to weave into my usual charming gold.

Adam says Nany was just another girl. She wants nothing else to do with him or hear his name again. Later he says he went back to Vegas for her, not for the cameras. Everyone thinks Adam is a famewhore.

Leroy’s back home doing all his old stuff.

Cooke says she went into the show thinking it was just for TV, which is why she was so confrontational and bombastic. This was probably the most interesting Cooke has ever been allowed to be. She eventually realized it was real and chilled out.

Heather’s back at school but switched her major to behind the camera. She thinks her classmates don’t judge her based on the show. I call bullshit.

Naomi wants to be a TV journo. Her and Nany get together because they live an hour or so away from each other.

Now we’re just rehashing the Dustin web stuff. Boring.

Mike has such weird negative energy towards Dustin. I’m going with the “Dustin reminds him too much of his dad” theory for why Mike doesn’t aim this weird serial killer calmness at Leroy, Adam or anyone else.

Adam’s back living with his parents. He’s got a clothing line he’s working on that is lame. I will not link to it.

Cooke works in a nuclear power plant. Damn. She’s girly now.

The roomies also seem confused about why Mike hated Dustin. Some think it’s because he was jealous of Heather, but Mike says she’s not his type.

Nany’s back home working as a waitress.

Mike wants to go to grad school for plant science.

Naomi says friends with benefits with someone you live with is rough, especially when he’s bringing home girls all the time.

Mike & Leroy have friendship bracelets. Mike gets practically giddy when talking to or about Leroy, it’s a complete 180 degree shift from his attitude towards Dustin.

Don’t expect a post about the Shit They Should Have Shown episode. Those tend to be less interesting (otherwise they would have shown it the first time around) and just take up space until The Challenge starts.

Apparently Naomi, Nany and Heather have all sent nasty Tweets out about Cooke, but Heather said something that was the most hurtful. Neither get into detail but it sounds like Heather put something that Cooke had told her in confidence on Twitter. Maria actually calls her out for not just picking up the phone and hashing it out with Cooke, but Heather says she has no interest in being friends with her. Once again, Heather ducks out of the way of conflict by cleverly explaining it away when what she’s really saying is “I’m a child, I don’t want to deal with it.”

I get that at the end of an experience like this, everyone looks upon one another a little more fondly. It’s like graduation in that way. But I was still pretty surprised with the level of tension and animosity on stage. Part of the problem, I would imagine is that you’ve got to go through your problems the first time, while the show is taping, then go home, get back to your life and relive it again when the show comes on. Back in the day, you’d maybe call or email the person or see them at an MTV function, but now you can immediately put out there how you’re feeling via Twitter or whathaveyou which can easily open up old wounds all over the place. I still think this was the realest season in a while, made even more evident by the fact that these people who went through the shit together don’t want to talk to each other.

I just realized, I don’t remember if they said whether Dustin and Heather are still together. Anyone catch that?

Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 13 “Leaving Las Vegas”

I’ve said a few times in the last several posts about this season of The Real World that this season has been one of the realest in recent memory. This season had the usual drunken arguments, roommate hook-ups and roommates getting sent home, but it also had cast mates dealing with bad parents, the death of family members and friends, their dependence on the opposite sex, possible true love, long-secured lies coming to the surface, the search for missing parents, pregnancy scares, rekindling parental relationships and lots more. Characters rose and fell in my personal opinion, but never got to the point where I was so disgusted that I couldn’t tune back in. I’d hold this return to Las Vegas as a good example that reality TV can still be meaningful, debaucherous and fun all at the same time. Hit the jump to see what happened. Continue reading Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 13 “Leaving Las Vegas”

Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 12 “Addicted To Love”

Tonight’s episode of Real World Las Vegas was pretty fantastic and even changed my opinion on a few of the characters. Continuing the theme of real-ness that hasn’t been seen on this show in quite a while and possibly never to this degree, tonight’s episode featured children reuniting with parents they haven’t seen in years, someone dealing with the death of a loved one, the discovery of a long lost pair of siblings, a relationship coming to an end…oh, and motocross. Hey, it doesn’t need to be all heady stuff. Hit the jump for all the deets. Continue reading Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 12 “Addicted To Love”

Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 11 “Oh Yeah, Mexico, Yeah”

I’ve said a few times that I’m impressed with how real this season of Real World has been and I still stand by that, but the problem with getting so invested in these people and their lives is when they wind up disappointing you. Mike really let me down this episode. He seems to be harboring some deep, deep anger towards Dustin and it finally explodes in this episode. He tosses out a few possible reasons for this, but you didn’t think I’d give them away in the intro did you? Hit the jump to see what happened. This episode was a doozy. Continue reading Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 11 “Oh Yeah, Mexico, Yeah”

Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 10 “Who’s Your Daddy?”

I was thinking about writing something about this episode of Real World Las Vegas being filler, but that’s not really the case. I’ve been trained to think that only episodes will people fighting or big time conflict between roommates are important, but that’s not how the real world works. Tonight’s episode dealt with one cast member trying to find their father, another falling for someone, two talking about their feelings for each other and two possibly getting over their conflicts. That’s some pretty real behavior. Hit the jump to read the whole sorted affair. Continue reading Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 10 “Who’s Your Daddy?”

Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 9 “Guys Who Like Girls Who Like Girls Who Like Sex””

My apologies to the folks who come to this site just to read my in-depth reviews and summaries of each Real World episode. Our daughter was born a week ago today, which meant our TV watching schedule was thrown all off. I did however wind up seeing last week’s episode in a few chunks out of order. I wasn’t able to take notes, but figured I’d do a quick write-up. Mind you, I’m still a little sleep deprived and I missed bits and pieces, so there’s probably things I missed, so bare with me. Hit the jump to see what I remember happened. Continue reading Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 9 “Guys Who Like Girls Who Like Girls Who Like Sex””