Live Blogging: The Challenge Rivals 2 “Rumble In The Jungle”

ct and wes rivals 2I’m writing this team evaluation part before the first episode of The Challenge Rivals 2 has aired yet partially because I haven’t talked about this upcoming season yet, partly because I want to comment on a few of the teams and partly because I want to link to my posts about the first The Challenge Rivals. I’m most excited to see Wes and CT. I think they’ve got a shot at knocking longtime winner Johnny off the gold medal stand if Wes can restrain his douchey nature a bit and CT doesn’t go into a berserker rage. I think the former’s far less likely than the latter.

Speaking of Johnny, he’s teamed with Frank based solely on a Twitter feud that I would wager was at least partially manufactured like the old timey Jack Benny/Fred Allen one. Even if it wasn’t, both of these guys are smart enough to put on a good deal of theater for the cameras while not actually letting it get to them. That is unless enough teams smarten up and do their best to get rid of them early on. I’d say Real World: Portland dudes Marlon and Jordan have a fair shot too if they can win early and dodge going into elimination rounds. However, Jordan’s kind of a hothead and has zero experience with Challenges, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he loses it. leroy and ty rivals 2

Ty and Leroy should be interesting. He got third with Emily on Battles Of The Exes, so he’s got some cred while Leroy made it to the end on the first Rivals. Camila and Jemmye got into one fight, but one of them’s a total hothead and the other likes to shout at folks when she gets drunk, actually, they both do, so this could be an explosive pair no matter what.

Dunbar and Tyrie seem like a pretty lame duck team. Both have skills, but neither seem adept at actually learning this game. Maybe getting burned so many times has taught them though. Jasmine’s also kind of a joke on these shows too, right? She’s there to get drunk and smash stuff, but do her and Theresa have a chance? Who knows, I can’t even remember why they supposedly don’t like each other. Paula and Emily are both pros when it comes to these things. I put high odds on them winning this thing.

Preston and Knight are a joke. Knight’s only skill is talking all kinds of smack and becoming an emotional terrorist to the women on the show. I have a real problem with the way he treats people. Preston’s alright, but he’s not super athletic and is saddled with an anchor so unless it suits the other teams, they won’t be around very long. sarah and trishelle

In the “not really enemies, but we wanted to shoehorn them in” category you’ve got Real World: Portland alumnas Jessica and Anastasia who probably just got sick of living together and Robb and Derek who got in one drunken fight that lead to Robb ripping his shirt off in Battle Of The Seasons 2. If Robb could take weeks of crap from whatshername from his season, he should be able to squash this and move on easily. Still, he’s a rookie, so there’s a target. I’d put Trishelle and Sarah in this category as well. Trishelle stirred up trouble when she thought Sarah was getting with Alton just to cause problems with their team on Battle Of The Seasons 2, but that’s just how the game is played.

Trey and Zach are going to have problems. Trey wants so badly to be part of the group but only if he can lead which will never happen. Meanwhile, Zach still looks like Thor and could literally carry Trey through the entire competition if need be.  Finally, I can’t remember why Diem and Aneesa, Nany and Jonna and Cooke and Naomi even have beef. I’m guessing booze and hurt feelings over competitions or fellow cast mates were involved though.

Alright gang, that’s what I think is going to happen. Hit the jump to find out what actually happened in my patented live blog format. SPOILERS for the episode follow, if that wasn’t already obvious.  Continue reading Live Blogging: The Challenge Rivals 2 “Rumble In The Jungle”

Real World Watcher Portland Episode 4

I’m not really sure what to think about tonight’s episode of Real World Portland. We finally get to really meet the latest roommate Nia. Thanks to a series of clips shown off since the very first episode and the fact that she weirdly lied to her soon-to-be-roommates on the phone by telling them she was Southern and part Cherokee, I find myself not particularly interested in her as a person. From what we’d been shown of her in the episodes leading up to this one, she likes stirring up crap with people and that becomes perfectly evident throughout this episode.

While watching I thought about how crappy it must be coming into a situation like this one later on down the line. When you show up with six other strangers you’re all on the same footing, exploring who they are and how you react to them. When you come in late in the game, though, you’re not only dealing with a somewhat united front (or at least an existing ecosystem of personalities) and you don’t really get to discover on your own. Day one, you’re being told by everyone what everyone else’s real deal is and that seems unfortunate to me.

It wasn’t until partway through the episode that I realized I was being unfair to Nia, but also that I was doing so because MTV and the producers clearly wanted me to. The truth is that, from what we see in this episode, Nia is a strong, independent woman who likes to keep an open mind about things. You can also tell that she’s a very hard person, possibly cold, but she also seems to have some goodness to her. At the same time, she gets really excited when she hears about Jordan’s regular run-ins with the women of the house, specifically Jessica. She assumes they’re not strong enough to deal with it and decides to take it upon herself to deal with him.

During various conversations, Jordan admits that he goes about trying to explain himself to others poorly, but that he’s like that because of how he was raised. He basically wants to treat everyone like his parents treated him which involved pushing him so he could find his true limits. That doesn’t sound so terrible, but he doesn’t want people to ask him for help, he basically wants to push all of his roommates to be like him even if they’re not even remotely interested in the process. Anyway, Nia’s theory is that his insecurity stems from him having a small penis. To test this she asks him if she can perform a sexual act on him in front of the roommates, which he’s a-okay with. She runs around the house and he wants this to go down, but we don’t see what happens because the episode ends.

This is all a little gross to me. From the wildly public showing to the intense, forceful reaction Jordan has to the whole thing. It seems like it’s one big joke to us — which MTV made clear in a commercial between segments — but I felt really bad for Marlon who was completely vibing on Nia and she does this thing right out of nowhere in front of him.

My wife who’s not a fan of the series was in the room but working on something else while I watched. Even though she was only half paying attention she said that it felt like almost everything Nia said to her roommates was a lie. I felt very similarly, but I was also more steeped in the MTV stuff that had been shown before. It doesn’t help that the very first thing she said or did with her roommates on the phone was a lie. And yet we learn some really deep, intense things about Nia’s past that explain why she is who she is to some extent. And that’s really the reason I watch this show. It’s not enough to love or hate the characters, I want to learn what makes them tick, even if they’re not the kind of people I’d want to spend time with it.

Real World Watcher Portland Episode 3

I’ve got to say, this third episode of Real World has a lot going for it. While there’s nothing close to social commentary or anything approaching altruism in any fashion, it did feature the loss of one roommate, the introduction of a new one, the cast going out and getting jobs and one of the cutest Real World romances in quite a while, juxtaposed against one that seems to be making at least one of the parties uncomfortable with the developments.

Let’s jump on in. While it’s not necessarily the main storyline, one of the key elements of the episode revolved around the gang getting jobs. Unlike previous casts, this crop wasn’t given super rad jobs, but were instead set up with a series of potential places they could interview at. There was an all night diner, a yogurt shack and a pizza place that also served drinks. Averey, Johnny, Jordan and Marlon all decided to work at the pizza place while Averey and Jessica wound up at the yogurt place.

“But, wait!” your thinking, “What about Joi?” Well, Joi is a big ol’ quitting quitter who quits. I’m sure it was more complicated than  presented on the episode, but she seems to leave because she thinks getting a counter job would be a big step backwards for her being a college graduate. She calls her dad and pretty quickly leaves the house. Even though Jess and Ava make sad faces about her leaving, no one really seems all that broken up about it. In the single instance of me agreeing with Jordan he says he can’t imagine giving up this kind of opportunity because you’re never going to get another chance to experience something like that. Even with the pouty lips and sad faces, Ava moves into Joi’s old spot with a real quickness, not wanting to be in the room with lovebirds Averey and Johnny anymore and not wanting to risk the potential new roommate being crazy. I wonder how early Joi actually left because it seemed awfully suspicious that she barely appeared last episode. Seems to me like she wasn’t participating with the cast very much or the editors wanted to frontload the second episode with the more prominent storylines of the Johnny/Averey relationship and the Jessica/Jordan animosity.

Speaking of the animosity towards Jordan, everyone seems to be feeling it. There’s a few things between him and Jess (who really does seem to get a kick out of arguing with him), but the real cracks start showing in his relationship with Marlon and Johnny. While out at the clubs one night both guys tell him he’s being a douchebag, but Johnny goes off on him in particular. After Johnny says his piece he tries to remove himself from the situation to calm down, but Jordan won’t let him. He keeps coming over and getting in his face. As Johnny has said several times, he’s not used to not hitting a dude like that. Jordan does get a little respect from his roommates at the end of the episode when he shows off his mad wakeboarding skills, but they still agree that he’s an ass…that can wakeboard well.

Jordan’s usual sparring partner Jessica — who I thought might be bailing because she’s sick of Jordan’s nonsense until I realized that she antagonizes him as much as he annoys her — actually got herself in one of the nicer relationships I’ve seen on the show in a while. She met a gigantic handsom fella named Tyler at a club and he wound up being a pretty nice guy. What’s refreshing about this relationship is that they’re taking things slow and didn’t jump bones right away. I don’t want to judge anyone’s sexual escapades, but it’s nice to see people taking things a little slower, something that’s become almost non-existent on reality television. I loved seeing her get all giddy as she called him up and he asked her on a date. I remember doing something very similar when asking girls to date dances in high school.

If that relationship’s not to your liking, the episode also had healthy doses of Averey and Johnny hooking up. She apparently won’t let him sleep for want of more sex. As if it wasn’t clear from the jump, it doesn’t seem like Johnny really knew what he was getting himself into when it came to Averey. This is actually said a few times throughout the episode — by Averey herself — but is exemplified early on when Averey and a not-yet-gone Joi talk to him about going to a sex shop. Another choice Averey line came in the form of, “I don’t think he’s ever been bondaged. I’m gonna get you to do it and you’re gonna love it.”  Yowza. Later on, after their first day of work, the pizza shop gang hangs out there and gets pretty smashed. After getting into it a bit with Jordan, Johnny goes to the bathroom and Averey follows him in. Everyone knows what they’re doing and one of their fellow workers knocks on the door to break it up.

There’s a moment after the broken up hook up session where the manager tells Johnny that he’s not the type to do something at work and I thought that was really telling. Is he really getting in deeper than he’s comfortable with with Averey? If so, it’s understandable why. He doesn’t want to look like a wuss on national TV or admit that he’s not up to the task of being her sex toy or even interested in the position. Speaking of the manager, I get the feeling that she could be a real Yoda-like figure. She’s a spot-on judge of character, earlier noting that Jordan is the kind of guy who can’t be wrong. He of course thinks that his roommates are talking smack about him, but I think she can just smell it on him.

The episode ends with a person I assume the manager will be able to see through in a heartbeat, new roommate Nia. This is a woman who tells the camera in her audition tape that she loves lying. If you don’t believe her, she pointlessly puts on a fake Southern accent when she calls the house to let them know she’s coming. She also says she’s part Cherokee, again for no reason. I can’t help but think this broad is the most obvious ratings grab in Real World history. Heck, we’ve already seen her hit Jordan in the “this season on” preview, how long can she last? I hope the answer is, “not very long,” because after New Orleans 2’s Ryan, I’m done with vain sociopaths on Real World.

While on the subject of previews and commercials this season, we’re only 3 episodes in and they’ve killed a lot of the dramatic tension. I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but knowing that Nia is coming is actually ruining a bit of this episode because she’s going to be such an asshole. Plus, you’ve got this bubbling conflict between Johnny and Jordan, but you know it’s going to end with Johnny and Averey boning in the bathroom, so there’s zero tension. I know these are little, silly things, but they bug me. Not enough to keep me from watching (yet), but they do get on my nerves.

 

Real World Watcher Portland Episode 2

I mentioned this on twitter, but I think it deserves repeating here on the blog. I don’t watch Real World to see young kids getting into crazy shenanigans anymore. Sure, this show used to me my window into the world of still-young older people and how they interacted with one another and spent there time, but that’s not the case anymore. Now that window’s on younger people doing their thing, but I don’t get a kick out of the show because it’s some rehash of my past glory days or anything along those lines, at this point, I like watching these people like a character study. Even though they’re constantly monitored and even though they’re edited, you can still get a glimpse of why they do what they do. I’m far less interested in Jordan being an argumentative dickhead than I am as to WHY he’s that way, which seems to boil down to his dad (best guess: his pops was always right and Jordan wants to be like him/he loves arguing with other people because he couldn’t argue with his dad). That’s basically where I’m coming from both because I think I’m naturally curious about people and I want to be a writer, so all of this is like inputting raw data for future characters.

Anyway, now that my mini dissertation is over, there was a new episode of The Real World Portland and it wasn’t nearly as much of a doozy as I expected. As you probably know, there’s a new castmember named Nia, but she still hasn’t show up yet. My money’s on Jordan flying off the handle and getting sent home, but it also seems just as likely that someone — Anastasia or Jessica — is going to just get fed up with that dude’s nonsense and bail. So, with each commercial break I was trying to figure out who was going to leave and why and it wound up all being for naught because it didn’t happen this episode.

What did happen this episode? Well, we got to see more of Johnny and Averey’s relationship development. Basically he’s into her and her dog Daisy, but she is super afraid of being hurt by dudes. She must have had some major relationship trauma in the past, though I’m sure we’ll find out more about that as the season progresses. Their kiss from the previous episode is the talk of the house along with Jordan’s weird freakout on Anastasia that lead to him spilling her drink near her feet. The next day he wants to know why he started getting yelled at — like a little kid, constantly asking questions and demanding order from a chaotic universe, screaming at the void for answers! — and Anastasia wants nothing to do with him and just walks away.

Jordan finds a much more willing sparring partner in Jessica this episode. Instead of just backing down, Jess will go so far as to look up facts on the internet just to prove Jordan wrong. What does he do in response? Find THREE sources that contradict her one! Yeah! That’s highly entertaining programming. Good work casting people. We were all hoping that the major drama this season would stem from the costs and benefits of smoking a hookah.

While still on the topic of Jordan, he admits to Jessica that his dad beat him. He says it was a way to teach them right from wrong or somesuch nonsense, but Jessica straight up tells him its abuse. Meanwhile, Jordan tells the camera that his dad told him that it never came from a place of hate, but instead love. Right, because we’re hit the things we love, that’s how life works.

Let’s see, what else? Everyone basically agrees that Jordan needs to be right all the time. They ride around on their bikes and run through a giant fountain. Averey calls her grandma who tells her not to hook up with Johnny because she just met him. Averey informs us that she’s a very sexual creature (wonder where THAT’s going). Jessica has an ex that she broke up with whose emails make her cry, Jordan thinks this is nonsense, but it’s less an ideological opinion and more of the Joker saying that the way Batman throws a Batarang is just silly. Jessica writes some poetry to deal with the feelings about her ex, which she shows to Averey and then everyone in the house swarms around and makes fun which leads me to believe that most/none of them are creative people which sets this cast about as far away from the original New York season as possible.

Oh and did I mention that Marlon admits to hooking up with a guy? He drops this bomb amidst a conversation about anal sex and then MTV promptly cuts to a commerical so you’re not sure if he’s being serious or just messing around. Turns out he was serious. After high school he wasn’t a star football player that people fawned over anymore and he wound up in Austin’s gay scene which was apparently very accepting of him. He eventually hooked up with a white cheerleader dude who called him up for what sounded like a booty call and it went down. He also explained — to Jess who asked him about the details at a later time — that he hasn’t had a girlfriend since the seventh grade. Of course there’s comments ranging from “He can’t be GAY, I saw him macking on girls the other night” to “Maybe he is gay because he hasn’t had a serious girlfriend.” My initial reaction was, “Hey, kids, it doesn’t matter, he likes who he likes,” but then again these are kids at various stages of openness and worldliness, so they’re probably not the best at expressing themselves.

Aside from that, Marlon and Jordan wind up at a gay and lesbian bar because a gaggle (flock? murder?) of lesbians are hanging out outside their loft and tell them they’re heading to said bar. Both seem pretty cool with the whole thing, with Jordan even doing shots with a very large, manish drag queen and exclaiming, “I’m turning gay!” to his pal with a huge smile on his face. It would be easy to read into this like a maniac (and I did, of course), but I’ll just ask the question: would the son of a hardass father who beats him for various reasons ever feel comfortable coming out if he happened to be gay?

There’s some more stuff between Johnny and Averey too. Marlon and Jordan brought some lesbians (or 90s skate punks from the way they were dressed) to the house who woke Johnny up. Instead of partying with them, he crawled into bed with Averey who happened to be naked. The next morning she’s surprised because he didn’t try anything. On another night, they’re out at a club and the two talk about their status and whether they want to be friends with benefits or move on into a relationship. As those kinds of talks usually proceed, they have sex that night. The next morning, Johnny’s all amped and getting breakfast with the guys while Averey goes into the confessional and opens her soul to the camera, desperately hoping that Johnny’s a nice guy, not the type to “Hit it and quit it” as our grandparents used to say. Here’s hoping.

Hey, you know what’s crazy? I’m fairly certain Joi wasn’t in this episode AT ALL. The only reason I even remembered she existed was because one of the Real World accounts I follow on Twitter retweeted her. That’s BONKERS you guys. What’s also bonkers, and a little disappointing, is that neither Marlon nor Johnny are willing to check Jordan on his bullshit. They both kind of nicely point out that he takes things to a weird level and tell the ladies that he’s nearly impossible to talk to because he always needs to be right, but neither of them are like, “Hey man, shut up and grow up.” He’d either responde well to that because it’s what he’s used to or it will be the kind of thing that makes him flip. I’m guessing that the guys just haven’t been personally offended up to this point, but we know from the “this season on” clip that, at some point, Jordan will get into a pretty big shouting match with Marlon which may or may not lead to his dismissal from the house (here’s hoping, though from what I’ve seen Nia doesn’t exactly open a dialog about humanity herself).

Real World Watcher Portland Episode 1

MTV Real World 28 PortlandIt’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.

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!

 

Why We Get So Hung Up On The Realness Of Reality TV

If you’re like me — and I assume some of you are — you find yourself saying, “This can’t be real,” to your television on a somewhat regular basis. I know this has been a complaint of the reality TV genre going way back to the first seasons of The Real World. What’s real about manufacturing this wonderful place, casting a group tailor made to breed conflict, throw them in front of cameras 20 hours a day and seeing what happens, right? Well, that’s not the kind of unreality I’m talking about, but if that’s your quibble, I recommend just avoiding the genre at all costs.

I like reality television because it gives me a window into worlds and onto people I’m not familiar with. Whether those people are a group of 20-somethings living in Seaside Heights, rich ladies of Beverly Hills or people vacuuming for gold in the ocean, I’m curious to see what they’re all about and how the interact. Not every reality show is for me and that’s fine, every thing isn’t for everyone all the time and I’m not offended by things I dislike. If you dig them, rad, if not, don’t watch.

I’m more talking about shows like Discovery’s The Devils Ride, Moonshiners and Amish Mafia which purport to follow groups that supposedly operate outside the law at times and have long-standing reputations as being incredibly secretive, not exactly the kinds of folks who would let cameras in on their daily dealings. In the case of Devils Ride, which claims to follow the exploits of a California-based motorcycle club, we’ve gotten into full-on crime territory in the second season which kicked off a few weeks ago. These guys are stealing motorcycles, destroying stolen property, pulling knives on people and threatening to burn tattoos off with blowtorches. At the same time, Moonshiners is completely built around the illegal production of whiskey in the South and Amish Mafia features gun-toting members of the Amish community who deal with that same community in ways that definitely fall into the extra-legal category.

Now, I can buy that there’s at least one person or group in any organization that can be convinced to let cameras follow them. Lots of people say that’s a huge no no in the MC community, but come on, this is the 20th century, people no longer want their 15 minutes of fame, they want their 15 episodes. You could find just about anyone in any group that would love to have cameras follow them. So, in that regard, while I’m still skeptical, they get something of a pass (though less so with Amish Mafia, which literally goes against everything most people know about that group).

One of my biggest questions when watching these three shows — and I’m sure there are more that fit in this category, but I’m not personally familiar with them — is, “how can it be legal to show these crimes?” And, if it’s not actually illegal to broadcast crimes, how do these people not get in trouble with law enforcement agencies who police such things? On Moonshiners, one of the main guys, Tim, is on his town’s firefighting department. He’s a prominent member of his community and yet he’s not in jail. How does that work? Same for anyone on either of the other two shows who is shown committing a crime.

The answer most of us come up with is that the shows are just fake. Many of them feature quickly-flashed bits of text explaining that some of the events seen in the episode were reenacted, but it’s also completely possible that the Moonshiners guys aren’t really making booze, right? It could just be water in those vats which would make the entire thing legal. On that same note, if every illegal act is being reenacted and not actually presented as what happened, then it’s not really a crime.

“It’s all fake,” is the easiest dismissal of these shows, but I think that’s a little too easy, though it’s not completely beyond the realm of possibility. An episode of Amish Mafia tried to prove that these people are really in the Amish community by showing viewers their names in a kind of Amish directory kept in town. Really? That’s supposed to be proof? Like it’s not impossible to fake the whole book or take an existing book and make up characters based on the names found within?

While watching a recent episode of Devils Ride I looked at all this from a different angle and wondered why any of this really matters. You’re sitting there watching a show and enjoying the drama being presented, does it really matter if the events being portrayed are completely real, based on real events or completely scripted? For some people the answer is no. A story’s a story and if it’s interesting and cool and you’re invested in it, that might be good enough. It doesn’t really matter where the story comes from.

I was okay with that theory for a few minutes until two thoughts popped into my head. First, watching real things heightens the drama because, well, they’re real and the events hold real consequences for actual living people. And second, I don’t like being lied to or misled. That’s the part that just won’t unstick from my craw. Why do the networks feel the need to flash the information about reenactments so quickly? Why not just embrace it, get the show’s stars out there talking about the show and letting the audience in on the secrets? Do they think it will turn too many people away? I guess that’s a possibility, but a little honesty might also wind up bringing in some of the people who scoff at these shows as fake and move on. Would they be so opposed to a story about an established motorcycle club full of interesting characters falling apart? Probably not, but if you have all these hovering questions about realness, then a lot of people are going to tune out.

So, what I’m really saying is that I’d like a little more honesty in my reality TV. I know that sounds silly considering all the insanity that surrounds things like the Real Housewives franchise and its ilk which seems to be built on a general fakeness, but I feel like you have a pretty good idea what you’re getting into when tuning into a show about rich ladies living in huge houses and complaining about each other. That’s as real as they allow it to be. But when a show focuses on a job or group that might not exactly follow the letter of the law, I think being a little more upfront with the audience might get more people in on the joke and enjoy the proceedings without too much internal conflict.

Of course, this is the internet, so even if there was a fair amount of honesty, people would still think it was all made up. But, hey, you can’t please everyone all the time.