Friday, April 1, 2011

The Real World - Too Pretty and Too Young

Confession: It's 4:37 on a Friday afternoon and, for 37 minutes, I've been watching the newest episode of The Real World while chipping away at a Goliath-sized bowl of chili, cheese and Saltine Minis. I wish this wasn't the case but I just couldn't bear to watch anymore Canadian-based HGTV shows so, sadly, here I am.
(no) shame!

If, like most other high school graduates, you're not up-to-date with this season, I'll sum it up for you. Every one is in their early 20's and they're living in a Vegas hotel suite. There are three white boys that are all mildly good looking and at differing levels of immaturity. There are two dull white girls, one pretty young blonde and one pretty young brunette. There are two black cast members, a cocky but attractive male and a cocky but attractive female. A few of them came into the situation with significant others under the impression that they would form only platonic friendships with their roommates of the opposite sex and maintain their strong relationship with their soul mate back home. Then, when they end up flirting, fighting, and falling for a cast mate, they're totally taken aback... as if the same exact thing hasn't happened for the last twenty-plus years. Everyone lounges around, drinks, eats, talks with their mouth full, and cries.

MTV has followed a formula that has successfully produced drama, drama, drunks and drama each season since 1992. However, the show's popularity has steeply declined since Key West's sunny, sassy and severely anorexic season in 2006. Despite the channel's attempt to keep us clued into the show between seasons with the Real World/Road Rules Challenge (which shifted gears after Road Rule's cancellation to become first The Battle of the Seasons, then The Battle of the Sexes, The Gauntlet, The Inferno, Fresh Meat, The Duel, The Island, Cutthroat and several successive seasons of each), they seem to have lost their casting touch in recent years.

While I can't speak for ratings, I can throw out what I see as the general opinion: the show stinks now. The reason for this wane in popularity isn't a secret... they've simply made the show too pretty. We watch it for drama and, for the most part, the exact same fights will bubble up each season, but there's one big difference between say, Real World Seattle (1998) and Real World Cancun (2009)...

Over the years, the cast has gotten younger, thinner, more glamorous and less clothed. But, MTV, come on! We don't care to see skinny, pretty girls flirt with a bunch of babes, then fight each other and cry about it later. We want to see awkward virgins get absorbed in crushes on varsity-type Ivy Leaguers. We want the wirey-haired punky chick to get bitch-slapped by the tall and lanky gay guy in the car on her way out. We want to build a connection to the cast - much easier to do with imperfect characters than those with six-packs, thighs that don't touch, and bathing suit bodies that don't reveal a single dimple, love handle, or beer belly. 

I have to say that at this point, I think the show is irreparable. But, there's an easy way for MTV to fill the void. Fitting with the today's vintage/retro trend, MTV should re-air old seasons, starting from the first. They've got plenty of 18 year old viewers that don't even know about Montana, Puck, Amaya, Ruthie, Tonya, or Flora. I mean, they could at least put them up on On Demand for chili-eating afternoon TV-watchers...

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