Trainwreck Television: The Real World


The vapid, mindless, hump-hungry 20-something castmembers of the MTV show "The Real World" are about as far from reality as one could be. Watching these people parade into emotional potholes, alcohol abuse and hormone-infused "hookups" with each other has been the staple of the MTV stereotype for over 19 seasons now. Its fun to watch people do the same stupid things you have done, knowing the outcome is going to be the same. Americans love schadenfreude (the idea of taking joy from someone else's misfortune) and the Real World delivers this drug every week.

First broadcast in 1992, the show has become MTVs longest running program to date. Each season is a cookie-cutter of the previous season with a new location, new people and new situations, but the same old predictable drama that has made the show a cultural icon for MTV.

They take seven people that would not normally socialize with each other and put them in an immaculately decorated, ultra-high-tech house, complete with hot tub, pool table espresso-maker and a huge kitchen, free of charge. While they live there, they never have to worry about buying groceries as its all taken care of by the producers. Then they give the people a job doing some kind of creative teamwork position with a hip demographic-friendly company (for example, promoting a club in Vegas, working in a sunless tanning salon in Florida, etc). For their reward, they are given a trip to some fantastic, far-off vacation spot (Greece, Cancun, etc). And of course, they document every waking moment of their lives while living in this fantastic place...

And they call it the Real World.

Most people would argue that their idea of the real world doesn't involve getting passed-out drunk every night, living in a house you don't have to pay or buy groceries for and working in an ultra cool job that allows one to take week-long vacations to exotic locations. Most people's real world is far more mundane and far more finance-conscious. But then, that wouldn't make for good television.

Then there is the casting of the show. Every season has the same rubber-stamp stereotype people: the bimbo party girl, the college stud fratboy, the hardcore party animal, the outsider that no one understands, the token African American, and usually the gay/bi/curious person that is hated by the frat boy in the first episode, but become the best of friends by the time the series ends. Every season its the same thing, with the same results.

The next season of the show brings the seven strangers to Hollywood to live and choke on the smog in a house no doubt immaculately decorated with a Golden Age of Hollywood theme. This time, the production is trying some new things. The cast is more "ethnically diverse" (in other words, more than one African American) and the "house" is actually the old "CBS Columbia square" building on Sunset and Gower blvd. It was the home of KCAL-TV until they moved their operation and MTV then picked up the lease.

And of course, to cash in on the popularity, they are going "green" this year. For the first time, the MTV production will have electric cars, energy-efficient lighting, a solar heated swimming pool, etc. And the production is doing the carbon-neutral thing to offset the amount of carbon-burning things that they can't change. (like most of the studio lights).

This next installment of the show also had a gimmick that included a cast member that was chosen by the viewers. Unfortunately, this ended up not working very well as the individual was apparently more real than the companions and has since been kicked off the show.

Their job, this time around is an improvisational comedy troupe that calls themselves "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" (that's fighter jet pilot speak for WTF) and from an eyewitness to their performance, explains them perfectly. Most of the cast members have aspirations of working in the entertainment industry, so being picked to be on the show will definitely be a springboard for these individuals to launch their careers in the business.

The reality behind the real world is that its only as real as the producers allow it to be. The entire show is shaped and molded to tell a titilating story about 7 good looking people in MTV's target demographic and nothing more. And while people love to point out that all they do is drink, fight and fornicate, MTV laughs all the way to the bank.

The new season of "The Real World: Hollywood "will premiere on MTV on May 21, 2008.

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