In its heyday, The Real World was the first of its kind and pretty much created the genre of reality tv that's now clogging practically every channel on television. Part of the thing that was fascinating about it was that it allowed us to watch people from very disparate backgrounds grapple with hot-button issues like sexuality, self-image, addiction, etc. That is a much more crowded field now. The louder, more obnoxious beer-soaked iteration of the show is not nearly as outrageous as, say, Rock of Love or The Bad Girls' Club. But a more subtle, intellectualized Real World isn't necessarily the answer either. Largely because there has to be some dramatic catalyst, and after 17 (Christ that makes me feel old) years of The Real World and, by extension, reality TV, there are very few hot button issues left to get people riled about.
The most obvious agent for dramatic tension thus far seems to be transgender castmember Kat, specifically as regards her interaction with much more traditional or sheltered members of the house Ryan and Chet. But not only is this a tired-ass dynamic, it seems like one that can and should be easily diffused and dispensed with. Because of the reach of shows like this one, it seems pretty implausible that anyone showing up to an audition for The Real World would be so wide-eyed and naive that meeting, let alone living with someone transgendered (gay is just old-hat now) would truly be a fraught issue. Gone are the days when those young, fresh off the turnip truck bumpkins (like Julie from Season One or Jon from Season Two) would bat an eyelash at sharing a living space with a black person or a gay person or someone with AIDS.
I applaud MTV's conspicuous effort to provide people who seem to have a bit more depth to them -- Iraq war vet Ryan seems less like an archetypal redneck military dude than one would expect -- but at what cost have the show's producers toned down the party vibe and replaced it with a smattering of more complicated characters? Or, put another way, if there's no social commentary and no drunken shower sex, what the hell is there?
What did you guys think of last night's premiere? Shower me with your wisdom and insight.
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