Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What I'm Thankful For: The Real World

4:46:23 am

My name is TJ and I am, in fact, a Real World-aholic. It feels good to admit it in public, but, to be honest, I have no problem talking about my problem. I've been a fan of the Real World for a long time now, which doesn't necessarily vindicate me, but it might explain some things. 1996's season in Miami really sticks out in my memory. I would have been 13 or 14 at the time. The funny thing is that, in the early 90s, my parents sat me down and told me they didn't want me watching MTV because of shows like Beavis and Butthead and rap videos objectifying women.

I followed that rule for a while, but eventually started watching MTV after school and whenever I'd stay up late. The funny thing is that I never liked B&B and I really didn't like rap at the time (and I'm still playing catch up today). But the show that really caught my attention was The Real World. I have a basic knowledge of the seasons before Miami (I've probably seen most of them in reruns by now), but Miami was the first one that really grabbed my attention, partly because of theaforementioned inclusion of Wilstorm Editor Sarah Becker. But the whole cast really intrigued me. These were the kinds of people I didn't experience in my everyday life and it was really cool to see them all together and trying to start a business (which, if memory serves, never took off).

Real Worlds Boston and Seattle were also pretty big deals at the time and probably the last seasons where they didn't stunt cast as much as they do today. I remember talking to my friend Shannon on the phone in high school for hours and one of the big topics of conversation was always the Real World. She was the first person I talked on the phone with for more then two minutes. I don't know why that's important, but it's fun.

After that things started getting crazy with all the drama of Hawaii, then New Orleans and heading back to New York for the tenth anniversary. That was one of the first things in pop culture that actually made me feel old because I actually remembered ten years of something on TV. Of course now I know it to be just the first of many events to make me feel old.

I don't remember much about Chicago by name except for the fact that two guys I would go on to know in college, Jeff and Pat got their way onto the show, though I didn't know them when the episode aired and haven't seen it since. As I've heard the story, they found out where the show was while they were filming and actually set up a lemonade stand outside the house. Eventually they got noticed by the housemates and made their way onto the show! My friends tell me that you can actually see them in the background of an episode that I would love to see.

After Chicago was the game changing Las Vegas which I remember watching every week in Jacob's room in college. It's weird how such a debaucherous show could bring people together (he was in my wedding party). By this time I wasn't talking to Shannon about every episode anymore, but Jacob filled that space pretty well. You know a season's gonna be crazy when there's practically a threesome on the first episode. Jacob (who was a year older) and I would watch the next few seasons together until he graduated.

After that things definitely get fuzzy and I have to refer to the Wikipedia page just to remember who was in what cast, but I was also equally enamored with the Real World/Road Rules Challenges which would pit casts from the two shows against each other in games of a physical nature. I was also a Road Rules fan until they decided to take a Survivor approach and kick people off. "Why become more like the show that's trying to steal your original concept?" I thought. Anyway, I appreciated how they'd schedule Real World seasons to follow Road Rules and vice versa and then once Road Rules tanked for whatever reason they'd fill in with the various challenges.

After college I spent a few months at home where I worked most mornings at Barry's Bagel Place at Westgate and most nights at the Chad/Chad/Toth house (I really miss that place) watching whatever was on MTV (I regret to say that that included The Hills along with the less embarassing Real World and Challenges.

Luckily, when I moved out here to New York I found a kindred Real World spirit in Rickey, who shared my love of how ridiculous the show had become. You see, back when I was a kid I actually wanted to be on the show and now I've reached the peak age at which I could make it onto the show (a realization that struck me a lot harder than it should have). In three months I'll be too old. Depressing. But after a while, that desire to be one of them transformed into an amazement at how self obsessed some people can be as well as a kind of character study. Sure the inclusion of camera will change how people act, but Real World definitely offers the budding writer (which I still consider myself, until I hit the top of that age limit as well) a great look at some truly interesting characters. But, let's be clear, I don't want to sound all literary and whatnot, I do like watching people get drunk and make bad decisions. It's the same part of me that liked watching Jerry Springer when I was younger.

Anyway, Rickey and I stayed pretty well caught up, though I did fall of the wagon for a season until he told me how awesome it was and I caught up with episodes online (I wish every season was available online, I'd watch the crap out of that). Since then I've been watching every season and challenge as they come out.

What I like about the challenges is that you get to see these characters that you got pretty close to in previous seasons. To me they're real people but also just characters on a TV show and seeing them all together on another show is like seeing a cool comic book team-up where you get to see a group of characters you never thought you'd get to see again.

Like I said above, I do have a problem and I accept that. I've known for a while that my love for the Real World and it's bastard offspring is somewhat unnatural, but it really hit home yesterday when I realized that there wouldn't be any new shows this weekend as The Island (the latest challenged) aired it's last episode two weeks ago and it's reunion show last week. I guess I've just got to wait until the new season hits which features a cast in Brooklyn. How crazy is it that I've been living this close to a Real World house and not set up a lemonade stand yet? Hmm, maybe there's still time. What do you say Rickey? Interested?

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