TV preview: Hank Stuever on MTV's 'The Real World: D.C.'
If you tossed a manila folder containing headshots of all the 170 or so dipwads, skanks, dorks, studs, punks, layabouts, hipsters, frat boys, princesses, alcoholics, dreamers, androgynes, breasty sweetie-pies, thugs, defensive right-wingers, dilettante liberals, wannabe musicians/actors/rappers/comedians, future spokesmodels, racist hicks and angry minorities who've ever done time in the pop-art confines of 23 seasons (!) of MTV's "The Real World," and let the contents scatter to the floor, and then allowed me 15 minutes or so to sort the cast members by season and city, I might do all right, at first:
Heather B. goes with the primordial 1992 New York season, of course, with Eric, Julie and Norman; Jacinda goes with London; Pedro and Puck will always have San Francisco; and here's that gay/not-gay/gay black dude who slapped that one heavy-lidded white chick in Seattle for calling him gay. But I'd have to give up around 2000 or so (Colin goes with Hawaii? Mormon Girl was New Orleans?), as my addled Gen-X brain clouds over like a badly filtrated "Real World" Jacuzzi.
As these young hatchlings embarrassed themselves while fitfully cohabiting in an Ikea-furnished bacchanal, my interest (and perhaps yours) has waned in direct proportion to the aging process, which is the natural course of things.
But there was always one nagging question left unanswered as the show repeated its formula into oblivion: Why not Washington, D.C.?
The moaning about this deliberate oversight went on for years. What was so uncool about Washington for MTV to have ignored us all this while -- especially at the height of Monicagate or "The West Wing" or the post-9/11 Code Orange gloom? (There were reasons! For a long time, it was believed by some that Metro's ban on film crews in the subway system was to blame.) The excuses rarely passed scrutiny, and the ardor still burned: Can we please have a "Real World?"
At long last, the answer is here: Yes, we can.
Washington is not too boring for "The Real World," but times have changed. Now it turns out to be the other way around: "The Real World" is too boring for Washington.
Or anyplace else. The show is moribund, calcified and predictably dull -- so much so that it's hard to believe there are still young people who will volunteer for this duty. Being on "The Real World" now looks remarkably old-fashioned, like attending some ancient cotillion, or meeting the other Archies down at the malt shop.
"I'm Ashley," says a bubbly, Obama-obsessed, raven-haired 22-year-old Californian, waiting at the top of the escalator on the terminal level of Reagan National Airport in the opening seconds of "The Real World: D.C.," which premieres Wednesday night on MTV after much too much anticipation and local gossip during last summer's taping. (And already there's a believability problem: What dumb-dumb gets her luggage down in Arrivals and then climbs two more levels back up to Departures, unless she's part of a giant contrivance known as a reality show?)
"I'm Mike," says a muscle-bound cardboard Adonis, rising like a green-eyed vision on the escalator, having just explained to us in his "audition video" that he lives in a "normal" Colorado suburb, works for a rental-car company, and likes to play football and go to church.
They hug hello. (They hug because kids today -- Generation Coddled -- always hug first and then seek meaningfulness later.)
"He's cute," Ashley confides.