Showing posts with label Reality TV. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reality TV. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Telltale Signs Children of the 90s are Getting Older

You knew it would happen, you just never imagined it would happen to you. One day you’re raging against the machine and bringing the man down while wearing flannel (or if you were more like me, grooving to Ace of Base on your Walkman while donning a Blossom hat) and the next you’re shaking your fist in a crotchety manner and muttering incoherently about the trouble with “kids today.” Where do the years go?

Getting older is inevitable, but the gradual onset of adulthood makes it difficult to pinpoint that exact moment you start to worry about the health of your 401K and can sustain lengthy dinner party conversations about mortgage rates and homeowner association costs. Just in case you’ve been building up a thick shield of denial, Children of the 90s is here to break it down and point out all the glaring signs that you’re just not as young as you used to be. Sounds like fun, right? Here goes:

The Shows you Grew Up With are on Nick at Nite

When we were kids, Nick at Nite was a block of television that featured significantly older and largely black and white sitcoms like I Love Lucy and The Munsters. At some point I must have stopped watching because I was recently shocked to learn that Nick at Nite now plays Home Improvement and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. When did all of the things I grew up with get so retro? Do kids today think of Full House the same way I thought of Mr. Ed? A terrifying prospect indeed.

The Kids on The Real World keep getting Younger

When The Real World premiered in 1992, its stars seemed so grown-up to us children of the 90s. Fast forward 25 seasons and a suspicious trend is emerging: the cast members not only seem to be growing less relevant and more obscure with each year, but also significantly younger. Some may argue that we’re just getting older, but I think it’s all a matter of perspective.

You Still Think of Actors as the Iconic Characters they Portrayed in their Youth

Perhaps you find yourself wondering why Zach Morris from Saved by the Bell and Travis from Clueless are pretending to be lawyers together weeknights on TNT. Or, alternatively, you’re still marveling that Clarissa Darling and Blossom’s brother are involved in weekly madcap manny adventures. Regardless of all of the mold-breaking and serious roles these former teen actors undertake, it can be hard to remove them from the context of the Bop! magazine pullout posters that once plastered our walls.

Your Favorite Teen Pop Stars are Constantly Staging Comebacks

It may seem like only yesterday that young stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were shocking audiences with their bare midriffs and provocative dancing, but they’ve long since been replaced by a new generation of teen stars. The teen pop stars we grew up with are desperately clinging to their former sex-symbol statuses, and while many have managed to remain in the limelight it’s often been through tightly managed “comeback” moves and constant reinvention.

Rap Songs all Sound the Same, and the ones you like are by Artists who have been around Twenty Years

Case in point: I still love Jay-Z. His current age? 41. Hardly a representative of young folks today. Other pertinent examples: Snoop Dogg (age 39), P. Diddy (age 41) , Dr. Dre (age 46), Eminem (age 38), 50 Cent (age 35), Nelly (age 36)....need I go on?

It’s finally happened: I’ve turned into the old person who changes the radio station when an irritatingly repetitive rap song comes on. I find myself complaining about the lack of creativity, vulgar lyrics, and overly catchy hooks I can’t get out of my head. When a new rap song I like comes on, nine times out of ten the rapper is older than 35 and has been churning out hits since the early 90s.

Hollywood is already Remaking the Movies you Watched as a Kid

The movie industry is clearly low on new ideas. How else can you explain remaking films as recent as The Karate Kid, Footloose, The Bodyguard, and Total Recall? There are kids out there who don’t even know there was an original Karate Kid, or even if they do, they’re disappointed he couldn’t rap and wasn’t featured in a Justin Bieber song. Truly tragic.

You’ve Lived Through a Full Cycle of Fashion

All you have to do is walk into an American Apparel or Urban Outfitters to realize that their “new arrival” items are a reboot of the what you used to wear in junior high. A quick glance at the American Apparel website shows items like light wash high waisted jeans, neon scrunchies, leggings, and bodysuits. If only you had saved your middle school wardrobe, you’d save yourself a lot of money on new clothes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Real World

Last weekend, sometime between my many hours wasted watching For the Love of Ray J, World's Strictest Parents, and MTV Teen Cribs I got to thinking where exactly reality TV has veered off course. We all know it's far cheaper and easier for networks to produce reality shows that actual scripted TV shows with content and purpose, but somewhere along the way the phenomenon has spun out of control. While now we're now looking for the greatest American dog and giving Brett Michael's most curious female cast-offs their own half hour of television, in the 90s reality TV was still a burgeoning idea. It may shock and amaze you now, but the modifier "reality" once preceded the noun "TV" without even a trace of irony.

The Real World is still on of course, but we can all agree it's gotten a whole lot less real over its 22 seasons-to-date run. Now at open casting calls I imagine they have check boxes with labels like "Drunken Frat Boy Likely to Pick an Ignorant and Poorly Thought-Out Fight" or "Frustrated Psuedo-Intellectual Racial or Sexual Preference Minority Prototype", but in 1992 when the show premiered the show was a fresh concept.

Producers (and now reality show moguls) Jonathan Murray and Mary Ellis-Bunim initially considered making The Real World a semi-scripted soap opera, giving the preselected cast members a blueprint of their character development and storylines. You know, like they do nowadays on reality TV. If this idea had come to fruition with the quickly dissembled so-called "Season 0" cast, we could have seen Tracy Grandstaff (the then-future voice of MTV's Daria) play out as a character on The Real World. The pilot was soon dropped and exchanged for an actual set of seven strangers, forming the 1992 premiere season of The Real World.

In 1992, we first heard of MTV's grand social experiment, as the New York season premiered with these now-familiar words:

This is the true story... of seven strangers... picked to live in a together and have their lives taped... to find out what happens... when people stop being polite... and start getting real...The Real World.

For your viewing pleasure, a montage of Real World Intros. I couldn't find them any other way. The first one on there is New York, my favorite part of which has got to be when they intone "...and start getting real," after which we hear a cast member yell, "Can you get the phone?" This was them not being polite/being real in 1992. Amazing.

So, what exactly happened when people stopped being polite and started being real? In 1992, this was actually a provocative and novel question. MTV brought in Becky, Norman, Heather, Julie, Kevin, Eric, and Andre to help us find out. I'm going to go out on a limb here and side with pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman in declaring the first season to be the only season of TRW that was actually "real" by any definition of the world. There was no meta self awareness going on, nor was there shameless self promotion in pursuit of low-tier fame. The first cast was the only one with no idea what was in store, what would get them screen time, or how the show would look as a finished product.

This was a short-lived phenomenon, of course, and soon the show was riddled with the kind of drama producers and sponsors salivate over. Here are just a few of the many, many ratings-skyrocketing dramatic moments that characterized the show in the 90s:

Puck vs. Everyone, Especially Pedro (San Francisco)

Sometimes good heartedness and good TV just don't mix. David "Puck" Rainey was a prime example of this phenomenon. No one could deny that watching his puzzling, over-the-top, and frequently unhygienic antics was entertaining. His worldview, however, was not quite as appealing to viewers as his penchant for picking his nose and eating peanut butter from the jar with his fingers. Puck was a notorious attention hog who represented the brazen new class of wannabe fame-seekers who made up the rising underclass of reality TV. He came to blows with pretty much everyone in the house, but the most memorable and shameful was his confrontation with Pedro Zamora.

Zamora had been diagnosed with AIDS, and his kind spirit and desire to battle ignorance against his disease made him the ideal target for Puck. Essentially, Puck became incensed that Pedro was a far more interesting character than him and thus was receiving far more attention. The only logical solution in his deluded mind was to attack Pedro constantly, instigating unnecessary confrontations. Pedro, in all his goodness, was ready to leave the house under the siege of torment until the other cast members decided to evict Puck. Sadly, Pedro died almost immediately after the airing of the San Francisco season finale, but his triumph over an asshat like Puck was a well-deserved minor victory.

Melissa and Dan Fight Over Postal Rights (Miami, 1996)

I don't know about you, but I take the US Postal Service's code to honor the privacy of my mail very seriously. Which is why it came as no surprise to me when Dan exploded upon finding that Melissa opened his letter containing pricey materials for his work. He goes so far as to call her a stupid bitch, which seems a little harsh for some innocent housemate mail-tampering. Things escalate quickly, as they tend to do on The Real World. In retaliation, Melissa flung some anti-gay slurs at him, which in retrospect was probably not a wise move. The drama just oozes from this clip. It's ridiculous TRW at its finest.

The Slap Heard Round the World (Seattle, 1998)

Possibly the most infamous of Real World moments was what MTV dubbed "The Slap Heard Round the World". Even this early in the game, MTV realized the value of branding and packaging TRW's drama and making it seem like news. I suppose it's a testament to the show's resonance that people still remember this moment, though to its credit it is absolutely crazy.

Irene was looking for an out, so she cried Lyme Disease and asked to leave the show. To be fair, she did actually have Lyme Disease, but her claims of its debilitating impact may have been just a bit exaggerated. In what must have been a Lyme Disease-induced bout of insanity, she outs Stephen as a homosexual. Smooth move, Irene. To retaliate, Stephen does what any normal guy would do. That is to say, he throws her prized stuffed animal into the watery abyss and then stops her moving car to slap her in the face.

If he was working to quell those murmurings about his sexuality, this may not have been his best move. All in all, Irene may have had the last laugh, or at least a validation of her character over Stephen's. In the early 2000s he was arrested for prostitution and then for stealing a 1988 Toyota Camry. Smooth move, Stephen. We can only imagine his indisposed clients asking to reenact that fateful slapping scene. Though to be honest, I'd prefer not to.

As many of you well know, these moments are just the tip of the iceberg. The crazy seemed to snowball with each new season, turning the show into a free-for-all frenzy of threesomes, stereotyped character molds, and general drunken debauchery. In the early years, though, it was more of a legitimate social experiment to see what happened what people stopped being polite, and started getting real. Okay, so that reality may have included a verbal pillaging for semi-innocent mail tampering, but it still beats watching The Real World: Cancun.

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