Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Few Thoughts on 'Real World: San Francisco,' Age 37 ...

Last weekend MTV went retro and aired old-school seasons of 'The Real World,' footage I just assumed Puck had hidden forever, stuck with snot rockets between his couch cushions. As far as I could tell, and I've checked plenty, this hadn't been available anywhere at all until now. Not on Hulu, not on Netflix, certainly not on MTV.

Our TiVo, which both knows us so well and but wants us to please watch "Trading Places" every time it airs, captured most of New York and all of San Francisco and the original Las Vegas. This has made me incredibly pro-robot.

I haven't seen the San Francisco season since it originally aired in 1994 and all I remember is Puck taking two fingers swipes from Pedro's Peanut Butter jar, a fascination with Rachel's wild-child ways and, of course, Pedro as an AIDS educator. I also remember, from "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," that Judd, the cartoonist, was selected for the show over Dave Eggers but that Eggers still managed to squeak into an episode.

I still watch 'The Real World.' I'm not sure anyone else my age does. It's kind of like being that middle-aged person who still tunes in to "Days of Our Lives," a fan who came of age when Marlena was Satan  and defines love as that thing that happened between Kayla and Steve and his eye patch. I get a little too interested in whether the couples that crop up can withstand the real real world. I might google "Are Heather and Dustin still together?" every once in a while. (A: Signs point to Yes).

1. I was a little embarrassed when I remembered the way that I idolized Rachel when the show originally aired. She's a loud and proud Republican -- still is -- and her husband is a U.S. rep from a small Wisconsin town near here (and RW: Boston alum). But, 20ish years later, I choose to still dig Rachel for nostalgia reasons: How her Catholic upbringing was the catalyst for digging biker dudes and tattoos. Her wild side at age 22 is pretty transparent, but exactly the sort of thing I would have watched wide-eyed, freshly sprung from my parents' home. Plus, she really enhanced the Puck situation with their weird kind of relationship.

2. These days I suspect that "The Real World" is not-so-secretly trying to kill off a cast member. The template breakdown now tends to include the usual mix of races and sexual identities ... and one sociopath. There is usually someone with an inner simmer who seems one drink from roommate-icide, or, at the very least, a mad episode of home destruction that ends with broken tables, vases, light fixtures. See: Brandon from St. Thomas, Adam from Las Vegas. Episodes seem to be designed around the weekly parties and hookups.

San Francisco maintains that feel of a documentary-style social experiment. There's a truthfulness and earnestness that just doesn't exist anymore. The cast is filled with very different people who seem interested in learning about each other. They also seemed to be living real lives under unusual circumstances. Cory, for instance, is looking for a job and Muhammed works at his dad's club. Judd tries to find places who will subscribe to his weekly cartoon. When they do drink, it's super understated. Sometimes they have to make an effort so their lives overlap -- like with real roommates. And sometimes it's not worth it.

Chuck said, and I agree, "This show was better when they had no idea what they were doing." I wonder which season this all changed.

3. There has to be more to that Puck story. In 2013, no one would get voted off the show for being burping, farting, bike messaging asshole. You actually have to punch someone or throw a fire hydrant out of a hotel room window to get evicted.

4. Pam wasn't the most memorable character to me during my original watch, but all these years later it's fun to see the subtle cues that she and Judd are quietly falling in love behind the scenes. He's an awkward Seinfeld-ian character bumbling his way through bad dates and she's got a long time, long distance boyfriend she seems enamored with, but who simply isn't around for the day to day. These days they're still married, have a couple of kids, and Judd live-Tweeted during a bunch of the episodes last weekend. They came together through their friendship with Pedro and both have gone on to become involved with AIDS education. Adorbs.

5. Man. Pedro was a dynamic public speaker. Also, good news: his boyfriend Sean is still alive. I checked.

6. I don't know when this became an hour-long show, but a half-hour per week seems like just enough time for the cast mates to learn a bit about life.

7. In 1994, it was possible to be on a reality show and then go on to live a life of anonymity. There's no tracking down Jo, who replaced Puck on the show. Cory seems to be a school teacher. Rachel, of course, had some TV talk show host fame and has published a book. Regardless, if anyone in the cast was shuttled off to rehab, it would probably happen quietly and without TMZ capturing it.

8. I mostly wonder what Rachel thought when she saw this was on last weekend.

1 comment:

Jodi said...

Knowing they were re-running the Real World was the first time in two years where I actively missed having real cable (and I watched RW until I got rid of cable even though I found it kind of boring and formulaic).

God, I loved Puck in 1994. I bet I'd find him annoying as hell in 2013.