Not so Real World: Portland

Last November, back when the 28th season of MTV’s The Real World had just finished filming, I wrote an irascible article centered on how all the cameras were getting in the way of one of my usual haunts, Pizza Schmizza Pub and Grub.

Photo © Viacom International Inc.
Photo © Viacom International Inc.

Last November, back when the 28th season of MTV’s The Real World had just finished filming, I wrote an irascible article centered on how all the cameras were getting in the way of one of my usual haunts, Pizza Schmizza Pub and Grub.

After throwing around some scathing comments and dismissive remarks, I felt that perhaps I had unfairly judged the show too soon. Maybe it would prove to be an intriguing show of deceit, betrayal and torrid affairs, or maybe it would have a charming and witty cast with some odd habits. Either way, I was confident that I could justify even the trashiest, guiltiest-pleasure reality TV show if it was filmed literally across the street from my apartment.

So in an effort to amend any hasty conclusions I had previously made (that may have been a tad biased by my diminished ability to buy pizza), I decided to watch a few episodes of The Real World: Portland.

What a poor decision that was.

First, let me concede that there were a couple of benefits to watching this show—benefits like knowing that I never want to see any more reality television, ever, ever again, and discovering how much I don’t want to use Schmizza’s bathroom anymore.

Those new truths aside, the rest of the show is a disheartening nightmare. MTV has somehow managed to bring all the worst elements of reality television with none of the excitement or build-up.

Most reality shows have a pretty solid formula that seems to work for their viewers: Find really bizarre, obnoxious, delusional and dysfunctional people, and then throw them into situations that exacerbate their worst personality traits.

While such an approach lacks imagination, it still usually provides at least some form of entertainment.

Watching this season’s TRW, it seems MTV may have somehow gotten its formula of personalities jumbled, or just somehow forgot that it exists within the entertainment industry. Whatever the reason, the cast members are just not interesting.

There’s the somewhat mou-thy, abrasive Jordan, who believes himself to be God’s gift to everybody. Then there’s the slightly ditzy Jessica, who smiles a lot when she’s pissed off; and the promiscuous Avery, who flaunts her sexuality like it’s a new concept to enjoy banging. There’s also the laid back Marlon, the dolled-up diva named Anastasia, the drunk and slightly angry Johnny, and the absolutely over-the-top Nia, whom they had to scrounge up in a futile attempt to make
things interesting.

Yet despite all of the face-palm-worthy character flaws of the cast, only light conflict and unsatisfying sexual promiscuity plague the screen.

When Jordan yelled out “Donkey punch!” in a bar for no apparent reason, there was no reaction except a few rolled eyes.

When two cast members got coital inside a public bathroom on their first day of work, it was somehow barely noteworthy, even though everyone in the bar knew it was happening.

When the dog crapped inside the house, no one did anything besides Avery, who slightly scolded the confused, bulgy-eyed canine. That’s right, folks. Not even the dog is cute or interesting.

Watching TRW isn’t like watching a train wreck that you can’t take your eyes off of; it’s like watching a drunken guy tip his bike over and slur a few obscenities.

The show is so bad that even the contestants can’t stand it. Housemate Joi leaves by the third episode in the most lackluster display of disinterest ever recorded. She didn’t have a huge fight with another contestant, she didn’t have some horrible family tragedy happen and she didn’t develop a disfiguring ailment that required immediate treatment. No, Joi just decided that the show wasn’t worth her time.

The best features of TRW end up being the familiar landscapes and buildings behind a yammering cast. Despite having been spoiled by Portlandia’s exposure of our gorgeous city, seeing on TV the places that I walk around regularly is still entertaining.

So that’s what I gained from losing several hours of my life to a dying reality show.

I discovered that even exuberantly horrible, dramatic television still beats a whiny crew that somehow makes sex boring. I learned that Portland is beautiful to see onscreen, but not beautiful enough to make me watch this show ever again. Most importantly, I learned that I’m never using the
bathroom in Pizza Schmizza ever again.