Shacking Up, Making Out, and Sharing

NY Times Review:

You would think that by now the universe might have run out of attractive people in their 20s with fluid morals and questionable judgment, but no. The Real World returns Wednesday on MTV for its 23rd installment. Apparently somebody still watches this show, though who knows why.

The location this time is Washington, or at least the not particularly representative part of Washington embodied by the gentrified Dupont Circle area. That is the site of the house where eight young strangers took up residence last summer for the obligatory drinking, crying, canoodling, arguing and hugging that define this series.

Whether the eight will venture into other, less trendy parts of town remains to be seen, but the makeup of the group doesn't suggest a desire on the producers' part to reflect and absorb the character of the city. Fifty-four percent of Washington residents are black; only 12.5 percent of The Real World house residents are. That is, one-eighth: Ty, a 22-year-old from Baltimore.

Anyway, the opening episode finds the eight meeting, making snap judgments about one another and sharing the kinds of details you normally share with someone you've just met, like how many sexual partners you've had.

The assembly line that produces this show's cast members has, in addition to Ty, this time given us Mike, Callie, Josh, Erika, Emily and Ashley, who need no further introduction because you've seen people just like them if you've watched any of the previous seasons.

The most interesting housemate - the only interesting one actually- is Andrew, a 21-year-old from Denver who appears to lack the self-censoring gene. That leads him to blurt out inappropriate remarks, lies about himself and general idiocy. This will probably get him slugged at some point, but in the opening installment, at least, it gives him an amusing impishness that contrasts markedly with the blandness of his roommates.

"When Josh comes into the house," he says with a mixture of criticism and jealousy, "he walks around the place like he's cooler than everybody. And, to be honest, he is. But I just don't like him knowing that he is."

The first episode dribbles out enough biographical tidbits to generate curiosity among the show's hard-core fans. Ty, it turns out, is adopted. Mike and Emily say they are bisexual, or have at least done some same-sex dabbling. Erika and Josh fancy themselves singers and seem a natural pairing, but each is already in a relationship. Andrew might be a virgin, but it's hard to tell because he lies so much.

The show seems set up to provoke political confrontations, what with the location, the year (the political transition seemed a lot fresher last summer than it does now) and the assortment of presidential portraits in the house. The first big fight, though - in public, of course, at a restaurant - is over religion. Ty is not a big fan of it. Several of the others are.

Hey, at least these young people know what religion is. Over at Jersey Shore, MTV's more notorious eight-in-a-house show, if you wanted the cast to have an in-depth discussion about God and spirituality you'd probably have to define them first.



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