It has been established, at least amongst those that know me, that I watched an excessive amount of T.V. growing up. I also had a questionable diet, scrounging for quarters in order to support my medium-pizza-a-day-for-myself lunch time habit (the pizza delivery guy and I were on a first name basis). I grew out of eating pizza everyday (kind of), but I must admit, I’m still an avid TV fan, despite the fact that we don’t actually own a TV (thank you Netflix and Hulu).
The types of programs I was wont to choose as a kid were not necessarily those of complete age-appropriateness. I watched all of the Aaron Spelling series: Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, and even Models Inc. (remember that one?) starting at 7 years old. For some reason, I had an extreme distaste for any type of cartoons, or educational shows that I was supposed to watch (with the exceptions of Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Mr. Wizard’s World of course). I was also an avid fan of Saved by the Bell, which, was more suited for my youth, but still touched upon serious topics (hello? Johnny Dakota’s hypocrisy regarding drug use?).
Instead of regretting my time spent in front of the proverbial tube, I embrace my formation of pop cultural references. Plus, I believe that my dedication to watching the first 14* seasons of Real World (my interest waned after 2004) is something that has helped me in my life. How? I haven’t quite worked that part out, but it at least gave me a realistic example of what it would be like to live with roommates. Ok, so that realism faded as years went on, and when I grew up and realized my life was nothing like the Real World, but I admire the initial goal of getting different people together. In the beginning, I believe that they wanted the different people to learn about each other, and as time went on, it was more about the carefully constructed drama. Actually, maybe the difference is found in that in the first few seasons, the 7 chosen made more of an effort to get to know each other and understand their roommates, whereas in later seasons, the participants knew that debauchery and drama were what got higher ratings.
How does this all relate to my present day life? Since the Daily Show is on a two week break, the other day I lacked a 20 minute lunch time show (I guess my watching TV while eating habit hasn’t changed) and I happened upon one of my favorite seasons of the Real World: London (thank you once again Hulu). I started watching the 4th series of the Real World at lunch this week. It has been excellent. Despite the fact that I have seen every episode, and remember my favorite people from that season (Jacinda and Sharon), my actual recollection of what happened is quite vague (someone went to a hospital at some point for something).
In addition to re-learning about what actually happened across the pond, back in the day, I made a number of observations that either I hadn’t noticed before, or that are based on the 18 years it has been since I first saw this season (18 years?!):
1) Politeness. They wait until everyone arrives before choosing rooms. I feel like this is something that is not done anymore. Yet, it makes the most sense as to making a good first impression when moving in with 6 strangers (instead of saying “screw you! I claim this room”). They also seem way less confrontational, vindictive and more communicative.
2) Simplicity. Things just seem more simple, clean cut, and innocent. Maybe it’s because this specific season reminds me of being a kid (since that is my age when I first watched it), and hence, simpler times (despite the fact that serious social and political stuff was going on in the mid-nineties).
3) All of the cast members were artistic/intellectual. There was a DJ (Lars), a model (Jacinda), a singer song writer (Sharon), An anthropology student and fencer (Kat), A psychology PhD student/band member (Neil), a playwright (Jay), and a race car driver (Mike). Ok, so race car driver is not artistic, but it’s still his “thing”. In later seasons of Real World, the cast is forced to work at the same job– a job that often does not interest them. I like that in this season, they all have their own thing, and were in charge of figuring out how to better themselves in their own respective arenas during this 5 month stint in London.
4) Dancing in 1995 in London is really funny for some reason. Seriously. There are many dancing and club montages from the first few shows and their dancing make Miley’s recent escapade look alienesque (I had to make some comment on Ms. Cyrus’ recent VMA performance and the different reactions)
5) The furniture is from Ikea. I don’t think I knew what Ikea was in the nineties. Apparently, though, the first Ikea in the US was built in 1985, and the first in the UK was from 1987. Somehow, the furniture looks quite different from the Lack, Malm, and <insert Swedish words> items that are around my house. Maybe Ikea had a different style back in the day.
The only other crazy thing about rewatching a show 18 years later is trying to imagine what these people are doing now and how they feel about their youth still being available to watch online. Imagine if you could watch 5 months in the life of you mom or dad as a 20 year old (or even of yourself! ). Would it be weird to compare the dreams for your life at that age to what actually happened 18 years down the road? I mean, after all, who could have predicted becoming a weatherman (at least I think this is the same guy)…
What do I take away from these? Be careful what is available of you in video/digital/photographic form, because in 18 years your kids might find it and judge/make fun of you. These first few seasons of real worlders are the first to experience what the advent of new technology will cause us all to experience in twenty years: the inability to escape the past, when it has been so carefully recorded and documented.
Will I care if my future children read this? Probably not. But what’s really weird is that in 18 years, this season of the Real World will be 36 years old, and I bet my kids won’t have even heard of the show–unless they inherit their TV watching gene from me (I also used to love to watch Dragnet, Bewitched, and Get Smart—all of which I watched at least 30 years after they first aired). There’s still hope, I guess.
*I did watch season 19 in Sydney, as well. So, I guess my count is 15 seasons total