20 years ago, in 1994, MTV's third season of The Real World was filmed in San Francisco. The cast included college students, young professionals trying to start careers, a Republican and a gay man named Pedro who humanized HIV and AIDS for whole generations of Americans. Most people who care about TV would call it the best season from the series' 28 season run. It was transformative and thought-provoking, as well as incredibly entertaining and heart-breaking.
It's funny to think that the well-endowed babes and super yoked bros who spent some time in a plush apartment off Polk Street a few months ago were in diapers when Pedro, Puck, Rachel and all their buddies discussed politics and activism over the breakfast table. The cast on this season of the show, as well as the cast on any reality show that gets made at this point, grew up steeped in reality TV culture. Unless someone travels to a deep forest and finds some untouched tribe to film for a few weeks, every new reality show is a post-modern homage to the idea that people act "real" in front of cameras in perfectly appointed houses and apartments while chugging very unhealthy amounts of alcohol.
The kids of Ex-Plosion might as well have majored in Reality Star in college. There's Ashley, the terrifyingly skinny sloppy pretty girl, who is "from San Francisco," but speaks with a Southern accent and has a very Marina-girl-stereotype Barbie thing going on. If you pull the cord on her back she says, "My boyfriend is a trainer for the Oracle sailors" completely un-ironically.
There's a guy named Jay who is a poor man's Paulie D, a girl named Jamie who apparently didn't make the cut on Miami Ink, a guy named Cory who I think has been on the last 17 seasons of The Real World already (maybe he's a warlock that never ages?) and a girl named Jenny who is actually just Anna Nicole Smith, risen. The last guy is someone named Thomas whose main skill appears to be being mega-rich (in the first episode, he says: "I don't know who her family is, but my family will buy and sell her family"). The final girl is named Arielle and she's from Oakland, African American, a lesbian, great on screen and clearly the star of the show. Not a super hard feat amongst a cast of wait-what's-that-one's-name-again's but still, she's cute.
Also, the cast includes all of those peoples' exes, who all appear to just be re-runs of people already in the house.
From the first episode and the trailers and behind-the-scenes stuff I have seen, I can pretty much guarantee you that this show is going to be a drunken mess with almost no real relationship to San Francisco except for the rooms, each of which is designed with a neighborhood as a theme (eyes peeled for the vaguely racist Chinatown confessional!). Once the exes show up, it will probably just get messier and messier and drunker and drunker and the hot tub is so small. How will it hold all the drama?!
That said, I'm definitely going to watch. Not only for the glimpses of people and places that I know (I have a friend who signed a waiver so fingers crossed he made it in), but also because it will be trash reality TV at its best, played out by characters who have stuffed their own humanity so deeply below the type they've decided to play that, when we watch them get wasted and say horrific things to each other, we can all rest easy knowing no actual human beings were harmed during the process.
Still, don't let your kids watch. They won't understand what they are watching and you don't want them growing up to be reality stars, do you?