Plinky banjo music. Shots of cows. Line dancing. The obligatory “yee haw” shouted during the oh-so-stale “This is the true story…” rigmarole. And a truly frightening neon cowboy that looks like it should be killing children in the next Poltergeist movie. My TV Guide says it's time for the next installment of the Real World, but where in the world could the latest cast of this old reality warhorse be staying? No, don’t tell me! It’s Seattle! No? Sacramento? Providence? Ft. Lauderdale?
No, it’s Austin. If they just would have shown an oil derrick and a mechanical bull, I might have gotten it. Stereotypes aside, let’s meet the West Coast-heavy crew.
First up, is Danny, the Rob Mariano-like Bostonian who is the latest hopeful to redeem his lovely hometown’s reputation that’s been so trashed by meatheads like CT. He’s excited about going somewhere he’s never been before. The saying goes that there's nothing in Austin but steers and queers, but sadly, Danny does not seem to fall in the latter category. Neither does anyone else. Bah. But he's hot. I'll give him a chance.
Next up is Rachel. Now even if you watched the preview, you might not have realized that Rachel once served in Iraq. But, like fellow Iraq veteran Ron Young, she doesn’t like to talk about it. And she’s from California.
Then we meet Nehemiah. Another Californian. But he wants to get out of California because people are always trying to steer him in to do the wrong thing. He picked going on the Real World because of the long-standing history that previous cast members have of making wise choices.
Next, there’s Johanna. She's Lima-born, but now living in, you guessed it, California. She’s was supposed to go get her masters in social work at Columbia, but deferred it to go to Austin. Is that one of those wise decisions you were talking about, Nehemiah? Let’s just hope that social work doesn’t have anything to do with substance abuse counseling. But more on that later.
Wes is next, and he might be described as Josh Hartnett dyed blond, beaten a few times with an ugly stick and totally stripped of all charm and intelligence. And seeing as Josh Hartnett is not known for his critical thinking skills, that's saying a lot. He’s from Kansas and is in terrible need of a good hairdresser. He also mentioned in the previews that he considers himself a stripper, which just passed up "Melanie Griffith in a Broadway musical" on the list of "Things I Never Want to See."
Now we’re introduced to a shy violet named Melinda. Demure and sweet, the Milwaukee native is studying at a convent in France to work with starving orphans. And she has a boyfriend named Jason, who we’ll probably hear crying on the phone a few times and might even see for one heartbreaking visit. Run, Jason. Now.
Finally, we meet buttoned-up Lacey, an Ohioan now living as a hairdresser in Florida. I wonder momentarily whether or not she’ll be able to do anything to help poor Wes, but then she says something about spitting in people’s hair and calling it a spa treatment. Well, for Wes, it couldn’t hurt. But later, we’ll find out that Lacey is a virgin who doesn’t dance or drink hard liquor, which means her screen time will consist of a few shocked reaction shots and maybe a condescending chat or two with the more, let’s say, deviant members of the cast. Remember that blond guy from New Orleans? No? My point exactly. Don’t get too attached to her.
Slowly, the cast members meet one another in the typical ho-hum fashion that has become a Real World staple. Everyone is so excited to see one another! All the roommates are so special in their own way! Fortunately, that never lasts long. I just took the time to enjoy the cameo from Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart as Danny’s cabbie. Boy, times get tough once the wrestling gig’s over. Hear that, Mike from Real World New York?
I must point out, however, the extremely poor skills this cast has regarding snap judgments. Rachel thinks Nehemiah was “looking the total picture of black power.” Why? Because he had on a few beads and a shirt that said something about Ethiopia? Good grief. You’d a thought he was wearing a Kente and shouting about Plymouth Rock falling on him. (I always wondered – was Malcolm X a fan of the musical “Anything Goes”?) Danny thinks Melinda is the “all-American girl.” Umm, maybe he meant a “will-do-any-American” girl. Wes makes the only on-target assessment, astutely figuring out that Danny is from Boston. Well, actually, the scribbly Chiron when we first met Danny said he lived a few miles outside of Boston. But for a Kansas boy, not bad.