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Reality Bites: The Real World: Ex-Plosion

Partner abuse: abhorrent unless it jacks up our ratings.
Partner abuse: abhorrent unless it jacks up our ratings.

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

There's a scene in this episode of MTV's The Real World: Ex-Plosion where -- after a Festivus-like airing of grievances -- two of the characters (I'll call them "Mook Skywalker" and "Hootie McBoob") engage in something resembling fisticuffs. MTV, perhaps remembering the lessons of Snooki's beatdown on Jersey Shore, immediately cut in with this gem:

If you or some you know if dealing with dating abuse, chat with someone who can help at www.loveisrespect.org

I hope the first thing the helper on the web site tells anyone contacting them is there's no worse abuse than making a loved one watch the fucking Real World.

The Real World is "credited" with launching the modern reality show. Creators Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray have both been inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame as a result (Bunim posthumously, she passed away in 2004), but after dealing with the show's influence for the last 20+ years, perhaps a more fitting legacy would be firebombing the Bunim/Murray Productions offices into molten slag.

You know the premise of The Real World: "seven strangers picked to live in a house," etc etc. Looking back to earlier seasons, with their housemates possessing actual ambitions and career opportunities, seems almost prosaic when compared to the parade of generic bros and bimbos currently on display.

[Almost forgot, the "twist" in TRW: Ex-Plosion is the surprise arrival of several housemates' exes, leading to hurt feelings and other hilarious emotional damage.]

You get the sense of the difference from the early seasons when Cory describes the show as a "once in a lifetime opportunity." To be sure, he'd make a fine trapezius model, but I wonder whose career he's hoping to emulate; Seattle's David Burns, who won a whopping $8,500 on Road Rules challenges? Puck from San Francisco, who has a DUI and prison sentence to his credit? Perhaps he aspires to the heights scaled by San Diego's Jamie Chung, who played Ed Helms' wife in Hangover III?

Most of the action in The Episode I Watched (back in San Fran this time around) centers on Brian and Jenny (the aforementioned Mook and Hootie). Brian is Jenny's ex, an in a previous episode he apparently "hooked up" (as the kids say) with someone "at the club" (as nobody says). Surely talking about it -- to Cory as well as the audience -- won't come back and bite him on the ass.

On one hand, it's a good thing he's so wracked with guilt over kissing some random chick. On the other hand ... dude, you *kissed* a random chick. Staying home with a phantom tummy ache because of guilt seems a bit much, even for someone clearly suffering from a deficiency in moral fiber. Or maybe all his talk about Jenny "kicking his ass" isn't hyperbole (she looks like she could throw a decent punch). Of course he tells her, and of course she angrily tells him he's "lit the flames of hell." Gee, it's hard to tell why these crazy kids ever broke up in the first place.

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Epic line, bro.
Epic line, bro.

Meanwhile, Jenna is Jay's ex, and they -- like several other former significant others on the show -- appear to be back together. Never mind the fact Jay still hits on girls at the gym, and the bar, and probably at traffic lights. Jenna just wants to hear him say he LOVES HER, but is too much of a doormat to say so, even when interrogated by a producer(!). More on that phenomenon later.

It goes on. Hailey is Thomas' ex. She has a very nice butt, at least the cameraman thinks so. However Thomas is dating Jamie, I think. This is about the point where I started making up names. Jamie is "Sleeves," for example, and Thomas is "Blake Shelton, Jr." He's like a dumber, more yoked Emile Hirsch, and he's also That Guy who gets emotional about relationship shit when he's out with friends. In other words, the person anyone over 30 has eliminated from their social circle. "Oh cruel fate, my ex-girlfriend is flirting with other dudes in my presence while I'm here with my current girlfriend!"

Where's the Zodiac killer when you need him?

Cory had an ex who showed up then left, I think. It's hard to keep track in this sea of knit caps and voluminous cleavage.

Hootie ends up making out with some German dude "at the club" (dammit) in revenge for Mook's dalliance, hilariously lamenting the presence of cameras all the while (even I know you have to go in the bathroom to get some privacy).

The drama escalates when everyone returns to the house. One thing you have to give those Jersey Shore idiots: they didn't all race to "The Confessional" as soon as they got home. We also meet Ashley and her ex Arielle for the first time. Wait, Ashley and Arielle? Halfway through the show and we're just now getting to the lesbians? Outrageous.

We end, mercifully, with Brian and Jenn ... sorry, Mook and Hootie getting into it (he even refers to her as the Kraken, though without knowing what it's called), and Marlene the producer has to come out and intervene. Which appears to be a common occurrence.

That they don't even bother disguising the presence of cameras and sound guys anymore represents a level of MTV's contempt for the audience that would be astounding if you thought anybody at the network gave a shit. But it's pretty apparent from this show they threw in the towel long ago, contenting themselves with cramming as many attractive people as possible into the situation, mental problems and propensity for violence be damned. That's "entertainment."


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