Reality Bites: Friendzone

Here's the thing: The people who still make jokes about how MTV *used* to play music long ago fell out of step with reality (no pun intended). The Real World debuted in 1992, and if we're to listen to the whinier members of Generation X, that's when things apparently started falling apart for the vaunted network that gave us Riki Rachtman and 14 daily airings of Duran Duran's "Rio."

MTV's primary function (a place for bored teenagers to idle away their youth) remains the same. It's just that now they accomplish the same feat with dumbass reality shows instead of dumbass Styx and April Wine videos. I'd like to say I'd have avoided a show like Friendzone when I was 15, but you'd have had to drag me away from Loverboy's "Hot Girls in Love" for more than ten seconds to admit it.

You're all familiar with the mythical "friend zone," I assume. It's that terrible place one finds themselves when the object of their affection holds them in merely platonic regard. Wait, that might be too complicated. Here's a handy graphic:

Granted, this is an extreme example, but you get the point.

The "contestants" on the episode I watched (maybe they aren't actually called that, but this really has all the hallmarks of an exceedingly cruel game show) were Stormy and Antonio. Aspiring musician Antonio is smitten with the winsome Megan, his promoter, while Stormy is longtime BFFs with Grover. The first dilemma seems fairly straightforward (and right out of most guys' experience): Dude nurses lengthy crush on girl and must profess his love or suffer an eternity of not knowing if she might have been The One.

Stormy's problem is a little stickier: Grover is gay.

Yeah, let's stay with Antonio. He met Megan at a club in Florida, the two hit it off, she promotes his musical career by doing things like getting him into a VIP meet with Slick Rick and Coolio (who I understand are two significant "rap" personalities). I wouldn't have the heart to tell him that it sounds like *she* thinks *he's* gay, especially if they're in the habit of rollerblading together and he hasn't made a move in two years.

He's feeling "anxiousness" as the big day approaches. And my theory looks a little more solid as she checks him out before his "mystery date" (everybody uses their secret crush as an adviser for some fake rendezvous, which might throw them off if it wasn't for the omnipresent cameras): "You look so *cute*! Do a spin for me!" I'm sorry, but those phrases are not in the vocabulary of a woman who wants to get freaky with you.

He confesses, and it appears I was wrong, even if she sounds less than enthused at the prospect ("I want Antonio and I to get to know each other." Hardly a ringing endorsement), I'm not buying that this is going anywhere, but whatever. Everybody said Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes wouldn't last, either.

Stormy and Grover are a bit of a different story: childhood best friends, separated in their teen years and recently reunited. She's pined for him the whole time and now that they're back together in Florida (seriously, we need a Congressional investigation into what the hell is wrong with that state), she figures now is the perfect time to reveal her feelings.

Girlfriend, he wears pedal pushers.

Nobody feels this is a wise course of action. And by "nobody" I mean me watching at him and Stormy's mother, who goes so far as to tell her daughter she's probably out of her freaking mind. Maybe Mom tried to "turn" a few guys in her own time and wants to spare her little girl the inevitable humiliation.

As with Antonio and Megan, Grover's being set up as Stormy's "adviser" for some mythical dream date, which is a subterfuge that can't possibly backfire (girlfriend, he wears light yellow flip-flops that match his shirt and pants, do we have to draw you a diagram?). Jesus, I actually feel bad for this poor girl. She's built a lifetime of hope into the faint possibility she can convince him not to "putt from the rough."

And as we all know, this only works if you're Ben Affleck.

Big surprise, Grover isn't going for it: "I'm kind of gay." Yep, didn't see that coming (and you're not "kind of gay," friend, Ace and Gary are "kind of" gay). Stormy cries, Mom consoles and by the end of it all, they drift apart, because few of us want to be around our unrequited love while he hangs out with his...requited ones.

I assume this is how each show is edited: One person leaves the friend zone for the occasionally happier but much more complicated zone of intimacy, the other remains at arm's length (unless said arm is needed for a consolation hug when their latest boy/girlfriend treats them like shit). As MTV's sins against television go, this one's more palatable than most, possibly because it actually -- dare I say -- resonates with many of us more than shows about drunken ethnic stereotypes or seven dipshits "getting real".

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