Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"This isn't 'reality'...this is real"

Lately, MTV has been scrambling to find new shows to shove into its primetime slots. With The Hills in its last season (or so they say…) and The City getting not-so-good viewership, producers have been announcing major additions to the channel’s lineup, including College Life, a low-budget reality show that chronicles the lives of a handful of University of Wisconsin—Madison freshmen.

College Life is completely self-produced by the participants. Each student is given a $500 camera (provided by MTV) and is instructed to film any and everything that they think might make good television. Needless to say, the quality of production is subpar at best. With out of focus shots, missing pivotal moments, and less-than-entertaining dialogue, it’s easy to see that reality television is scripted for a reason.

MTV does do a pretty good job of getting a diverse group of relatable students to shoot, though. Here are a few of the most interesting characters:

Andrea: Born in Wisconsin, she’s a devout Christian committed to saving herself for marriage even in the midst of her many boyfriends—one of whom is JJ, a big beefy athlete. Her high-school ex-sweetheart, Josh, also attends the school, and they hang out. A lot. Way more than exes should. Conveniently, Josh is also a virgin. This week, Andrea “breaks up” with Josh “for good.” Prediction: a Lauren Conrad-Stephen Colletti-Kristin Cavallari-type love triangle, except this time the girl’s the player.

Jordan: This half Jamaican, half Canadian freshman grew up in the conservative town of Wheaton, Illinois. And he never lets you forget it. Lately, he’s been having some issues dealing with his family life. He got a $2400 tattoo (a little excessive, don’t you think?) across his arm instead of paying his mom back for tuition, so, naturally, she cuts him off. Prediction: he gets a job, and he has a hard time making friends because of his mixed heritage and unique situation. No one could possibly understand.

Kevin: College would be incomplete without your regular beer-bellied party animal. From Minnesota, Kevin is that guy you know down the hall that won’t stop blasting music and playing beer pong even though it’s 1 A.M. the night before finals. He likes filming himself drinking, especially if he happens to be chugging Natty Ice and making a fool of himself. He’s been having some trouble with school and has gotten written up three times for alcohol violations. This week, he was officially kicked out of housing. Prediction: a bachelor pad for Kev with a built-in beer pong table and more of the same old, because watching drunk college students is way more entertaining than watching them study.

Even though the plots are boring and the camerawork is hard to follow, MTV deserves some credit for backing off and allowing kids to recreate themselves through this show. It will be interesting to see where these kids take their stories. Although UW-Madison doesn’t endorse the show, the tagline “this isn’t ‘reality’…this is real” seems to hold true, and their struggles, conversations, and attitudes hit home. And after all, MTV doesn't care whether you love it or hate the show, only whether or not you're watching it.

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