Unless MTV launches “The Real World: Florida Retirement Home,” it looks like I won’t achieve one of my life goals: to make it on the show as a cast member. Even though I’ve never missed an episode in the 15-year history of the show, I somehow missed the fact that the “Real World” casts only 18- through 24 – year – olds. Now that I’m 31, I wonder: Should I even be watching MTV anymore?
I was 5 when the Buggles kicked off the network with “Video Killed the Radio Star,” 9 when that sweet blocky CGI video for Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” filled my afternoons and 19 when the original “Headbanger’s Ball” and “YoMTV Raps” went off the air (Rikki Rachtman, Dr. Dre and Ed Lover, we hardly knew ye). I, along with the cusp generation sandwiched between X and Y, grew up with the cable station.
And for the most part, the station grew with us. Sure, by 2002, with the Las Vegas edition, “Real World” had devolved into a sex – fueled drinkfest. Despite the continued raunch, the show also gave a face to the struggles of cystic fibrosis and spurred dialogue on domestic abuse issues.
Just as we were getting our credit cards, first jobs and first apartments, along came “Cribs” and “Pimp My Ride,” the urban Martha Stewart for young professionals. Of course, I know to stock my fridge with Cristal and a year’s supply of Mr. Freeze popsicles, but how else would I know to install a whole Starbucks franchise in my home a la Tommy Lee or convert a Lamborghini shell into a bed a la Missy Elliot? It still remains a mystery to me, though, why folks with endless cash always seem to end up living in oversized McMansions replete with gaudy leather furniture and animal print rugs.
While I haven’t stopped watching my beloved MTV, many of my friends have. Now that many of them are moving to the suburbs and having kids, they make fun of me as they turn to more mature fare like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives.” These, to me, are just drunken sexfests for the older set.
I can’t say I haven’t thought about kicking my MTV habit. I was appalled when Pete Wentz and other Fall Out Boy members trashed their instruments on the Video Music Awards last month. My wife and I had our first child this year, but I avoided fatherhood for years, because part of me feared my child would eventually become a spoiled brat in the vein of those kids on “My Super Sweet Sixteen.” Or even worse, that my future daughter would become one of those Sidekick – toting morons whose entire verbal lexicon consists of “like” and “totally,” punctuated by blank death stares, like on “The Hills” or “Newport Harbor.”
I guess it’s odd to expect a TV station to grow up with you. I mean, I get nostalgic for Nickelodeon fare such as “You Can’t Do That On Television,” but I don’t long for Alanis Morrisette to get slimed anymore. I’d much rather watch her parody Fergie’s “My Humps” on You Tube.
My biggest fear is that while I’m still watching “JackAss: Wheelchair Antics,” I’ll become a parody, like Mr. Belding on “Saved by the Bell,” the adult who tries too hard with the kids. I worry I’ll be flashing a geriatric BenGay-scented thumbs up at teenagers, and be like “Dude, did you catch ‘Real Word: Dubai 2027’? And how about that Plain White T’s reunion on the VMAs?”
I guess I’ll just have to trust I’ll know when to hang up the remote. Until then, I really need to catch up on Cohutta and KellyAnne’s burgeoning love affair on “Real World: Sydney.”
This article first appeared in a different form in the Chicago Tribune’s Redeye