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MTV 'Real World' misfires miserably

Sunday, August 04, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Maybe I'm just making excuses, but I can understand why someone thought this would be a funny movie. The concept, oddball though it was, made me chuckle when I first heard it a few months ago. The finished film, alas, did not.

TV Review
"The Real World: The Lost Season"
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday on MTV.
Starring: No one you've ever heard of before or are likely to hear of in the future.

Maybe it was botched execution or maybe it was a lousy idea from the start. After all, MTV's "The Real World" long ago became a parody of itself. Why bother parodying a parody?

This week's "The Real World: The Lost Season" attempts just that. Executive-produced by the creators of "The Real World," Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jon Murray, it starts out like an episode of yet another edition of the long-running "reality" series, this one set in Vancouver.

Viewers meet all the various "types": Melinda (Julie Patzwald) the virgin, Adam (John Henry Reardon) the jock, Omara (Shani Pride) the opinionated, Boomer (Michael Leisen) the soulful, Liz (Laura Jordan) the selfish witch, Keith (Peter Shinkoda) the loner and Cash (Matthew Currie Holmes) the sensitive.

Meeting this latest batch, fake though they may be, will provide long-time fans with a few knowing chuckles. But it's also so blatantly obvious, viewers would be advised to check themselves for anvil marks.

Written by Ted Iredell, Joyce Corrington and James Larosa, "The Lost Season" is at its most entertaining in the earliest, most familiar scenes as the cast members meet, move into their swank pad and begin fighting or making nice.

Frat boy Adam and black pride promoter Omara are, predictably, like oil and water; virginal Melinda and potentially gay Cash hit it off.

"So, you're a writer?" Melinda says to Cash. "TV? Movies?"

"Novels, actually," he replies in one of the movie's wittier, less obvious moments.

And then the movie runs off the rails. Viewers are warned at the outset with a scroll before the film starts: "Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Vancouver season was terminated midway through production. Tonight we are broadcasting this never before seen footage."

MTV tries to position this as a real season of the show, and some people tuning in unaware might buy into it until the cast is carted off for a challenge with former real "Real World" cast members. Yes, David (Los Angeles), Rachel (San Francisco), Amaya (Hawaii), Melissa (New Orleans), Mike (New York II) and Aneesa (Chicago) play themselves in several embarrassing scenes that appear to be improvised - poorly.

"The Lost Season" cast never makes it to the challenge, though, because they're kidnapped by Roland (Bryan Kirkwood) and his cameraman Jake (Will Sanderson). Roland is a disgruntled wannabe cast member who somehow has enough money to construct his own "Real World" house inside a studio. He forces the cast to interact and reveal their deepest secrets, mostly against their will.

"When I signed up for 'The Real World,' I knew that I would open myself to new experiences, but I never thought one of those experiences would be facing death," says Melinda in her confessional.

At this point the film begins to feel like "The Blair Witch Project." Actually, it feels more like the really bad "Blair Witch" sequel. Worse, Roland has installed a camera that rotates a full 360 degrees, which director Jeffrey Reiner uses constantly, risking dizziness and nausea on the part of viewers.

None of the actors in the film are familiar, though each "Real World"-er fills his or her stereotypical role as we'd expect. As Roland, Kirkwood is more gonzo-weird than murderous most of the time, except of course when he's not. The role isn't written with any definition, and after the double cross ending, it's clear why: No one was sure whether to make a comedy or thriller, so it's an unsatisfying mishmash of the two.

The concept of this quasi-spoof seemed promising on paper, but there's no reason to seek out this "Lost Season." Lost, it should have remained.

You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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