The Real World Philadelphia: Zsolt Sarvary-Bene
Brian Hiatt
September 07, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”The Real World”: The Philly cast moves in

There’s one problem with the first episode or two of a ”Real World” season: Just as the show’s etched-in-stone opening voice-over predicts, the roomies usually haven’t stopped being polite yet. Lacking, say, the instant skinny-dipping of Hawaii (where have you gone, Ruthie?), the first episode of ”The Real World: Philadelphia” failed to dive instantly into the kind of drunken-hot-tub-threesome muck we hope for. Still, most of the characters had their moments in the premiere.

M.J./Landon It took me at least 40 minutes to be able to tell the difference between the ripped, curly-haired Midwestern athlete (Landon) and the ripped, curly-haired Southern athlete (M.J.). M.J. says he chose to room with Landon because they ”have a lot in common.” Yeah — like all of their DNA. One of the few noticeable differences is that M.J. is just a touch more uncomfortable around the people he keeps referring to as ”homah-sexuals.” Overall, these two so-far-amiable knuckleheads seem representative of a larger ”Real World” trend: As the straight white male housemates get more and more muscle-bound, they also get dumber. At this rate, Mongo from Blazing Saddles will be arriving in a season or two.

Shavonda ”Next to Vanessa Williams, Shavonda is the hottest black girl I ever met,” says the always astute M.J. (who has, it seems, spent a lot of time with Vanessa Williams). It’s likely that the regal Shavonda’s doofy-looking long-distance boyfriend is due to suffer the inevitable fate of ”Real World” significant others: televised humiliation. ”Hook-ups in the house — possibility or not?” Shavonda coyly asked her roomies while lounging half-naked in the hot tub. Considering that she finds her job as a Hooters waitress to be ”fun and exciting,” we say: possibility.

Willie As all his roomies kept noting, personal shopper Willie is a ”Real World” stereotype: the Gay Guy, friendly, flamboyant, and harmless. So far it seems his only purpose in the house is to stand in contrast to . . .

Karamo Was this guy cast by mistake or what? Karamo harks back to the pre-Trishelle days of the show, back when roommates were allowed to be a little bit surprising (instead of just pretty, drunk, and slutty). Karamo is a nonstereotypical gay dude, a macho black man whose coming out instantly rearranges M.J.’s understanding of ”homah-sexuals.” (Hilariously, M.J. had been congratulating himself on his ”gaydar” while remaining completely clueless about his housemate’s sexuality.) If this season ends up being slightly less predictable than usual, Karamo gets the credit.

Melanie According to the casting special, the tomboyish, vaguely forlorn Melanie is destined to be this season’s ”outcast.” That might explain why she got all of two seconds of camera time.

Sarah Ah, Sarah. If you didn’t exist, the producers would have had to genetically engineer you. One episode in and you’ve already got a Fatal Attraction-level crush on hunky M.J. Why? ”Because he made it clear that I’m not his type.” Very healthy! Then you had everyone in the house squeeze your surgically enhanced breasts, while announcing every half-second that you’re ”a very sexual person.” Could have fooled us.

What did you think? Does this season look Real interesting or Real predictable?

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