''Reunited: Real World Vegas'': Grown pains
The Real World: Las Vegas was a watershed for MTV. That was the season in which the network realized that it could abandon any pretense that the show was a valid experiment in social dynamics: Instead, why not just throw really slutty people with funny names into a suite and roll a few kegs in after them? The network got twice the nudity, and the arguments were even more explosive and foolish, what with them being completely booze fueled. And the series has never looked back.
I remember being mesmerized by that season's first episode, when Trishelle cuckolded innocent Frank by making out with Steven not just in front of him but actually over his lap, leading him to complain with my favorite Real World comment ever: ''It's not just 'Why did you do this to me?' '' he said. ''But I was actually supporting your weight on my legs.'' When the hot-tub threesome between Brynn, Trishelle, and Steven occurred in episode 2, all I could say was ''You had me at 'supporting your weight on my legs.' ''
I had been watching the show since its first New York go-round and had been writing the Real World TV Watch for EW.com for a couple of seasons. When Las Vegas began, I was 33, and all the hedonistic groping started to make me feel like a very old man for watching. It was as close as you could get to watching underage porn without seeing braces. I stuck around for another couple of seasons, but finally, after Philadelphia, I tuned out, leaving the show for younger voyeurs.
Now I'm 37. Hell, I'll turn 38 next month while this season is still on. I've got one kid, another on the way. There should be laws against me turning on MTV, let alone watching The Real World. I feel like they have some sensor that can tell when a creepy old dude has tuned in, and the entire network gets awash with buzzkill. And yet when I heard they were reassembling the Las Vegas cast for a six-week reunion series, I figured I had a loophole: The cast came back, so why couldn't I? So here I am, out of Real World retirement, hoping that I don't embarrass myself but at least confident that if I do, the cast will surely do it to themselves first.
The show began with a very blond Trishelle (who looked like she'd just had a Jenna Jameson makeover) saying, ''I always told people I will only do another reality show like this if I can live with my same six roommates again in Vegas.'' Which is odd coming from someone who has done two Real World/Road Rules Challenges, The Surreal Life, Kill Reality, and The Battle of the Network Reality Stars. I guess she meant she wouldn't do another reality show exactly like The Real World: Las Vegas. Way to stick to your semantic guns, Trish!
She made a star's entrance, sashaying into the Palms, saying, ''Hi, boys!'' to the doormen. It felt like an old perfume commercial, with the hot woman striding confidently through the halls while all the guys stop dead in their tracks and whistle. The part of the shot you didn't see is the longtime cleaning staff seeing her and grumbling, ''Damn it! And just when we finally got all the stains off the furniture!''
Frank looks no different at all, but he is definitely overcompensating for his milquetoasty previous go-round. Screwing a woman in the confessional and stumbling around the casino drunk, he seemed absolutely determined to erase all memories of him as the nice guy, which is a shame, as he was the only one who didn't leave a horrific taste in viewers' mouths. While everyone else seems to have arrived wanting to prove how much they've grown, he just wants to prove how much he's regressed. At this rate, will we see him on an Inferno in six years, drinking urine out of Tonya's shoe?
Steven is as upbeat as usual. I really grew to like him on E!'s Kill Reality. That was a thoroughly icky show that I'm not proud to have watched, but I was impressed by how he came off like a fun-loving guy who had no illusions about his reality-TV reputation. He seems to be saying, ''Yeah, I was a dope, but what are you gonna do?'' There was a time I thought he could be blamed for sullying Trishelle's honor on TV and starting her down an ugly road, but after studying her later exhibitionist ''career'' (and I'm not counting her starring role in the movie Ninja Cheerleaders), it's clear that if it wasn't him, she would have found someone else in front of a camera to lick. If she hadn't gotten on The Real World, eventually you would have seen her dry-humping a Lhasa apso on America's Funniest Pets.
But what of Brynn? How about that turnaround! Last we saw her, her hopes and dreams were to be a go-go dancer. And now she's married with two kids? What's next: the Miz, Ph.D.? Brynn's husband, Austin, has to be the most forgiving guy in the world. I remember when we first saw him, when he came to visit her in L.V. back in 2002: She complained to him when a guy she'd fooled around with was dancing with other women. That's valid grounds to have someone sterilized, not to make her the mother of your children. But they seem very happy, and it was kind of heartwarming. Let's just hope something doesn't snap in the next two weeks and we don't end up seeing Mommy Brynn doing Jell-O shots out of her son's sippy cup and getting dollars stuffed down her bikini by one of the Wiggles.
NEXT: Bizarre love triangle