The British Invasion

Though Jay is the only theater student in the group, accusations of acting fly among some of the flatmates. ''Once Mike asked me something when the cameras weren't there, and five minutes later he repeated the same question because now the cameras were there,'' says Lars, who notes, ''Mike isn't usually like that.'' For his part, Mike says Jacinda ''hammed it up a lot'' and Sharon ''filtered quite a bit'' of her personal life for fear of being disowned by her religious grandmother.

The producers shrug off skeptics who say the show is staged. ''I take it as a compliment,'' says creator Murray. ''That says it's so good they can't believe it's real.'' Says Verschoor, ''If that was the case, these guys should get Emmys for their performances.''

While nearly all the roommates say they grew accustomed to the cameras quickly, they admit the incessant surveillance became a burden at times. Jay and Jacinda felt a little less than intimate in their long-distance romances, since most house phone calls are taped; Lars grew frustrated that his stalled club-promoting career was being preserved for posterity; Kat found that the intensive interviews made her ''highly self-critical. I hit a point where I wasn't liking myself too much.'' Neil explains: ''The first couple days, you think, 'Ha-ha, this is quite fun.' Then suddenly you realize, 'S---, when I wake up in the morning, they're going to flick on the lights and film me lying in bed.' It gets a bit draining.''

After a rousing day of Rollerblading in Hyde Park, Mike returns to the flat and regales Lars with a drooling description: ''There were these two girls there — twins with long blond hair, wearing bikinis all day, watching me play hockey.''

''Did you go out with them?'' Lars asks, fascinated.

''No.''

''Why not? You kicked everyone's ass playing hockey. Mike, the big stud!'' Lars teases in his Sprockets accent. Then he inquires playfully: ''Have you ever tag-teamed twins?''

''I've had sisters, but not twins,'' Mike answers manfully.

Lars roars with laughter. The same question is posed to Neil. ''I find the very concept offensive,'' he sneers.

Six weeks later, on the eve of the series' debut, Mike is concerned about being portrayed as a sexist pig. ''There's this huge element of how Mike treats women,'' he says, recalling the time Neil and Sharon objected to his use of the word bitch. After explaining that he picked it up from rap videos, ''I said, 'Neil, what do you think is worse — calling your girlfriend a bitch or cheating on her?' — since he was with Kat,'' Mike says. ''Then, of course, the cameras left. I was like, 'Get back here!'''

Mike didn't help his reputation the evening Jay put on his one-man show about insomnia, Bedroom, for his roommates. Late that night, Mike fooled around with a woman while Jay tried to sleep in the next bed. ''I didn't care if he was asleep or not,'' Mike says, chuckling. ''I was pretty liquored up.'' Actually, Jay was wide-awake, but he looks on the bright side: ''I got some education over here.'' Although Mike never saw the woman again, he says, ''I wasn't mean to her. I never slapped her or beat her or called her bitch.''