''Real World''

Parent 'Hood

Meet Arissa's lunatic family. Just when the gal's finally getting her life together, along come Mom and Uncle Robert to inflict some pain, says Josh Wolk

The Real World | FAMILY FEUD Arissa's mom and uncle strike a cord
FAMILY FEUD Arissa's mom and uncle strike a cord

Meet Arissa's lunatic family

I suspect that while casting, the producers have now started interviewing applicants' parents, too. It makes sense: For years, housemates have blamed their own loudness/ promiscuity/ selfishness/super-double-craziness on their folks. Yet when said parents turn up on ''Real World'' Visiting Day, they rarely match up to the lunatics that their kids described them to be. MTV needs to make sure they've got some flamboyant elders waiting on deck.

For example, take Julie from ''Real World New Orleans''' closed-minded, strict Mormon dad. When he had his guest shot, yes, he turned out to be a humorless grump, but parents like that are a dime a dozen, especially in Utah. Wouldn't it have made for a better show if her dad showed up looking like the crazy preacher in ''Poltergeist 2,'' hobbling outside the roomies' mansion waving a bible and hollering, ''You're all gonna die in there!''

No such mistake with Arissa's mom, who combined with her daughter to make good, insane television. And, judging by her Uncle Robert, it looks like Arissa has an entire family tree of fruitcakes to shake if more are needed.

Everything is a crisis with Mother Arissa, who is a master at making her baby cry. The Feb. 4 episode began with her demanding money for a bed Arissa had left behind, then slamming down the phone. In fact, most of their conversations end with Mom slamming down the phone. Now that's parenting! I'm guessing when Arissa was a baby in Boston, bedtime went something like this: ''You ain't gettin' any 'Goodnight Moon' until you reimburse me for 'Where the Wild Things Ah'! I bought that friggin' thing in hahdcovah and you fell asleep halfway through it!''

Mom was extra upset this week because there was a bench warrant out for Arissa's arrest at home; her upstairs neighbor had filed a restraining order against her in retaliation for one Arissa had filed against her. What kind of litigious building is that? Who's their landlord, Alan Dershowitz?

The whole restraining-order situation seemed a bit loopy, but it was hard to focus on that in the midst of all of Mom's unpleasantness. Her Morton Downey Jr.-esque style of parenting obviously upset Arissa, who confessed she didn't love her mother. Steven told her that her family was the equivalent of ''toxic friends,'' and that she didn't need them. Unfortunately, it wasn't up to her, since they came looking for her. Enter Uncle Robert.

Uncle Robert showed up unexpectedly on the eve of her birthday. Being a Boston native, I know Uncle Robert's type well: baseball cap; strong Beantown accent; goatee; says everything like he's the only one on the planet with any common sense. Frankly, I was a little startled that he wasn't wearing colorful drawstring exercise pants, since that truly completes his type's uniform.

He instantly demanded all her time, and as a birthday gift, lectured her on how she was going to end up in jail. In their argument, she alluded to the fact that she wasn't the only one in the family who had ever had a bench warrant, to which he protested that his slate was clean. (Perhaps this was only because there was no beer bottle handy to swing the last time he overheard someone disparaging Red Sox pitching.)

Arissa ended up going out with her friends on her birthday, and boy was Uncle Robert pissed when she got home, accusing her of ignoring him, even though he had showed up with no notice. Why didn't he just hook up with Billy, the confused, lonely middle-aged guy from episode 8 who was trapped at the bar with a drunk and babbling Alton? They would have been fast friends! They could have fought crime together! Now THERE'S a reality show!

''You chose your friends over your uncle,'' said a whiny Robert. ''It's disrespectful, and I'm not gonna let it slide every time.'' What is truly awful is that Robert is her FATHER's brother, which means both sides of her family are suffocatingly domineering: Arissa has no genetic safehouse.

Ultimately, the stress proved too much, and when her mother called -- not to wish her a happy birthday, mind you, but to warn her that she would be calling later with bad news -- Arissa yelled back, ''You might have intimidated me before. But now we're on the same level!'' To which her mother responded, ''Can I say something, you simple bitch?'' To which Arissa hung up on her. It was as triumphant a moment as if Christina Crawford grabbed the wire hanger and starting beating Joan back.

The rest of the show dealt with Frank rediscovering love with his old girlfriend, Emily -- but really, how could that storyline compete? The only way he could have got attention is if his own father showed up and turned out to be...Billy! Now THERE'S a reality show.

Originally posted Feb 04, 2003
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