''Real World''

Growing Pains

Our little Cameran is growing up! (Yeah, right.) And -- surprise! -- new guy Charlie is as self-absorbed as the rest of 'em, says Josh Wolk

The Real World | ALMOST OLD ENOUGH TO DRINK Not that that's ever stopped her...
ALMOST OLD ENOUGH TO DRINK Not that that's ever stopped her...

Our little Cameran is growing up! (Yeah, right)

When Charlie moved into the San Diego house in the fourth-to-last episode, I worried that we viewers wouldn't have time to get to know him as well as we had the other six roomies. But, as the June 22 episode proved, the producers made things much easier for us by picking someone who was just as lazy and self-centered as the other roommates: Instead of having to understand a whole new personality, you could say, ''He's just like Robin, but without the silicone.'' This has really smoothed my learning curve.

Charlie's girlfriend Laura came to visit. Perhaps I shouldn't use the term ''girlfriend,'' as he himself seemed reticent to do so. When grilled by Randy, he said that though he and Laura told each other ''I love you,'' he didn't want the ''added stress'' of deciding if they were boy- and girlfriend. So saying ''I love you'' was the easy part, but deciding if they're dating is the struggle? I'll bet when it comes to music, writing songs comes easy to Charlie, but picking out the right guitar strap is when his artistic integrity is really tested.

This all coincided with Cameran's 20th birthday. ''I'm growing up,'' she said, and then went on to prove just the opposite by smashing her birthday cake into Brad's face. She would provide even more evidence of her immaturity later with the whole guitar incident. I kept waiting for her to suck her thumb and crap her pants just to nail the point home.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Charlie and Laura were getting along like boyfriend and girlfriend -- OH GOD, THE STRESS! -- even managing to stay romantic when Brad and Jamie threw open their bedroom door and ran away giggling. Variations on this voyeuristic gag (peeking through the curtain while someone hooks up, listening at the wall, etc.) have proved oddly popular amongst the roomies this year. Don't they know that if they just waited six months, they could have seen all this hooking-up on TV with the rest of us?

Charlie decided to skip work for the whole weekend, but neglected to tell the boss, Troy, thereby costing the others their $250 bonus. You had to give him credit for his dedication to lying about his own irresponsibility. When his roommates returned, furious, he steadfastly maintained his innocence, going so far as to call Troy to argue about whether he had said his absence was probably or likely. Speaking of parsing, I'd like to debate Charlie on whether he's irresponsible or not responsible.

The house was unconvinced, especially Cameran, who vented her anger by stepping on Charlie's guitar, accidentally cracking it. ''I made an uh-oh,'' she said, providing yet more proof that her ''growing up'' was strictly chronological. When she told him about the crime, he was utterly shocked; while she wishfully thought it was a cheap guitar, he said it was worth $800. For that price, if she was going to break it, she could have at least smashed it over Brad's head and given us all a little more bang for the buck.

Charlie wandered around, dumbfounded, while the rest of the roommates looked on with happy schadenfreude over the agony befalling the bonus-buster. I can't speak for Jamie's feelings, since she was inexplicably shown wearing a wrestler's mask. It was an odd cutaway -- doesn't two seconds of a roommate wearing a wrestler's mask raise more questions than it answers? Perhaps that's why we see so little of Jamie: Rather than being boring, is her lifestyle so raucously kinky that the producers can only show us those rare moments when she's not wearing a ball gag or a chain-mail thong? All right, that's unlikely, but one has to hold out false hope that there was something more interesting going on in this house than Jager shots.

After being chastised by Laura, Charlie went to Troy and came as close to apologizing as ''Real World''ers get, allowing that this ''miscommunication'' was likely his fault. Then something unprecedented happened: As penance, Troy made him scrape paint off a boat with his fingernails. All these years of watching roommates take advantage of their impotent bosses, I've never seen any of them suffer nasty ramifications like this. Okay, Montana was kicked out of the Boston daycare program, but is not being allowed to work really a painful punishment for someone fired because they're lazy?

Perhaps there's a new, excellent reality show to be had here: Watch ''Real World'' stars suffer at horrific jobs as payback for being lazy. See ''Las Vegas''' Brynn operate the bone saw at a meat packing plant! Watch ''Chicago'''s Tonya give sponge baths to the incontinent! Tune in as ''New Orleans''' David cleans a barbershop floor with his tongue! Start tossing these threats around, and you can bet Cameran will grow up fast, for real.

Originally posted Jun 22, 2004