[I wrote this post last week to follow Thursday night's premiere of MTV's new reality show, Buckwild, but then the website was down all day on Friday, and God forbid any of us lets a single thought go by without publishing it on-line so here you go.]
Last night was the premiere of MTV’s new “reality” show, Buckwild, which follows a group of young people on their totally normal and believable adventures in West Virginia. It’s supposed to be, like, backwoods Jersey Shore, I guess. But I knew Jersey Shore, I watched the first two seasons of Jersey Shore, and you, mayne, are no Jersey Shore. (Cool reference to the 1988 vice presidential debate, dawg!) Although eventually it spun out of control into a steroidal monster rampaging its way through popular culture, the original season of Jersey Shore was genuinely entertaining AND interesting, and it deserved to catch on. What was always weird and depressing to me about that show was not the emotional lives of their stunted cast, but how the worse that the show got the better the ratings. Most people never even saw the first season, which was the only season of that show worth watching. Somehow, after years and years of reality television, MTV managed to capture a group of people genuinely being themselves more or less, and it was a delight to watch (and to requote). Buckwild on the other hand: oh brother.
We’re going to stop talking about Jersey Shore now, but when that show began it had a simple premise: these kids were going to rent a summer cottage in Seaside Heights and work at a t-shirt store on the boardwalk that their landlord owned. This was all reality TV fabrication, but it was a somewhat believable scenario for bringing these people together. A variation on The Real World where the 7 strangers have to pay their own rent (although not really, but you get it). In Buckwild, we just…are around. That would be fine, too, if the producers didn’t work so hard to instill heavy-handed drama into an otherwise innocuous situation. Some of the girls live in this one house, and I don’t even know where the guys live, and then the girls get evicted, which they talk about in the most bored and unconcerned tones you have ever heard in your whole doggone life, so now they live in a giant house in the country that someone’s “uncle said they could rent.” Right. No, sure, yes. I don’t know? The show jumps around in time and space so much that it’s completely impossible to follow what is going on, and I, unlike the cast of Buckwild, or at least the cast of Buckwild as they are presented to the public in their distilled and completely hackneyed stereotyped way, WENT TO COLLEGE.
The life of a Buckwild cast member is a cross between an MTV reality show contestant, a Jeff Foxworthy joke, and an old episode of Jackass. It’s actually impressive, although that doesn’t seem like the right word for it, that MTV’s legal department was able to get away with ¾ of the things the kids do on this show. At one point they go “muddin” which seems to just be driving a truck through mud, but the guy driving is very reckless, and two girls sit unrestrained in the flatbed of his truck, getting tossed around like a couple of Raggedy Concussions. Later they will put some mattresses and a tarp at the bottom of a dump truck and fill it with water and then do backflips off of a roof into this “pool.” Yikes! I don’t have any children of my own, and I like being cool and having fun, but JESUS CHRIST. Do we not live in a world with laws and adult supervision?
The drama on the show is not your typical producer-fed plotlines, either. The same way that Buckwild jumps around in time and space, it leaves gigantic logic gaps in its stories. Char, the girl all the guys want to sleep with because she wears a fake letter jacket with high heels (haha) is hooking up with Tyler, and everyone knows it, and who even cares we don’t know who these people are or why this is news, but for some reason they are “keeping it a secret.” OK, why? It’s not like I am excited or intrigued by a secret qua secret, what are the stakes? Near the end of the episode Char will explain that they have to keep it secret from their friends or else they will “get ragged on.” HAHAHA OH OK CHAR THAT SOUNDS TOUGH GOOD LUCK I HOPE NO ONE EVER FINDS OUT! (??????) Before the girls get evicted (!!!!!!) one girl gets drunk and tries to beat up a fully grown adult woman who lives next door who comes over to ask them to keep the noise down so her children can sleep. This sends the Buckwild girl into a frenzy. She screams and throws punches and falls on the ground. We are used to these types of fights coming late into a season when it is clear that Ronnie is mad because Sammi saw him smoosh or whatever, but this fight comes out of absolutely nowhere, and is completely unjustified, disgusting, and offensive. One gets the impression that MTV is now just sending drunk children into various towns to pick fights with strangers. Cool? Cool network?
It’s also a little ridiculous if you ask me that we continue to struggle to put realistic, three-dimensional, and engaging depictions of gay, black, Jewish, Hispanic, whatever you want people on television, but we will scrape the bottom of the heteronormative Christian white barrel before we even try. Then again, Buckwild features an Indian girl named Salwa who is “as country as it comes” and takes her top off for $100 and then jumps into a dumpster full of mattresses, so nevermind, this show is breaking down all the barriers. [UPDATE: there is actually an article in the New York Times today about how the opposite is true and how all of these different (mostly non-white) American subcultures are being put on television. So shut up, me. I guess.]
There was one funny part on last night’s Buckwild premiere. Towards the end of the episode it is revealed that Char and Tyler had sex in Katie’s bed (I think it was Katie’s bed, maybe it was Anna’s, I’m a grown man and I don’t really care). Before Katie can even confront Char about this (“She had sex in my bed, I’m going to call her out”) Char just gets mad and leaves (“Cook your own chili”) so Katie (or Anna?) is left to confront Tyler instead. She stands on the balcony of the house her uncle said they could rent (haha right!) and yells down at him that he’s rude and disrespectful and who does that and it’s gross. He just looks up at her with a mouthful of chips, his hand rooting around in the bag for more. “Sorry,” he says, but you know he’s not sorry. She continues to yell at him. Meanwhile, cut to Shain, a peach-fuzz-mustachioed young man with possible developmental issues who is the heart and soul of Buckwild. Him and his friend are in the field next to the house just BUILDING A FIRE FOR NO REASON, because BUCKWILD, and with the sounds of the fight still ringing out in the background, completely disengaged with the drama happening around him, Shain just asks “Did Tyler take the bag of chips?” to which his friend replies “Yeah. Sucks for you.”
Anyway, Buckwild stinks.