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''The Real World'': Frank won't grow up

On ”Reunited: The Real World Vegas,” Frank plans to keep acting like a child even after apologizing to the girls; plus, Trishelle’s movie gets screened

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Reunited: The Real World Vegas

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”The Real World”: Frank won’t grow up

I was in a bit of a quandary during this week’s Real World episode. I’m accustomed to rolling my eyes at any dramatic complaint that comes out of Arissa’s and Irulan’s mouths. And when they pull out their trump card of possibly leaving the show, I’m extra annoyed. Demanding to leave the show is just a reverse-psychology way of demanding to be the center of attention. And yet…

Frank is acting like an ass. As much as I like the guy: really? Drunkenly smashing cups on the ground for no reason at all other than they make nice crashy-crashy noises? At 27? The reason I finally stopped watching The Real World was that I felt myself turning into a cranky old man. When I’d see the young morons getting drunk and acting like asses, instead of thinking, ”Yeah, smash stuff!” I’d be thinking, ”Now that’s just plain irresponsible.” Once that happens, you know it’s time to take your clicker in your withered, liver-spotted hand and head over to HGTV, where taxpaying suburbanites in tucked-in polo shirts are oohing and aahing over paint samples.

To be fair, I’ve always been an old curmudgeon before my time. Even in high school, acts of vandalism confounded me. Hell, even the point of littering was lost on me. ”Okay, so you throw the empty soda can out the window. Got it. But to what end?” When I went back to my childhood camp at age 34 for my new book, Cabin Pressure, I thought I’d be able to slip back into the spirit of the me who used to get slurringly drunk in the staff lounge. But all excessive drinking did was make me tired, and when I’d see the twentysomething staffers pounding beers, I’d think, ”That’s no way to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for a hard day of work tomorrow!” I would never say it aloud, just as the other staff would never voice aloud their desire to kick my buzzkilling ass out of the room so they could enjoy themselves without my silent but obvious judgment.

When I turned off the new Real Worlds, I did so without blaming anyone, knowing that the drunken boobs on the new seasons were in their late teens to early 20s, a time when being a jackass is still barely acceptable. But Frank: tsk-tsk. He said, ”This is a chance for a 27-year-old to act like a 17-year-old again.” It’s fine to act like a 17-year-old — get drunk, act like a dope with your friends, hit on women, sure — but isn’t there a part of his matured brain that by this point should be irrevocably mindful of not randomly breaking crap? What’s the payoff? I’ve often thought that it would be great to relive the worry-free life of a 6-year-old, but that doesn’t mean that if I did so, I’d seize the opportunity to wet my bed just because I could. Could Arissa and Irulan be right? Should Frank grow up?

And yet, here’s where I waver: No matter how old Frank is, he is on The Real World. That’s what Real Worlders do. If the seven of them just sat around acting mature, what fun would that be? And more important, what show would it be? They might as well be redecorating one another’s houses on HGTV. I may have no desire to be around him while he and his drunken hookup break stuff, but that’s what I’ve tuned in to see. It’s like Jackass: I wouldn’t want to be a part of their stunts, but if Bam ever refused to have his testicles shot at with a dart gun, I’d think, ”Where is your spirit, sir?”

I guess no matter what age Real Worlders are, I should just accept that their irritating behavior is part of the experience. Because in the end, they’re all just going to fake-hug and pretend they’ve all learned something, even though such things clearly don’t take. Instead of accepting responsibility for her own hissy fit, Irulan — still nursing the barely visible wound on her shin — gave Frank a patronizing lecture about letting his energy loose in a more positive way. (A Real World/Road Rules Challenge, perhaps?) Frank cursed both women in a confessional, saying he only apologized so everyone could get along but he didn’t mean it. And he hugged Arissa, even as the flashbacks from their original season indicated that the two reached an identical resolution five years ago, and clearly that one didn’t take.

In the end, Arissa made everyone lasagna (the secret ingredient of which was apparently sour grapes, considering how they all griped about it afterward), but more important, she worked in some product placement, chewing Dentyne Ice while cooking. This was the most blatant and random plug I’ve ever seen on this show, as the camera lingered lovingly on the package. What did that have to do with cooking? There were far more relevant opportunities: Why not stock the house with Crate and Barrel plastic glasses that Frank’s one-night stand could bounce off the wall and then marvel at how they remained intact? Forget that, why not just make a deal with a beer company? If these people are gonna get sloshed every week, why not at least have it pay for itself?

The B story in this episode was all about Trishelle the actress, a description I had a tough time writing without getting my typing fingers drunk first. The Palms held a premiere party for her new movie, Ninja Cheerleaders. When someone asked her what it was about, she said, ”We’re like cheerleaders, and…I don’t know what the plot is.” The producers were probably kicking themselves that she neglected to mention the key twist in the movie: ”We’re like cheerleaders, and we jump around and don’t wear bras.”

Trishelle was nervous before the screening, saying, ”I don’t want to draw attention to myself because I know girls are very catty and jealous.” And who would know better than Trishelle, who took Frank and Steven’s side against Irulan and Arissa? To Trishelle, every other woman in the world just represents two more breasts that could distract men from looking at hers.

Her costars, Maitland and Ginny (who needs last names when you’re big stars like Maitland and Ginny?) came along for the screening, and everyone seemed to enjoy the movie. What’s not to like? It starred people who looked about 10 years out of high school playing teenagers (I think I spotted one actor wearing a colostomy bag) and featured the low-kicking skills of Trishelle, who couldn’t manage a roundhouse kick that landed any higher than an opponent’s knee. Let that be a lesson to you, Irulan: Push Trishelle too hard and she will wreak havoc on that shin bruise of yours!

Afterward, the movie was celebrated with a theme party in which ninjas rappelled down from the roof and then either did a demonstration of ninja moves or defended themselves from a swarm of invisible bees. It was unclear which. In the end, all the roomies said nice things about the movie, even in private, which confused me. When it comes to personal arguments, they all go to the confessional and rip on each other, and yet when they see what is obviously a piece of softcore schlock, they can’t bring themselves to say a bad word? Hmmm, maybe our Vegas seven are growing up.

Naaah, probably not.

What do you think?