Mike's the house outcast, but he's the only star at work, says Josh Wolk

By Josh Wolk
Updated August 02, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
The Real World: Jason Campbell

Why ”Real World”ers make lousy employees

For the past decade, nearly every ”Real World” episode has ended with that week’s conflict being resolved through some sort of common ground found between that show’s bickerers. Yes, it’s always a bit manufactured — the hugging twosome are usually back resenting each other in no time — but a clinch makes for nice momentary closure. No more! Because the past few weeks of this season have focused on the endless battles of Mike and Coral, producers seem to have realized that viewers aren’t going to buy a weekly détente between these two. That would be especially unrealistic, considering that everyone else in the house is becoming fed up with Mike, or, as I’ve taken to calling him, Johnny Dullstare. So the July 31 episode story arc was: Begin with Everybody Hates Mike; close with Mike Finds a Friend in Himself. That’s the best he’s ever gonna get.

”The Real World” is meant to have a diverse group of people who bond over their differences. The West Village lineup, thanks to Mike, is a group of people who bond over the fact that they love mocking the house halfwit. (Mike telling terrible jokes while all the housemates rolled their eyes was the very definition of the phrase, ”they’re laughing at you, not with you.”) And while the housemates used to come to Mike’s defense when Coral would do everything but wake him up to tell him she didn’t like the way he was breathing, now they just giggle along with her as she tears him down. Even apple-pie-wholesome Rachel attacks him, even if it means washing out her own mouth afterward. This mockery has even spread to the ”Real World” producers, who never miss an opportunity to throw in a reaction shot of him staring blankly with his teeth just peeking rube-ishly over his bottom lip to evoke maximum cluelessness.

Because no one else was likely to give Mike a ”you’re okay” hug at the end, they had to close with Mike becoming the MVP of the ”street team” at their new job at Arista Records, the great white hope for spreading the hard-rock gospel to frat boys near and far. Even if no one in the house likes him, a corporate rock monolith appreciates him getting more like-minded collegiate types to thrash to their latest release. Well, it kind of counts as a happy ending.

Except for Mike, the rest of the house is going to teach their Arista supervisors, Devin and Adam, a lesson about never getting involved with ”Real World”ers. Didn’t this record team learn from the sorry experiences of the Boston child care center, the New Orleans cable channel, and the Seattle radio station? The housemates are unprofessional, immature, irresponsible, and, most egregiously, fully intent on taking their opportunity for granted.

Lori is clearly intent on walking up and down the halls asking for a contract — every record exec’s nightmare. Once Coral found out that she wouldn’t be working with the R&B bands she wanted, she slipped right into scowl mode. Nicole was no more enthusiastic. Do any of these people have an inkling of what the real world is actually like? When you get an entry-level job at a record label — if you are LUCKY enough to get that job — not only don’t you get a superswanky office filled with space-age laptops, but they don’t make sure that you’re carefully placed in a musical genre that you’re comfortable grooving to. Come to think of it, you’re certainly not put in charge of a street team; you’re fortunate if you answer the phone of the guy who answers the phone of the guy who answers the phone of the Street Team. I cringe just thinking about the post-series moment when they get their first actual jobs — the kind where cameras don’t follow you around — and they tell their bosses, ”I don’t think I like that task. Do you have another one for me, or should I just argue with my fellow entry-levelers this afternoon?” Yet I would do ANYTHING to see footage of the resulting boss’ blowout.

What was your favorite moment from this week’s episode of the ”Real World”?