Sex, betrayal (and a little loathing) in Las Vegas. The new season opens in Sin City, and the seven castmembers are doing everything they can to prove that nickname accurate, says Josh Wolk
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The Real World

Sex, betrayal (and a little loathing) in Las Vegas

When ”The Real World” first started in 1992, the producers tried to nudge their roomies into talking about sex by leaving a few books with vaguely sexual titles lying about as a literary running start. But we’ve learned over the years that subtlety has no place in ”The Real World.”

The show has gotten raunchier and raunchier, with the producers casting people who wear their libidos on their sleeves (sleeves which quickly come off in the hot tub, along with their shirts and pants), and in season 12 we’ve finally reached maximum lust: They’ve tossed a sexed-up septet into Las Friggin’ Vegas, home of the bargain whore. Where can they go from here? Will season 13 have the roomies living in a shack behind the Bunny Ranch, with a day job at a vibrator factory?

In this inaugural episode we meet the new cast, and as has become a trend, the women have names we’ve never seen before. Should Sallys and Janes no longer apply? This year there’s Irulan, Brynn, Arissa, and Trishelle, who is from the tiny town of Cutoff, La., which seems made-up for a different reason: I thought burgs only had desolate names like that in old westerns.

Trishelle has all the attributes of that ”Real World” staple roomie, the Naïve One. She comes from a small town, talks about how she’s never lived around minorities, and is wide-eyed about the big city. Of course, we find out later that we’re hardly dealing with Julie the New Orleans Mormon here. We also learn that apparently the only difference between a small-town slut and a big-city slut is that the former has fewer guys to choose from. But more on that later.

At the beginning of the episode, we have every reason to believe that the wee Brynn will be filling the ”promiscuous flirt” slot, the big tip-off being the way she jabbers on endlessly about how sex-crazed she was. You know how cool people never say that they’re cool? Well, the same goes with bad girls. The more they talk about their badness, the more it becomes clear that they’re not a bad girl, they’re a needy girl.

Brynn’s arrival is staged as if she’s the show’s supervillain. The producers intercut the other six roomies wondering aloud who their final apartmentmate will be with ominous scenes of her limo pulling up. It’s reminiscent of a horror movie where a bunch of partying teens are yelling, ”This is the best time ever, and no one can ruin our fun!” while we see Michael Myers out in the shed sharpening his machete.

Irulan and Arissa reman fairly reserved, except to go on and on about what a connection they made with each other. (And Arissa knows about connections, considering she unpacked a pair of handcuffs.) They bond disconcertingly while hanging out with a random casino gambler named Jim, a self-proclaimed divorcee who keeps them swimming in black jack chips. ”My first time gambling with a rich guy’s money, I made $77.50!” chirps Irulan, as she steps onto the slipperiest slope in all of Vegas. The next milestone she’ll pass will be, ”My first time having sex with a rich guy, I made $80!”

Then there are the guys. There’s Alton, who seems down to earth, which either means he has a pathology that just couldn’t fit into this episode, or that something has gone horribly wrong in the casting process. And there’s Steven, the 24-year-old divorcee who keeps stressing that he has no intention of hooking up with a roommate, and yet greets every new female by crowing, ”There are already two/three/four pretty girls in the house!” His dedication to abstinence lasts only as long as it takes him to pry the top off his first beer and spit-shine his own tongue.

And then comes poor Frank, or ”Johnny Cuckold” as I call him. As clean-cut as they come, he looks a bit like a ”Taps”-era Tom Cruise. He and Trishelle seem like the dream couple, both wide-eyed small-towners. (Although I was a little thrown by Frank’s small Pennsylvania town, which although it only has six stop lights, also has a strip club. What Amish town has a traffic-to-stripper ratio like that?) However, things go horribly, horribly wrong.

I must interject something here: I’m 33 years old, so when I’m shocked by something on ”The Real World” I’m never sure whether it’s because I’m out of touch with today’s youth or because something is legitimately freaky. So you tell me: When Trishelle and Steven start sloppily making out seconds after Frank toddles off to get his buddy Steve a drink, am I right to think, ”WHAT THE F—?”

But truly the most amazing moment comes when the two mashers, in the midst of apologizing to Frank, suddenly straddle him and start making out again. Frank later sums up the ignominy: ”It’s not just ‘Why did you do this to me?,’ but I was actually supporting your weight on my legs.” I’m surprised they didn’t rest their drinks on Frank’s head so they could grope with both hands. Poor Frank was so mortified that he spoke of himself in the third person, saying, ”It just fell apart like everything else in Frank’s life.” Frank just pawn in game of life.

So am I just old-fashioned, or was that evil? You tell me. If that’s the norm now, I’ll pack up my cardigan sweater and hand off the ”Real World” Watch to a young ‘un. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting to see what new-fangled modes of evilness Brynn can come up with: You know she’s the kind of girl who doesn’t take kindly to being sexually upstaged in the first episode. Even an old fart like me can tell that.

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