On ''The Real World,'' heartthrob Danny won't decide whether he'll have a meaningless relationship with Melinda or with an assortment of bar pickups
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The Real World: Austin (Season 16)

”The Real World”: Danny’s casual-sex dilemma

I didn’t really mind this general wash of an episode, which centered on Danny’s ambivalence about having a relationship with Melinda. I’ve come to expect so little from The Real World: Austin that a half hour laden with fluff is okay now. If we expect nothing, we won’t be disappointed. (Note to producers: If we keep being subjected to unnecessary close-ups such as Danny’s stitch removal and Wes’ red panties, we will be disappointed. Also: Please buy Melinda a bra. For the love of God.)

Nah, it’s not surprising that almost an entire show was devoted to one character’s re-entry into the Austin casual-sex pool. The only really annoying thing about this was that instead of hearing just Danny’s and maybe his bed partner Mel’s thoughts on the sexual implications of his recovery, we had to sit through all the cast members acting as if Danny’s ”situation” deeply mattered to them. This reached its most ridiculous point when Johanna and Lacey were shown from behind as they walked and talked about Mel and Danny while the camera randomly zoomed in on their butts. (Tack that onto ”unnecessary close-ups.”) I bet at that point the girls weren’t even talking about Melindanny. Probably they were discussing something interesting, like lunch, but that conversation got dubbed over in favor of dull in-house-drama chatter.

I’d personally rather hear Jo, Lacey, Rachel, and Nehemiah talk about themselves, which is obviously saying a lot. As for the increasingly repulsive, offensive, unabashedly clueless Wes, I’d rather never hear him speak again. Ever. After he met a ”collegiate cheerleader” (who says that?) whose phone number he got while out one night, using nothing but his own charm and the seductive power of a television crew, Wes and his posse of badly behaving boys actually scoped out her squad on the Web and made ”recommendations” for which girls the ”original cheerleader” should bring along on their big night out. Ew, Wes. The groupie drawer was kind of funny. This is just…weird. So was the harping on the fact that the women were cheerleaders, to the point where it sounded as if maybe that title were a front for something else. And why was the concept of dating a cheerleader so mind-blowing, anyway? This is Texas: Wouldn’t at least half the girls in any Sixth Street bar have been cheerleaders at some point in their lives? But whoever thought to get the guys to write their chosen girls’ names on a notepad with the word ”ACCOMPLISH” written in huge letters at the top is quite the genius. That I liked.

There were some other pretty funny points scattered among all the meaninglessness this time. Like Danny saying in voiceover at the beginning of the show, ”I was coming to Austin with full aspects of bringing girls home.” I don’t know what the hell that means, but his making no sense made me feel more intelligible, and that’s always fun. Ditto with Jo’s prediction that Danny would ”be having girls thrown at him” as soon as he went out bandage free. Is that similar to ”girls throwing themselves at him,” or is there some sort of batting-cage girl-pitching machine at the Dizzy Rooster that we just haven’t seen yet?

Then there was Danny’s shameless lack of eyeball continuity. One minute he’s squinting to the camera or tending his sunken eye with ice; the next, he’s at the confessional looking as if the Hit had never happened. Those hipsteresque aviator sunglasses seemed an unlikely choice for a regular guy from New England, but I think he might have been forced to wear them to keep everyone guessing at his current eyeball condition.

Danny’s eye-injury quarantine climaxed with the really pathetic hot-tub scene. Between cuts to a gratuitous montage of Melinda acting out various stages of skank in a bar, lonely Danny contemplated his life over a beer can whose logo was mostly covered by a beer sleeve, whose own logo was in turn covered with white masking tape. Despite MTV’s efforts to avoid giving a free product placement, it was still really clear that Danny was whimpering into a Coors Light, which he finally dunked in the scalding mess that is his life in Austin. Am I missing something? Other than his completely avoidable face injury, he’s had it pretty sweet, right? No matter! Making him look weighted with emotional baggage before what promises to be another Danny-centric show next week provided MTV with an excellent opportunity to use a song with the lyrics ”I’m a boy in a bubble / I’ve been having some trouble” that I can’t seem to find on Google. Maybe it’s the Austin house band monitoring Danny’s very thoughts via his mind-reading microphone pack.

The final perk of this show — and once you read it, you’ll realize how mediocre this episode was if you haven’t already — was Lacey’s long-sleeved sequin shrug getup for the girls’ night out. She looked like the other girls’ elderly chaperone, which actually might be her scripted role for the season. I’m not saying this is bad. I just thought it was funny. As were Danny and Wes’s completely overdone reactions to the ladies in their ”formalwear.” Have they never seen reasonably attractive females in black dresses before? Danny’s back-and-forth ”Melinda or many other skanks?” dilemma came full circle with his profound realization that if the boys had first seen Mel on the Internet, ”all of us woulda been like, ‘F—, yeah!’ ” It’s almost as if he — oh, I don’t know — wanted to be with Mel.

I have to say Mel acted decidedly less hoocherrific than usual this episode. Do we like her bad or do we like her good? Notice that because of her uncharacteristically witty response when Danny asked her if their Valentine’s Day date was still on — ”I…uh…have to wash my hair” — I’m not offering ”Do we not like her?” as one of the options. Still, feel free to write it in.

Oh, there was some ”work” stuff thrown in there. Lacey fudged her way through a meeting with the directors of the South by Southwest festival during which everyone else looked comatose; Wes complained that the hour of training they probably did weeks ago was ”overwhelming”; and boss Paul Stekler handed everyone a paycheck for doing nothing. Yay. Body shots!

What do you think? Can Melindanny have a normal relationship, or will hormones and the spotlight get the best of them? How long will it take for everyone to hate the now only slightly overbearing Lacey? And does Wes deserve his own relationship-advice show after coming up with the enlightening idea that ”girls are sneaky bitches”?

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