Reality Recap: MTV’s Newest (and most ridiculous) Dating Shows

February 03, 2014 / by / 7 Comments

Reality TV has gotten so good.

I want to call it a guilty pleasure, but that wouldn’t be fair, because “guilty” is not the first word I would use to describe the pleasure it gives me. An “absolute” pleasure is more accurate. Sure, it’s still disgusting and exploitative, but the role of reality TV star is now so close to “method actor living a shitty role” that even my basic humanity doesn’t seem to get in the way anymore. My heart has been hardened, I am a man without pity, and I love watching MTV. In the hopes of transmitting this agathokakological (alternate word: sublime) inheritance onto you, I am announcing my intention to write episode recaps of two of my favorite MTV reality shows. In order to better serve you, consummate reader, I have included the premises of the two shows below.

Are You the One?

What do you get when you cross dating site analytic, rampant sex, and a quest for true love (and money)? MTV’s new series: Are You the One? This show takes 20 people, 10 men and 10 women, and sticks them in a house together. So far, pretty standard stuff. However, the twist comes in that all of the people have previously been terrible at relationships, and through a series of analytics, are matched with a “perfect match” somewhere in the house. The problem is that none of them know who their match is. If all the contestants manage to find their perfect match before the 10th episode, they win $1,000,000. If even one pair fails to find each other, no one wins anything. There are also challenges that can lead to the winners going on dates, a “truth booth” that can tell one couple definitively whether they are a match or not on an episode, and a ceremony at the end of the show that tells them how many people are in the right pairings, but not which pairings are correct.

If that basic idea sounds insane, that’s because it is. The whole series so far plays out like a really emotionally open orgy inspired by math that not a single participant on the show understands. Everyone is so willing to fall in love with everyone else that they just try to share everything right off the bat – including bodily fluids. Hell, something as simple as finding out someone has the same music tastes as you can be interpreted as a producer-sent-sign that you guys should bone.

The element of human greed just intensifies an already ridiculous situation, as the house basically tries to assemble or dismantle relationships by vote depending on whether they think two people are right for each other. The tyranny of the majority is scarier than ever when it looks like ten people raising their hands to vote that you can’t spend time with the guy or girl you like anymore, because they need to them to sleep with other people so everyone can win $50,000.

In fact, the show is so well-designed to produce consistent drama that I would be willing to call it, “the best place to watch unbelievable people trying to fall in love with each other on this side of an OkCupid profile that features prominent cleavage.”

The Real World: Ex-Plosion

The Real World has gotten dull. I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone. There are reality shows that put people on islands, reality shows where people travel the world, reality shows where people wield complex politics to win money, and reality shows designed for people to “fall in love.” In contrast, The Real World is a reality show about people living in a house and drinking heavily, which is just a side element in every other reality show on TV. Recognizing that they needed to make something a little more interesting, MTV created “Ex-Plosion.”

The concept of Ex-Plosion isn’t much more complicated than the traditional Real World. In the beginning, 7 roommates live in a house together. They drink, and yell at each other, fight each other, and fuck each other – but they don’t know that after 30 days their ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends are going to move in with them.

It’s a pretty disgustingly simple premise, but it delivers the goods. Almost-nightly drunken screaming matches? Check. Ignominious shower sex? Check. A tiny lesbian shoving a man who is almost definitely on steroids to the floor? Oh, MTV has you covered on that count.

The whole experience is wrapped up in an irreverent filming style that does not give two shits if it breaks the fourth wall. They show footage of cast-mates waving at camera men in the street, of producers asking questions during the interview (you actually get to HEAR the questions that they’re responding to in the sound bites!), and cast-mates freaking out about whether MTV had “caught that on camera” (they did). I’ve never liked watching the Real World, but so far Ex-Plosion is a successful attempt to revitalize the format.

The Real World is back from the dead, and while I can’t say whether this media-Frankenstein will retain its life for a full season, I can say that three of the first four episodes are entertaining as hell. From the high-octane, borderline overwrought intro, to the constant “countdown to the exes,” the whole show feels so fresh and modern that it’s hard to stop yourself from getting hooked.

We get to live in the era where people who grew up watching reality TV are making reality TV, and it looks to be a glorious age.