When I was 30 and an editor at an alt-weekly, I had an 80-year-old intern. He had a lot of rules he followed so he didn’t get too “old” and I absorbed his lessons gladly. Things he suggested included: never start a sentence with, “When I was young”; always try to listen to new music over music you listened to when you were a teenager; never make comparisons between now and how it used to be, especially if your position is that it used to be better.
Now that I’ve seen half a century, I really think he was right (RIP, buddy!) and I see how easy it is to fall into these traps. I would probably listen to 80s New Wave, OG Hip Hop, Riot Grrrl Radio, and Yacht Rock Spotify playlists all day every day if I didn’t force my finger to swipe the new music sections.
With all that unpacked, I was worried that my excitement about Real World Homecoming: New York, where they bring back all the cast members from the first Real World, was sinking me into old-fogey quicksand. And then I decide that this is history, real history, and it must be attended to. Also: it’s a pandemic, and I’m bored, and I need to see if Eric Nies’s muscles have carried forward into early elderhood, even if I’m totally gay (thanks, Norman!). And also whether Eric Nies’s tips to wash your hair with urine have held up over time.
So, I am going all in. And, by special request of TueNight’s Margit Detweiler (who has been my friend since I had to pull her away from Andre types at college rock shows), I will be recapping.
This first episode was all about setting the scene and then lots of split screens of them then and now. First off, they got the exact same Soho loft so they were able to capture mirror footage of them arriving then and now. Pretty cool.
I’d already gone back to watch the original first season from 1992, but even if you haven’t, they cut enough of the old stuff in so that you can see that this really wasn’t just yesterday. The film quality from the original clips are lo-fi. Really lo-fi. And then there are all the things that make you suck in your breath, as if you’ve just unearthed a single’s bar in Pompeii. Smoking inside! Someone using a typewriter… for work! One single phone line and fighting over said phone line! A tiny and very fat TV! Subway tokens! Saying goodbye to someone actually at their airport gate!
You get the picture.
We’re reintroduced to the gang, one by one.
We see Julie, the ingénue dancer from Alabama, pretty much looking and sounding the same, flying in from Alabama yet again.
Becky, the Suzanne Vega wannabe, who now goes by Rebecca (why so serious?) with a Gen-Z approved middle-part and the insouciance of a late-stage French actress.
Andre, once the commercial face of grunge is now a grungy silver fox who writes songs for his adorable daughter.
Heather B., the buoyant former rapper (we don’t find out what she does now in this first episode) looks literally unchanged, giving credence to a well-known saying in a community that is not mine so I will not repeat it. She brings a whole suitcase of top-shelf liquor and seems gunning for a Girls Weekend.
Kevin Powell. Who else stood up and clapped when he’s first shown on screen? This guy needs to be on a $100 dollar bill. He offers the understatement of the year: “I’ve been woke for a long time.” Y’all, this dude was so right about so much and white fragile folks like myself and everyone in that loft could not, would not, see it. He’s a goddamn hero. Let’s get him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ok?
And while I wanted Kevin to be the focus of the episode, somehow the original Gym, Tan, & Laundry bro who was DTF before there was ever a Situation, sort of steals the show with his absence. Where’s Eric? Well, wouldn’t you know it: he’s got The Covid, bringing some serious reality into the room. Eric is beamed into the room via flat screen to break the news wearing his finest Big Lebowski dude sweater while letting us know he is doing fine but is sequestered.
So, the Covid thing. It worries me, but not in the way that you think. The first Real World charted the steps these young, hungry people were taking to find success in their given fields. What can they show us locked in the loft talking about the past (see the top paragraph in this recap)? Heather B remarks: “I miss what I felt back then.” And so begins the discussing of dead parents and the unbearable weightiness of being. All real, for sure. But nothing can make you feel like you are stuck in your tracks and encased by your couch quite like a pandemic, ammirite? I’m scared the show is going to sail into nostalgic waters without giving our Gen-X compatriots the chance to charge forward and take some today chances because this worldwide catastrophe has beached us all.
We shall see. As they say: stay tuned!
Image credit: Paramount