MTV is doing a blessed thing. With “RetroMTV,” the network will be replaying three of the finest seasons of The Real World starting this Friday and continuing throughout Sunday, including the first New York season, the San Francisco season with Pedro Zamora, and the first Las Vegas season with Trishelle Cannatella. I hope that sentence filled you with the adrenaline of a thousand jars of stolen peanut butter, because I’m tweaking over here.
It’s all in anticipation for The Real World: Portland, which begins March 27.
This happy occasion proves the opportunity for another: Let’s create a Real World supergroup, an ideal cast composed of seven of the best housemates in the show’s history. I’m basing my picks on the cast archetypes that are most important to me, but if you come up with your own casts in the comments, feel free to change the categories to your liking.
1. Best Gay Cast Member
My pick: Norman Korpi (New York, season 1)
Other nominees: Danny Roberts from New Orleans, Dan Renzi from Miami
I’ve got to have Norman in my ideal cast. The first gay guy on The Real World is probably the one I’d still most want to hang out with, as he mainly served as the voice of reason during that all-important New York season. (Admittedly, I also love Heather B., who was a riot during the 2000 Real World/Road Rules Challenge.) While Dan Renzi may have had more hilarious and explosive moments on the Miami season, Norman was articulate and cool and an open Trekkie. We don’t see cast members like that on most any reality show now, whether they’re gay or straight.
2. Best Emotionally Relatable Female
My pick: Amaya Brecher (Hawaii, season 8)
Other nominees: Genesis from Boston, Lindsay from Seattle
I know this is a controversial pick, but I seriously lapped up everything about Amaya, including her annoying crush on Colin, her utter lack of common ground with Kaia and Ruthie, and her actually very funny sense of humor. No one remembers that Amaya was funny! She referred to the other girls’ breasts as “na-nas” and went on a hike in heels, claiming, “I look like I’m named Bianca.” Once, she also quoted lyrics from Alanis Morissette’s difficult second album, and that made me realize we had everything in common. Emotionally.
3. Best “But Maybe You ARE Gay” Straight Hottie
My pick: Alton Williams (Las Vegas, season 12)
Other nominees: Landon from Philadelphia, Steven from Las Vegas
So many of the straight dudes on The Real World just assume they are interesting, and that is rarely the truth. For gay home viewers, sometimes it’s just better if a straight cast member has an intriguing, effete quality that keeps you guessing about their sexual orientation even after they sleep with gorgeous ladies like Irulan. Alton came into the season announcing he was afraid of gay people, and later he even showed concern about seeming gay when he had to dance on skis with Steven for an event at their job. Oh, gay panic. A telegenic treat! The man did have a winning smile, and I was pleased to see him in the recent Battle of the Seasons. That winsome face! That blandness! We always need bland hotness, guys.
4. Best Hilarious Lady Cast Member
My pick: Melissa Howard (New Orleans, season 9)
Other candidates: Coral from Back to New York, Tonya from Chicago
New Orleans was a great season, and not just because 13 years later I’m still slobbering over Danny Roberts, who is thankfully on Logo’s DTLA now. I’m still in awe over Melissa, the hilarious half-black, half-Filipino cast member whose confessionals — sober or drunk — were the highpoints of the season. On one particularly great occasion, a musical beds situation forced her to sleep in the same quarters with Mormon Julie and a naked Danny, which she found emblematic of her entire sexual life on the show. On another occasion, she made up with awful David by tipsily suggesting, “How about you and me and Jamie get in a menagerie?” Priceless.
5. Best Infuriating Cast Member
My pick: David “Puck” Rainey (San Francisco, season 3)
Other nominees: Ryan from the second New Orleans season, Justin from Hawaii
Puck basically invented the world of reality TV we live in now. He was annoying the minute we learned what his job was (bike messenger), and he only escalated in awfulness from there. This was the man who called Pedro’s engagement to Sean a joke. This was a man whose empire of awfulness is best exemplified by a snot-covered finger dunked into a jar of peanut butter. This was the man who harassed his fellow cast members even after he was evicted from the house. His impact is unthinkably lasting, and even though his legal situations in recent years make me sure I don’t want to see him again, he is an indispensable part of this list.
6. Best Whimsically Ridiculous Cast Member
My pick: Jemmye Carroll (New Orleans, season 24)
Other nominees: Chet from Brooklyn, Bronne from Cancun
It took me three seconds to love everything about this girl. Her out-of-breath twanginess, her casual love of sex, and her well-established love of black men were all A+ characteristics to me. She was whimsical and completely un-self-conscious in front of the cameras, and therefore she was eminently watchable at every turn. Her relationship with Knight was definitely too strange and even troubling, but thank God we had her during the second New Orleans season to balance out the insanity of (allegedly) Percocet-loving homophobe Ryan Leslie. I’m rolling my eyes just remembering how he called the police after Preston peed on his toothbrush.
7. Best Forgettable, Yet Likable Seventh Cast Member
My pick: Janet Choi (Seattle, season 7)
Other nominees: Sharon from London, Rachel from Back to New York
My favorite season of The Real World will always be Seattle, that magical year when Stephen freaked out on Irene, bubbly Lindsay suffered the most traumatic phone call of her life (and maybe mine?) when she got the call about her pal committing suicide, and hot David threw around fish at the pier. But somehow, Seattle wouldn’t have been Seattle without Janet Choi, the even-keel, optimistic Northwestern student whose intelligence and sincerity made her a bit more intriguing than, say, other famous forgettable-seventh-cast members like Rachel from Back to New York or Jamie from New Orleans. You need the forgettable-but-likables! They dictate whether a season has any sense of stability or reality. Picture Miami without Sarah Becker. Suddenly it’s just six people yelling at each other.
Here’s the trailer for The Real World: Portland!
What’s your dream cast?