Trying to find their place in the 'World' Preview: MTV puts another diverse group in a house, turns on the cameras and, as the personalities clash, brings us season No. 5.

July 09, 1996|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

This is the story of seven strangers, picked to live in a house, criticize each other's morals, deal with their raging twentysomething hormones, contradict themselves, look trendy, and start a business.

Yes, it's MTV's extended sound bite disguised as a documentary -- "The Real World" -- back for a fifth season in Miami, the land of the beautiful people.

Watch the new politically correct gang bicker and bond among Miami's gallery of long legs, bulging muscles and fancy cars. And don't forget the music video-variety of stylish cut-and-paste editing and pulsing radio faves that has become the "Real World" trademark.

The concept of taking seven, dare we say "diverse," somewhat artistically inclined, 18- to 25-year-olds, plunking them down in a luxurious pad in an exciting city, and recording everything from tumult to toothpaste, was born in 1992 with a cast in a Soho, N.Y., loft.

Since then, the cast members -- who can choose not to have their last names revealed by MTV -- have changed and the set has moved from Venice Beach, Calif., to San Francisco, to London.

Throughout its run, the show has created a menagerie of sacred memories, including the dawn of bicep-boy Eric, MTV's future "Grind" guru; Jon, the cowboy-hat-clad Garth Brooks wannabe; the saga of petulant Puck, the bicycle messenger, and dignified AIDS victim Pedro; and spiky-haired Euro-Real-Worlder Neil's unfortunate tongue-biting experience.

While interest has waxed and waned from cast to cast, this season's selections display a cynicism and spark that promises plenty of rock 'em, sock 'em Gen-excitement. Strong, intense personalities are poised to shake the fishbowl.

The immediate standout is Dan, a mix between the Joker from Batman and Satan, according to one roomie. He's outgoing, philanthropic, and drop-dead gorgeous. Add sensitive to the list. When he is dismissed from a position at a gay restaurant, he takes it personally. The dismissal is pointed aesthetic disapproval, he concludes, because a job like that hinges on sex appeal, not skill.

Mike, the flattest Real Worlder upon introduction, bonds with Dan by asking him if he's gay. The Florida resident gets the pleasure of escorting sensuous Cuban-American Miami native, Melissa, to the house. He isn't shy about his enthusiasm toward sharing living space with this throaty, dark woman who has worked as a phone-sex operator.

Melissa, who is a bit apprehensive about leaving her traditional Cuban family to become what she terms "the little ethnic girl" in a house of strangers, is visibly nonsmitten.

New York poster boy Joe competes with Mike for the role of horniest male. He believes in sex on the first date because it gets people to trust each other immediately.

Shown in opening scenes with his New York girlfriend, all big blond hair and tight-red-dress-sheathed-bod-to-die-for, Joe worries about his relationship enduring the impending separation. Upon arriving at the condo, he seems a bit less concerned. Surrounded by female roomies Flora, Sarah and Cynthia, the comical big-city sweetheart revels in anticipated testosterone triumph.

Sex drive isn't reserved for males, however.

Enter Flora, a Russian immigrant who thinks proper interview attire is a bottom-baring leather mini and a skimpy excuse for a blouse.

The jaded bartender admits that she flirts to get ahead, and we see that philosophy in action as she romances a club employee to land a job of her own and succeeds. When Flora returns home late, the clan discusses locking their brazen, drunken roomie out. Antagonist established.

San Diego comic-book editor Sarah heads the anti-Flora camp. In order to tolerate her, you just have to watch her like a sitcom, Sarah maintains.

Wild and unencumbered (Sarah gets evicted from her apartment the night before she leaves for Miami; she suggests all the roomies bond by plunging into the pool fully clothed), she seems a bit self-righteous and judgmental.

Someone not even Sarah can find fault with is Eliza Doolittle-esque Cynthia. The down-on-her-luck Oakland, Calif., girl to root for, she has recently lost her father and sister.

A potential wide-eyed cliche of a character, the mixed blessing of the "Real World" holds real significance for Cynthia with its promise of risk, growth and experience. She explores the spacious, stylish condo, gasping and pointing in breathless, appreciative awe.

Aside from personal problems and battling backgrounds, the biggest challenge the roomies face is starting their own business; or more specifically, deciding as a cohesive unit, what that business should be.

Moped rental!

Some new-fangled credit card!

A coffee-shop for beautiful people!

What? Catering to the city's shallow sensibilities is the last thing they should pursue, Dan responds to Flora's suggestion.

Why not do some good with this opportunity, like opening up a club in a deserted warehouse and giving a portion of the proceeds to charity?

Anarchy ensues. Flora feels universally hated and negated (she's not here to make friends, she asserts), and Dan's deepest sensibilities have been assaulted (a little ironic, considering he has just accepted a job at a Miami magazine; the editor of which explains is targeted at steel-abbed, tanned types).

The horns and the halo begin to take shape.

Could you imagine Puck and Pedro harmoniously balancing the books?

What to expect?

Will Flora open a coffee-shop and refuse to let unattractive people in? Will Dan open a club and refuse to let attractive people in? Will Cynthia get sucked into Miami's seamy underworld? Will Melissa go back to phone sex? Will Sarah change the locks? Will Mike and Joe find themselves?

Get real.

'The Real World'

What: Season premiere No. 5.

When: 10 p.m. tomorrow night

Where: MTV

Pub Date: 7/09/96

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