The Real World: “WWF Is In The House!”
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The Real World: “WWF Is In The House!”

This week we arrive at the penultimate episode of The Real World: New York and, while it lacks the seismic drama of Julie and Kevin’s race war or the Brechtian twist of Becky and Bill’s forbidden romance, “WWF Is In The House!” is, in my humble opinion, the best episode so far: funny, relatively free of controversy, and full of moments that make me nostalgic for the early ’90s.

As you will recall, last week’s episode ended with a goofy cliffhanger, as a guest at Eric and Kevin’s birthday party accused Heather of assault. This week, after Heather sweet-talked the cops (one of whom was an aspiring rapper), the “nontroversy” quickly evaporated. The plastic-cup debacle is one of those few moments in this inaugural season of The Real World when the producers’ desperation for a little drama is painfully obvious. Basically nothing happens at all—and we don’t even see the fight in question—yet the incident is dragged out over two weeks.

It does serve one purpose, however: shifting the spotlight to Heather B. who, until now, has largely been a supporting player, a sort of Rhoda to Julie’s Mary. This week, Heather finally takes center stage. With their time in the loft nearing an end, she is looking forward to moving on and getting back to work on her album.  Heather is also growing impatient with life at the loft. “I’m saying fuck everybody. I got other things on my mind, I gotta pay my rent,” she tells Julie, while doing a little ironing. I don’t know if I realized this the first half-dozen times I watched The Real World back in the ’90s, but it turns out that Heather is actually pretty hilarious: smart and down-to-earth with a dry, barbed wit. She’s the Dorothy Parker of the loft.

But her witticisms come with a price: Eric’s feelings. For a good-looking guy, Eric is awfully sensitive, and Heather has a way of getting under his (flawless) skin. Tension arises when Smokey, Heather’s cat, knocks over a bottle of Eric’s precious vitamins. He threatens to kill Smokey, and Heather threatens him right back: “Y’all go out the way that Smokey go out.” A wrestling match ensues, one that is jokey on the surface but charged with some genuine animosity.

The Heather-Eric beef increases one night at dinner, as the loftmates sit around the table eating in silence.  Eric awkwardly tries to engage them in conversation—or, to be more precise, tries to make them listen as he drones on about his weekend. Kevin interrupts Eric’s monologue with a tremulous burp, and Eric throws a tantrum. “I’m just ready to go home,” he declares. Heather calls his bluff. “Goodbye Eric. You need any help packing?” she says, while rocking back and forth with Norm in her lap, making her seem like a particularly nasty grandmother. Eric storms off in a tizzy so furious, he won’t even allow Julie to console him. (That’s how you know things are bad.)

To Heather, the tantrum is par for the course with Eric who, in her estimation, “complains the most and says the least.” Heather might be a bit of a mean girl at times, but she’s right about one thing: Eric sure does talk a whole lot. Elsewhere in the episode, Eric nearly bores poor Julie to death by reading aloud the label from one of his health-food products. Julie gently steers the conversation away from nutritional matters. “I know there’s more to you than the ingredients in these boxes,” she declares, perhaps a bit too generously. Eric agrees with Julie’s assessment, of course, but says he doesn’t like people to know how sensitive he really is. Otherwise, they may take advantage of him. Translation: models have feelings, too.

In a hilariously edited sequence, Eric opens up to Becky and Kevin about the challenge of living with roommates. He’s never lived away from home before (I forget that Eric was only about 20 when he filmed The Real World, which makes me feel ancient), so he doesn’t really know how to get along with people outside his family. As Becky and Kevin very thoughtfully advise Eric on his personal growth, we see him rollerblading all over Soho. Dressed in a leather cap, unbuttoned flannel and clashing plaid shorts, Eric performs all kinds of attention-getting mini-stunts, like grabbing the back of a taxi, swirling around pedestrians, and bouncing off a low wall.

Clearly, Eric is a sensitive soul.

Cut to a week later, and suddenly Eric and Heather are the best of friends. He even helps her remove her extensions—something most of us probably wouldn’t do for our good friends, much less our sworn enemy. Heather explains that she and Eric have had a long talk and patched things up, which is nice. As much as I enjoy Heather’s zippy putdowns, the scene where Eric—shirtless as always and wearing teeny, tiny shorts—cuts out her extensions is pretty fantastic.

While Eric and Heather are mending their differences, Andre and his bandmates are busy with a project of their own: filming a video for their song “Lazy Bones.” The song, Andre explains, is about “being broke and not knowing what to do about it and therefore just not even worrying about it. It’s about worry, worrying about how much you’re worrying about it.” Uh-huh.

Gen-X cynic that he is, Andre declares, “I hate videos. I think they’re a farce.” As a result, Andre insists that “Lazy Bones” will be “real,” by which he presumably means “a lot like home movies.”  By a complete coincidence, Becky’s former paramour, Bill Richmond, is hired to direct the video and, with a budget of approximately $0, production begins on location at Andre’s house in New Jersey. (Apologies in advance for the inordinate number of screengrabs, but there were just too many moments I wanted to memorialize for you, dear readers.) The video has it all.

Action!

Walking!

A hangout sesh on the stoop!

Sadly, I was unable to find this filmic masterpiece online anywhere, but I will provide a reward of $5 for anyone who can find it. Maybe even $10.

The episode ends with a memorable, sitcom-ish scene. Eric is taking a shower while Julie, apparently, sits a few feet away going to the bathroom (whether it’s a “Number 1’ or a “Number 2” is unclear). Kevin pokes his head into the bathroom to spy, and then Heather interrupts the foreplay in order to steal back her towel from Eric. She knows it’s her towel, and not Eric’s because “I know Anna Mae [Who?—Ed.] don’t buy from the JC Penney collection.”

Once Kevin and Heather have left, Eric pulls back the shower curtain, revealing his “Little Nies” to the camera—and maybe to Julie as well, though it’s hard to tell from the angle whether Julie can see anything. Either way, she seems unfazed by the sight of Eric in the buff. Andre and Norm chime in from downstairs. “How was it Julie? Was it everything you’d hoped it would be?” Andre jokes, in between drags on his ever-present cigarette. Norm’s interest is more scatological. “Was she doing the wipe?” he wonders. “There’s nothing more humiliating than the wipe.” He concludes that Julie and Eric were probably just “doing their first sex thing.” He may just be right: the scene is goofy, but also weirdly erotic in an obvious, adolescent sort of way. Eric refuses to take the smelly towel Julie offers him. “I’ll blow you dry before I look for another damn towel,” she says. Something tells me he would have accepted the offer happily.

Stray observations:

  • I finally figured out who Andre looks like: Ione Skye
  • On a related subject, I have to give Andre the award for best-dressed this week. I mean, just look at this tank top:

  • • I like how Kevin, earnest to the core, prefaces even the most innocuous statement with dire warnings, like everything he says is some kind of earth-shattering truth bomb. “Let me tell you straight up,” he says to Eric. “I was 18 when I went to college.”
  • One thing that I love about Heather is her complete ease in front of the camera. Heather always seems to be grooming herself—curling her hair, applying deodorant, removing hair extensions. Obviously, this speaks to Heather’s lack of self-consciousness and vanity, but to me, it also suggests that these were more innocent days on The Real World. In 2011, you’d be hard-pressed to find a reality-TV cast member who’d appear on-camera without a thorough mask of make-up applied to his or her face.
Filed Under: TV, The Real World

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