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If this is `Real,' it's truth as a cheap ratings ploy

On `Real World,' Tyrie looked on the verge of domestic violence with Jazalle. MTV's action? `To be continued.'

March 23, 2007|Ann Donahue | Special to The Times

Between the tantrums, the brawls and the tidal waves of mascara spawned by uncontrolled sobbing, MTV's "The Real World" has rarely been a program that showcases the complexity of humanity. However, the last two episodes -- during the show's 18th iteration, this time taking place in Denver -- did address the shades of gray in a volatile relationship: What's the line between a couple having a big-time "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" tussle and an outburst that's actually domestic violence?

Here's how it unfolded: In last week's episode, viewers found out that Tyrie, in quick succession, had hooked up with two lovely gals from the local bar, Ashley and Jazalle. A 23-year-old from Omaha, Tyrie is a classic "Real World" stereotype -- a reformed gangbanger. Trouble was clearly heading his way.

Toward the end of the episode, Jazalle became profoundly upset upon finding out that Tyrie slept with the other woman. Shouting and crying, she barricaded herself in the bathroom -- and Tyrie, screaming, followed her in. Viewers got a glimpse of Jazalle opening the door and trying to leave -- and of Tyrie, quite roughly, grabbing her by the arm and yanking her back in the bathroom.

And ... cut to a "To be continued" placard.

It was a cheap ploy for MTV to use the scene as a cliffhanger; the question of "Will Tyrie whump Jazalle?" as a ratings stunt is downright repulsive. But in Wednesday's episode it became clear from the outset that the worst of it had already passed; when Tyrie went for a walk to cool off, he made a classic drunken idiot mistake, leading Denver's finest to arrest him for public urination.

Tyrie was appropriately contrite when released from the drunk tank the next day, breaking down in tears in the back of a car and wailing that "Man, the world thinks I'm a ... woman-beater now!"

It's a neat story arc for "The Real World" -- bad guy relapses, then redeems himself -- but a foul taste remains. What would have happened next if Tyrie hadn't gotten popped for relieving himself in public and he went back into the house? What would have happened next if Jazalle hadn't had enough sense to leave? So MTV, tell us -- what does happen when people stop being polite and start being real ... or, at least, really scary?

Right ... that's to be continued.

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