Trashy Reality Tv Is Back, Baby!
TIME Magazine|March 4, 2019
Trashy Reality Tv Is Back, Baby!

LINDSAY LOHAN’S BEACH CLUB IS A GIFT FROM THE gods of trashy reality TV.

Judy Berman

It’s a repugnant yet addictive confluence of fame and infamy, spontaneity and contrivance, hedonism and consequences, aesthetic beauty and interpersonal ugliness. Among the schlocky treasures this new MTV series offers are a house—sorry, villa—full of hot young “VIP ambassadors” who are often half naked as hosts at the titular establishment, stunning Greek seascapes, lots of booze and, of course, tabloid magnet Lohan herself as ring mistress. There’s even a breakout jerk, Brent, a hunky, type-A narcissist who meets, insults, dates and splits with poor, pretty Sara within the first five episodes. The only alleged adults in sight are Lohan and her brusque business partner Panos Spentzos, mercurial bosses who bring about as much expertise to the management of humans as teenagers babysitting their younger siblings.

This show is a hit. Beach Club premiered, in January, as one of the top five new cable shows of the 2018–19 season among viewers 18 to 34. This is a surprise only insomuch as the series feels like a throwback to the early 2000s, when so many popular reality shows had no higher aim than to satiate viewers clamoring to watch rich, sexy, sorta-famous or simply exhibitionistic people hook up and antagonize each other. While this subgenre never stopped thriving on channels like Bravo, E! and VH1, it had been on the wane for most of the current decade. Even The Real World, which accidentally pioneered the format on the more experimental MTV of the ’90s, disappeared in 2017.

But in recent months, the exuberantly vapid reality show has shown signs of making a comeback—albeit one tailored to a new generation that values representational diversity. As Beach Club flourishes, networks are rebooting classic trash, from Temptation Island to Wife Swap to Paradise Hotel. Netflix has been launching Bravo-style docu-soaps (Made in Mexico, Westside, Yummy Mummies), plus an international array of dating shows: Australia’s Back With the Ex, Japan’s Ainori Love Wagon, New York City–based Dating Around. Meanwhile, The Real World will have a second life on Facebook Watch, where an Atlanta season is in the works.

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March 4, 2019