star chamber

How to save the Russian space program and MTV's "The Real World" -- at the same time!

Published September 18, 1997 7:00PM (EDT)

| It would be a marriage made in, well, the heavens. The Bride: a once-hip, now obviously tired MTV show documenting the allegedly real lives of strikingly attractive if irritating twentysomething roommates. The Groom: an ungracefully aging former communist space program limping from disaster to disaster.

I present to you a programming concept that could revolutionize television AND space exploration all at once: MTV's "The Real World: MIR." Two not-so-great tastes that would taste great together.

The idea is simplicity itself: send the MIR's current crew home for some much-needed rest. Send in their place a cast of seven strangers -- seven self-absorbed twentysomething narcissists, some Russian, some American, all of them cute as the dickens. And find out what happens, as they say at MTV, when people stop being polite and start getting REAL.

Lord knows the Russian space program could use some fresh blood. The MIR itself is already more than six years past its official expiration date (when it was launched in 1986, it was supposed to last only five years). This year alone, the ship's inhabitants have endured flaming oxygen canisters, oxygen generator breakdowns, leaky cooling pipes, numerous computer failures and a crash with an unmanned spaceship. Earlier this week, the ship's computer went down again -- for the fourth time since July. (They must be running Netscape.)

Meanwhile, "The Real World" is beginning to look a little worn around the edges. Sure, when the show started back in 1992, it was at least as irritating as it is now. But it was entertaining as well. Over the past six seasons, we've seen innumerable moments of low comedy and even a few of high drama (the expulsion of Puck, the death of Pedro). These moments seem few and far between these days. Over the last few years, as the show has bounced from city to city, from Miami to London, the show's formula has begun to lose its novelty.

Oh, sure, relocating "The Real World" to deep space might be risky. But "The Real World" has dealt with risky situations before: Viewers of last season's show may recall Flora's attempts to climb in through the window of the Miami shower to see the orgy inside, which resulted in a lot of broken glass and more than a few hurt feelings. And my goodness, the last time I took a look at MTV's "Road Rules" -- a sort of "Real World" spinoff in which a group of strikingly attractive if irritating twentysomethings roam the country in a Winnebago in a sort of televised scavenger hunt -- the cast was preparing to camp INSIDE AN ACTIVE VOLCANO. Compared to this, what's a computer failure or two between friends?

Here's the exciting cast for the new show:

Yuri: a hotshot Russian flyboy with an (irregular but beating) heart of gold.

Darcel: a streetwise bike messenger and spoken-word poet.

Buck: a graduate student in cultural studies at New York University and former Chippendale's dancer.

Anais: a professional mountain climber and sometime phone-sex operator.

Sasha: male or female? No one can tell. All we know is that this Siberian native, a street mime and theoretical physicist, knows many novel ways to keep warm.

Moonstone: a New Age greeting card designer from Santa Fe.

Lilee: a bisexual transvestite telemarketer from Tacoma.

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What might happen once we brought these seven strangers together in the cozy confines of an ailing Russian space station?

Episode One:

The new roomies meet one another for the first time and discuss who will sleep where. Moonstone cries until the other roomies promise that she can use the escape module as a meditation space. Sasha seduces Lilee. Darcel brings the roomies to tears with his spoken word poem: "Twinkle twinkle little star: Who the fuck do you think you are?" An oxygen canister bursts into flames.

Episode Two:

Buck inadvertently crashes the shipboard computers while playing Tetris, plunging the roomies into 48 hours of darkness. Sasha seduces Darcel. Darcel brings the roomies to tears with a spoken word poem: "Sasha, Sasha, my little star. Just what sex did you say you are?" The cooling pipes begin to leak, soaking and destroying Moonstone's greeting card collection. Moonstone cries.

Episode Three:

Sasha seduces Anais, who only agrees to have sex if they can do it over the ship's intercom, because "I'm not in a touching-other-people headspace right now." Darcel, practicing zero-gravity bike riding in the main cabin, accidentally knocks out the spaceship's main power cord, crashing the computer and plunging the ship into darkness once again. The escape module bursts into flames. Moonstone cries.

Episode Four:

Darcel and Lilee confront Yuri, who they accuse of repeatedly forgetting to flush the zero-gravity toilet after using it. An enraged Yuri, his heart beating erratically, lies and says the real culprit is Moonstone. Moonstone cries. Sasha seduces Buck. An unmanned cargo ship crashes into the main cabin. Lilee bursts into flames.

Episode Five:

The oxygen generators fail. In the 36 hours before Yuri manages to get them up and working again, the cast is able to survive only by swallowing the air inside the Cheetos packages Buck has smuggled aboard. Sasha seduces Yuri. Darcel brings the roomies to sniffles with a poem: "The Man stole my air." Anais, engaging in cyber-sex with a 16-year-old boy in Kuala Lumpur, inadvertently takes the computer guidance system offline, leading the ship to drift some 15,000 miles off course. Moonstone cries.

Episode Six:

The roomies, fed up with Yuri's continued toilet problems, vote to expel him from the station. Fed up with her continued crying, they also decide to expel Moonstone for good measure. Moonstone cries. Yuri, floating free in space with only an hour's worth of oxygen, deliberately rams into the ship's solar panels, crashing the computer and plunging the ship into darkness. In the ensuing confusion, Sasha inadvertently seduces him/herself. Darcel brings the roomies to small grunts of annoyance with his poem: "The Man took my power." The guidance computer shuts down.

Episode Seven:

The main oxygen generator fails again. The roomies squabble over whose turn it is to fix it. Darcel accuses Buck of "space racism." Anais cries. Sasha seduces the zero-gravity toilet. The roomies, lacking oxygen, slip into comas. The guidance computer fails again, sending MIR plunging into the Indian Ocean. Sasha is featured on the cover of TV Guide.

By David Futrelle

David Futrelle, a regular Sneak Peeks contributor, has written for The Nation, Newsday, and Lingua Franca.

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