I got the news a few days ago: Television Without Pity was no longer going to recap The Real World/Road Rules Challenge, and the forums were going to be eliminated. Some would view this as a good thing, since the recapping of the show had been mediocre over the past few years and the less TWoP has to do with MTV the better. But now there's this voice in my head, whispering, "It's time to step up again."
This isn't the first time this happened. Back in 2001, TWoP had stopped recapping the Challenge after Extreme Challenge aired. The move made sense, since the show only aired once a year at the time. I think it was that event which inspired me to contact another recapping site whose name I'm not going to say for reasons I'll get into later. They already had somebody recapping the show, but I carved out a niche as I wrote articles and opinion pieces, culminating with recaps of Dog Days from Animal Planet. And by the time Battle Of The Sexes rolled around in early 2003, I was ready.
In retrospect, the first year of recapping the Challenge was my salad days. With BOTS, I had to put up with a lot of bullshit from the show; specifically, the attention-grubbing antics of Puck from The Real World: San Francisco. It was clear that he never grew up, and the poster boy for media whores yet to come managed to make himself the center of attention before leaving midway through the season. There was also stuff like Emily (second season of Road Rules) and her two snotty friends (blah Christina, underfed Anne) and her vendetta with Veronica (RR: Semester At Sea), culminating with Veronica's dismissal from the game. But there were good times to be had: Jamie (RW: New Orelans), his Jesus-like beard and his overachieving; Antoine (RR: Europe) and his ambigious sexuality; playa David (RW: New Orleans) not only being on his best behavior, but also finding a love connection with crazy Ayanna (RR: Semester At Sea); and Melissa Howard in general. I adored the girl, and I enjoyed defending her, even when her heart wasn't in the game. Her getting rid of ex-friend Julie Stoffer in the first episode? That was a bonus. And I was recapping with both barrels. Sure, it took me longer to recap than the other writers, but I used the TWoP method: write down everything from the tape, put out the memorable quotes, and leave little out. I can't believe it's been almost seven years since I went over that season. I also can't believe I once treated Veronica, Rachel (RR: Campus Crawl) and Eric Nies as human beings back then.
Then came The Gauntlet in late 2003, which I consider to be the last truly great season. For one thing, I got to recap the dynamic duo from RW: Back To New York: aspiring wrestler/meathead Mike Mizanin and caustic bitch Coral Smith. But the real scene-stealer was Sarah Greyson. She had been the most identifiable to me during RR: Campus Crawl, and it broke my heart when she was voted off by her teammates, most of whom couldn't stand her. Two of said castmates -- Rachel and Darrell -- started off The Gauntlet by wanting to take Sarah out of the game. Half of the Road Rules team wanted Sarah gone, voting her into the Gauntlet five times. And all five times, she'd come back as the winner. That year, the website had its year-end awards, and we voted her as Most Courageous/Inspiring Moment on a Reality Show. Of course there was stuff to offset that, like Coral's breakdown after getting voted into the Gauntlet, the Abram/Rachel/Veronica threesome in the shower, and Coral getting bit by a spider and half her team thinking she was dogging it. All in all, The Gauntlet had drama, but it was fun drama.
Things went downhill throughout 2004 and early 2005. It wasn't just about writing about the Road Rules team bullying Katie during The Inferno or the guys destroying the girls throughout most of Battle Of The Sexes 2. Every now and then, I'd post something on the website's forum, something that wouldn't really offend anybody on TWoP, and I'd have other recappers looking to rip my head off. Suddenly, it was bad for me to have opinions. I swear, I never cracked my knuckles over a keyboard, hellbent to make other people mad. It was just a matter of my inability to feel the temperature of a room. Combined that with my increasingly negative recaps during BOTS2 and my inablity to produce in a timely manner, that was enough for the head honcho to boot me from the sight without me getting a chance to defend myself. I responded by making this blog and recapping the following two seasons: Inferno II and Gauntlet 2.
By the time Fresh Meat rolled around in 2006, I wondered, "Do I have to do this again?" Recapping a toxic Beth week after week during Gauntlet 2 had taken its toll, becoming one factor of many that led me to stop recapping. I had a brief fling with Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, a story that will be told at another time, but I lost the will halfway through the season.
So why start again now? Because the situation is similar to when I first got started. Because I still don't have much of a life. Because I need to work through the crappy season of The Real World: Cancun which precedes The Ruins. Because some of the folks entering The Ruins need to be reamed. For every person there that's halfway normal (Ibis, Darrell) or positively entertaining (Brad, Derrick), there are ugly mothers like Susie, Evelyn, Johnny, Evan and Kenny. Look through my posts on TWoP; people like them bring out the worst in me. And that's a reason for me not to recap. Why risk what little sanity I have left on the likes of Wes, Johanna and Shavoun? Is it funny for me to claim that Casey had "titty envy" of Coral, or is that anti-woman of me to say? Does saying "Shut UP, Veronica" and calling her "Verantula" every week really worth it? What do I have to prove?
Bottom line: I'm on the fence. The Ruins starts up in late September. I could go whole-hog and spend days going over an hour's worth of tape to bring the best recap I can. I could just half-ass it. Or I could not bother at all. It's nice to have choices, and I'd like to hear what anybody reading this has to say.