Picks and Pans Review: The Real World

updated 06/28/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/28/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

MTV (Thursdays, 10 p.m. ET)

B+

All right, so now we know that The Real World, MTV's soap opera vérité, isn't too real. Yes, they threw a bunch of kids who didn't know each other together in a downtown Manhattan loft and filmed the results. But when things got slow in the social petridish, the producers instigated situations that might be more dramatic. It was like those nature shows that throw a wolverine and wildcat together in a pit so they can get a good dustup on film. The Real World ping-ponged between fascination and tedium.

The second season kicks off with a tense, joyless reunion of the original New York seven, then starts introducing the new crew who will be living together for six months in a party crib in Venice, Calif. Once again the selection process labors to be systematically eclectic: There's a surfer dude, a petite policewoman, a stand-up comic, a punky Irish-born rock journalist and a Christian country singer.

Some of the first-season bugs have been exterminated simply by recruiting young roommates who are more interesting and charismatic, people who smile and laugh a little more. But we'll see how personable this group is after a few months in the MTV fishbowl. Tempers are already starling to flare by the third episode.

The Real World is essential viewing-for young adults, who are still tentalively splicing together their grown-up personalities and incorporating a lot of borrowed pieces. A program like this is a handy form of behavioral Cliffs Notes. For those who aren't twentysomething, this peep show still appeals to the curiosity we all have for the way other people live.

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