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Bright Lights, Big City

Monday, October 7, 2013

Last week, the season finale of Washington Heights aired in the UK and it was even more bittersweet because I had found out a few weeks earlier that it didn't get picked up for a second season. Crazy, right? Washington Heights was the most real 'reality' show that has been shown on MTV in a long time. It reminded me a little of that reality show about the dancers, featuring the guy who was dating a Pussycat Doll, remember that? (Off topic: I'm just going through this Wikipedia page of old MTV reality shows. Gosh there were some goodies! Remember Rich Girls? Two-A-Days! Room Raiders! This warrants a separate post another day). 

For those of you unfamiliar with the small series, it followed nine young adults from - you guessed it - Washington Heights, NYC, over a short period of time as they pursued their careers and schooling whilst navigating the usual dramas that come about during late teens/early twenties. There were lots of break-ups and make-ups but also quite a bit of family drama. 'So, it's The Hills in New York City then?' I hear you cry. No - not at all! Firstly because The Hills in New York was called The City (the show that gave us the fabulous Olivia Palermo). Secondly, Washington Heights wasn't centred around wealthy girls who could afford to intern at top magazines and music companies whilst maintaining a high standard of living (no shade, I loved The Hills, just the truth). Yes, many of the Washington Heights cast were pursuing entertainment or arts careers but they were also shown trying to make ends meet at the same time. The closest show I can think to compare it to is How to Make It in America (which was also cancelled before time).

So, was this the reason why Washington Heights wasn't picked up for a second season? Was it too real? After all, nobody really wants to see the struggle, do they? Nowadays it seems everybody wants more than five minutes of fame and it is easier than ever before to do so on your own. Look at models such as Kate Upton who have made it by building a brand themselves via Instagram and the like, so that by the time an agency signs them, they've already gained a substantial following and the upper hand. I was watching the US version of The X Factor the other day and was dismayed to see this guy who believed his world was over because he was told 'no'. We live in a time where people who are mildly talented can upload videos and cultivate fan-bases across the whole spectrum of social media. At the same time, their family showers them with non-stop praise. They are fawned over and made to feel like pop stars in the blink of an eye. So, when they actually go and audition and enter the real world and they're met with negative but constructive feedback, they can't deal with it. In their eyes, they're already famous and everyone should agree. What seems to be lost in translation a little bit (and not just in the entertainment industries, also in 'normal' jobs) is that you generally have to struggle and hustle to make it to the top. Kids don't want to know that, so perhaps that's why Washington Heights wasn't so appealing to them. 

Another, perhaps more cynical view, is that MTV viewers don't want to watch ethnic people trying to make it. If they're making a fool of themselves or playing to stereotype (see Jersey Shore) fine but if they're actually trying to do something with their lives...maybe not. Cold? Pessimistic? Maybe. But I can't help think there's a slither of truth in that line of thinking. 

However, it all just comes down to the fact that I just want to know what happens next. How did Audubon get on with his tour? Is Reyna now a wine connoisseur? On seeing the finished product, did Frankie regret pursuing Ludwin like that? Are Jimmy and Eliza back together? And so on and so forth. I think BET should pick it up and bring us a season two. What do you think? 

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