MTV reality dates back to “The Real World,” which — if you’re keeping track — is in its 16th season and has been on for 13 years. But the network’s current target-demographic melodrama is “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” (Mondays, 10 p.m. ET), a purportedly unscripted show following a gang of California high-school students through, for the most part, their endlessly complicated romantic lives.
Basically, “Laguna Beach” looks eerily like a bad teen soap opera would if it were made up of the things people actually say.
This week’s episode saw Jason, one of those guys who causes unending angst despite having no apparent appeal, in a new relationship with Alex, having finally broken up with Jessica. (It says something that even deep in the season, there are still constant captions throughout every episode to remind you who’s who.)
While Jessica was off licking her wounds on a ski trip with her friends, Jason and Alex went out on what might actually be the most inane date mankind has ever suffered. As they ate dinner, Alex searched for something meaningful to say.
Finally, inspiration struck. “I like that shirt,” she said breathily.
“Thanks, honey,” Jason said with all the natural warmth of a tax preparer.
“I like your pants,” Alex rather horrifyingly continued.
“Thanks, honey,” he said again.
“I like your face,” she concluded, reaching for the trifecta, and that’s when he … busted out laughing.
At its best, “Laguna Beach” wordlessly mocks the simultaneously overwrought and utterly banal nature of high school (“I’ve been chipping off my nail polish all week, and I’m like halfway done”) just by letting people talk the way they talk. It’s not clear whether it’s supposed to be funny, but it very often is.
Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.