Group-based reality shows, which saw an enormous rise in popularity a few years ago, now seem to be on the decline. The exact reasons are obviously not immediately evident, but a lack of new material and a constant rehashing of tired premises is definitely not helping. Perhaps the death of reality shows is imminent, and if so,Â this new season of College Hill effectivelyÂ represents the decline in reality television’s quality.
Unlike the immediately previous season,Â College Hill: Virgin Islands, which had a legitimate setup (four kids from the U.S. andÂ four from the Virgin Islands living in one house), College Hill: Virginia State lacks a predetermined objective. The results of that experiment in human culturalÂ bias and group dynamics resulted in a much more engaging scenario… not to mention a drunken bloody shoe fight between two cast members. The newest season, though maintaining a certain level of guilty voyeurism beholden to all reality shows, comes off surprisingly anticlimactic and even boring.
Though the editors clearly tried to cut together the most divisive bits and present a cast torn with disagreement, what ultimately emerges is a group of eight selfish college students compaining about how hard their lives are. At various points, arguments between housemates erupt, but never inÂ the cohesive, story-like way that keeps a viewer engaged. For the most part these are isolated incicents involving bratty, self-centered children… I mean young adults.
Each character is meant to represent a specific subset of college life: the cheerleader, the football player, the gay man, the party girl, the playboy, the self-supporter, etc. But the mixture isn’t interesting. Though they all have distinct personalities, they’re not distinct enough to create evocative debate. In fact, they’re actually so much alike that for the most part, they can’t seem to stand each other and constant bickering, reiterated in private screen confessions, is the norm of the season.
There are a few interesting moments, though mostlyÂ due toÂ the sheer disgrace of airing it on television. After Hurricane Katrina, the kids volunteer at a food bank, where they proceed to have a food fight, carelessly destroy a few cartons of milk, and complain about having to sweep the floor… all while remarking on “how good it feels to help others.” Though Hurricane Katrina is a topic abundantly appropriate for a BET reality show, the event is never addressed again after one episode. That’s how important it is to the producers and the kids themselves.
Similarly,Â when asked to create radio and television PSAs discussing the impact of HIV on the African-American community, they slack off until the last minute, to the chagrin of their producers, and then throw something together, complaining of how busy they are. Before their television spot, a representative comes to speak with them about her battle with AIDS, and though teary-eyed in the discussion, the same results occur when it’s actually time to follow through on their ownÂ production.
What College Hill: Virginia State teaches, throughÂ aÂ thoroughly deplorable, and almostÂ entirely unsympathetic season,Â is that self-image is everything and complaining about life is more important than achieving anything. By the end, if viewers haven’t tuned out, expect to feel the need for a good shower as roommates gush about how much they’ve learned about themselves and others. Though any reality show experiences highs and lows based on cast, the third season of College HillÂ reaches an exceptional low, especially after such an addictive second season.
Zach’s Rating: D+
BET’s rating: B-
Last season’s cast rating: C