Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Thursdays, I will be reviewing City Guys, which ran on NBC from 1997 to 2001. The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!
Smart and streetwise!
Episode 3.13 “Down and Out in Soho”
(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 30th, 1999)
So, I guess the reality show is still a thing. This episode begins with Ms. Nobel telling the Gang that she’s spoken to the show’s producer and she thinks it would be a good idea for them to do a community service project. I find myself asking this every review but seriously …. how is this any of Ms. Nobel’s business? Is Ms. Nobel a producer on Reality House now?
Anyway, the community service project involves hanging out with a bunch of Romanian immigrants. This leads to a lot of scenes featuring the immigrants speaking in broken English and thick accents while the audiences laughs it up. For a show that was supposedly all about celebrating diversity, City Guys certainly did enjoy poking fun at people with thick accents.
When Dawn comes across Euri, one of the Romanians, sleeping on the streets, she invites him to come live at the loft. Jamal warns that the guy could be a thief but he’s outvoted by his loftmates. Euri moves into the Loft and promptly steals a computer. At first, Dawn is disillusioned and swears she’ll never help another immigrant. Fortunately, Jamal and Dawn then run into Euri at a coffeehouse and he explains that his name is actually Joey and he’s from New Jersey. Upon discovering that she was robbed by an American instead of a Romanian, Dawn feels a lot better.
In the B-plot, Cassidy starts a folk act with L-Train and Chris and pretends to be a bad singer so that Chris and L-Train will quit the group. But if Cassidy wanted to be a solo act, why was she working with L-Train and Chris in the first place?
It was a bit of a confusing episode. Apparently, everyone is watching the reality show but no one recognizes Chris or Jamal when they’re in public. And we never actually see a camera crew filming the group. If the Loft is full of cameras, wouldn’t they have captured Euri/Joey stealing the computer?
Hopefully, this next episode will make more sense….
Episode 3.14 “When Al Met Dawn”
(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on November 6th, 1999)
“After two months of Reality House,” Cassidy says as the episode begins, “the best part is that you really get to know your roommates.”
“The worst part,” Jamal says, “is you really get to know your roommate.”
Actually, for the past two and a half seasons, the characters on this show have exclusively hung out with each other, to the extent that it almost seems like they’re in a Ms. Nobel-centered cult. It also seems like they should already know each other.
Speaking of getting to know each other, Dawn and Al are working on a science project together and they end up falling for each other and you know what? They’re actually a cute couple. However, Dawn is worried about the pressure of pursuing a relationship while on a reality TV show. “I mean, look at Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck!” she says, “Their relationship was killed because no one would leave them alone!”
Wow, Ben and his love life have been pop culture reference points for a while now.
(By the way, Dawn and Al’s science project is a big bulky television mounted on the handlebars of a bicycle. The idea is that you can watch TV while pedaling but it seems like it would just cause more accidents than anything else.)
Since Dawn and Al are keeping things a secret, L-Train sets Al up on a date with another girl. When the girl kisses Al, Dawns sees them and freaks out. At the science fair, Dawn humiliates Al by accusing him of cheating. Ms. Nobel, who has nothing better to do, tells Dawn that it was actually all her fault for trying to keep things a secret. (Ms. Nobel isn’t wrong but again, why does Ms. Nobel have to get involved in everything?) Dawn hijacks that Manny High radio station and asks Al to meet her at their favorite coffeehouse. Of course, everyone else from the reality show and the school all show up at the coffeehouse so that they can watch Al and Dawn get back together. It’s kind of cringey but, again, they’re a cute couple.
Meanwhile, Chris and Jamal are in love with the building’s new superintendent. So, the Loft is actually in a real building as opposed to just being a Big Brother-style set? I’m starting to think this show is not a realistic look at reality television.