MTV is killing original comedies right now. They distract you with all the reality television—with girls getting arrested or punched in the face—then sneak a Hard Times of RJ Berger in under the radar.
At the core of it, it's a love story, a story about a boy who loves a girl but can't date that girl. Guy chases after girl. Guy chases another girl. Male friend makes jokes about guy's boners. They could have set this show anytime after high school and the majority of the dialogue would still apply because the dialogue is all about sex and shockingly accurate. There's no restrictions on who can talk about it, either: coach is refreshingly honest, Mom and Dad aren't subtle and just about every character is developing a scheme to get laid.
It's an underdog story searching for greatness but getting underrated because it's on MTV. It just has all the minor trimmings that keep it from sweeping the nation: our hero is the archetypal nerd pining for a cheerleader named Jenny Swanson who is dating a fiendishly popular jock Max Owens. Thus, the unique part of this show is that RJ isn't always getting beaten up by Max, in fact he's frequently an inch away from making out with Jenny. He's not totally inept, he's not completely socially retarded but he is a genuinely nice kid.
He's perpetually faced with making morally disgusting decisions and pushed by everyone around him further in the wrong direction. But he just sits back, sifts through the Mean Girls and American Pie allusions surrounding him and makes the right decision. Which, among today's youth, is the surprise gift the show keeps giving.
Perhaps the more important twist is the kid's well hung. His shorts fall off in a gym full of his peers in the pilot episode and from that moment onward, his nickname varies from "Donkey Dick," "Third Leg" to "Tripod." Yet no male would ever object to having such a nickname.1 In fact, the show's title is probably more of a pun than anything else since RJ's life usually tends to work out for the best.
Sure, his parents are swingers and that's weird, but RJ shows no signs of deserting them because they've made his life so difficult. It seems like he's just going to ignore all the gentlemen hiding in his parents' room only in their underwear. It's probably more weird that his best friend Miles is president of his own personal AV club. Or how his other friend Lily couldn't be any less subtle about the raging crush she's had on RJ. Since kindergarten. But at no point is this any more challenging than stuff every kid has gone through.
Although it's not a reason to endorse a show, it is an absolute delight-particularly when you pick up on a show right before the season finale-to find all of the episodes on MTV's website.2 However, episodes seven and eight are currently not working. Just so you know.
Your Dragon awaits, milady.
GAWKER EXCLUSIVE: Check out the first four minutes from next week's season finale:
1. Having bait and tackle that hangs low and wobbles to and fro isn't supposed to be synonymous with sentiments along the lines of "life sucks." But that's what Hung is about. What separates this show from that one is that not everyone can relate to being a broke gigolo but everyone can relate to getting a boner at the wrong time in high school. Or noticing a boner, pointing and laughing at it in high school.
2. And the fact that they keep running the Adidas Mega commercial with Paul Iacono as a different yet still very RJ Berger Paul Iacono is hilarious. Though it does get kind of old after, oh, say, watching most of the first season all the way through.
[image via MTV]
[Special thanks to Andrew Tatreau-Sherwood for gradually proving I should have been watching from the get-go and to Amber Lancaster for being too attractive to fathom.]