College Hill: Interns
A source of current controversy is the overwhelming number of reality series on television. Many trace it back to a documentary back in 1973 that followed the Loud family around. This series, ‘An American Family’ developed many of the techniques that are still in use today. Now television executives put groups of people on remote islands, lush mansions or houses closed off from the outside world all in the name of entertainment. One by one every major cable and broadcast network has added these reality shows to their lineup. One of the more recent additions to this growing pack is on Black Entertainment Television, BET. The series is College Hills and for a few years now it has been taking a look at life in some of the most well known African American colleges. A spin off of this series, ‘College Hills: Interns’ looks at a group of ten college students as the attempt to navigate the real world working as interns in business. This is one of those ideas that show true promise on paper but once the marketing and programming executives get done with it the show is just more of the same juvenile pabulum that is taking control of television. The main reason all shows such as this go off track is they do not recognize their heritage. In ‘An American Family’ the point was to document real people in real situations. ‘Interns’ like most of the pack comes off as forced; contrived to gather ratings. If this series was done in a straight documentary style it would have been something important from a cultural point of view.
The premise is a simple one. In the original ‘College Hills’ series each season would concentrate on a single college. A group of student would be housed in a style much better than any dormitory I have ever encountered and the cameras would follow them throughout the semester. In the variation under consideration here the students are assembled from colleges and universities all over the country. They are gathered in Chicago and given the opportunity to participate in a summer internship. Watching a group of twenty-somethings work at a new job and get a taste of life after college would be fun to watch and provide some good talking points between parents and their kids. Instead what we get here is part challenge show, part dating show filled out with over hyped melodrama. The web site for the series states ‘While the internship focuses on education, employment and entrepreneurship, the cast will participate in challenges…’ this is a noble concept but the events shown in each episode are typically concerned on sexual attraction, ‘hooking up’ and the consumption of large quantities of alcoholic beverages. To be fair this is the real world college experience for many of the youth of today. This show is heavily influenced by other members of the genre. The living arrangements, a luxurious pad, come out of MTV’s ‘Real World’, while the competition comes out of ‘the Apprentice’. Thankfully I didn’t notice anyone being forced to eat live worms so perhaps they couldn’t figure a way to work in some ‘Survivor’ motifs.
The cast appears to have been assembled by psychological evaluation to ensure certain personalities, sexual orientations and work ethics are included. Naturally the final group consists of five beautiful women and five handsome men. Unattractive people don’t make for good ratings so it is better not to include them. In the first episode the housemates gather in their ultra deluxe new home. One thing that is always fun to do in a series like this is to try to guess who the good guys and bad guys will be. Each member of the cast is selected to fill a certain role. For example Kathy is a pretty young woman who grew up in Hazel Crest, IL and attended Illinois State University. She aspires to be an actor or spokesperson. In the second episode she came out as being a lesbian. This could have been an opportunity to discuss the changes in societal views of sexuality. Instead the major impact on the series appeared to be that Kathy would be considered in a different hook up pool. Then there is Marc, a ruggedly handsome young man from Atlanta. He is intelligent but is put more into the jock category due to the many sports he excels in. Almost immediately he is attracted to Jenna. She hails from St. Louise, MO and is interested in modeling. She is also smart graduating a semester early with a high grade point average. The first episode is barely over before they begin to become an item. They are also the first to arrive at the orientation which does make it seem that they were ‘destined’ to become a couple. Pretty much the same goes for all ten of the cast mates; each one filling the required spots in reality television casting.
This DVD is released by BET through parent company Paramount Pictures. Of course the video and audio is extremely well done. All eight episodes are present as shown on television. The first disc has an interesting juxtaposition of extras. The first is the cast audition reel that shows the tapes sent that lead to the people selected as cast members. The second are auditions from the rejects. The second disc offers a ‘Day with Soulja Boy’ featurette. This is an potentially interesting spin of the reality television series but ultimately is more of the same.