Twentysomethings: Austin is Netflix’s response to the real world

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Isha Punja, Michael Fractor, Kamari Bonds, Natalie Cabo, Abbey Humphreys, Bruce Stephenson, Keauno Perez, Raquel Daniels in Twenty Years: Austin. (Photo: Jabari Jacobs / Netflix)

Netflix has invested heavily in unscripted programming over the past few years, but the effort hasn’t exactly been an exercise in creativity. Instead, the streaming giant has tended to take inspiration from basic cable, filling its library with shows that would be a perfect fit for Bravo, Food Network, and HGTV. Now he seems to have MTVs The real world in his viewfinder with Twenty Years: Austin, a 12-episode series that puts a 2021 twist on the age-old question: “What happens when people stop being polite and start getting real?” “

Twenty Years: Austin (which was originally advertised with the title The Roaring Twenties) follows eight young people in their twenties as they move to Austin, TX to be successful in life and love, while navigating the final stages of the pandemic. These eight “roommates” (the men and women live in separate houses that share a yard and a swimming pool) come from all walks of life, and they must learn to cope with their differences during their first few months in Austin. Like with The real world, the twenteeth starts on move-in day, and roommate personalities emerge soon. At the center of much of the drama is Abbey, a Houston native who is ready to explore her bisexuality after recently coming out of a divorce. She spends the first episode flirting with both Isha, a self-proclaimed “educated ditz” from Irvine, Calif., And Kamari, a 23-year-old North Carolina determined to become a model. Along with Bruce, Abbey, Isha and Kamari the good party boy from the South are the kind of people we’re used to seeing on reality TV: they’re loud, flirty, and ready to open up to things. cameras, even doing so, paints them in a less than flattering light.

The other four roommates, however, each bring something new to the genre. At the premiere, Natalie, who grew up in a strict Latin home in Miami, and Keauno, a second-generation American who recently revealed his homosexuality to his Catholic family, relate to their introverted nature and their different ideas about beauty. conventional. “I’m the only girl here with fucking meat,” Natalie says, as Keauno bemoans her “awkward” existence. Across the pool, Raquel, a black woman who moved to Austin to pursue her career in IT, finds herself instantly charmed by Michael, a nerdy Jewish boy with low self-esteem who hopes to pursue a career. in the stand-up. Michael and Keauno’s efforts to build self-confidence are one of the first highlights, and their willingness to fall prone throughout the journey is eerily inspiring. Watching Michael bombard into an open mic with ‘pussy job’ jokes is a cringe peak, but it is undoubtedly ‘real’, as no one in their right mind would want this moment to be forever remembered in front of the crowd. camera (and broadcast to millions of people around the world).

Although the twenteeth clearly borrows The real worldthe premise of – and that of subsequent MTV shows, including Jersey Shore – he strives to update it for an audience of 2021. In the early days of The real world and Jersey Shore, it made sense that a landline would be the roommates’ only link to the outside world, but the gender’s commitment to maintaining this level of isolation does not match our modern reality (in Floribama shore, for example, actors have to ditch their cell phones and use a “crocodile phone” to organize taxis and order pizza). In a clever gesture, the twenteeth Not only allows roommates to have their phones and computers, but integrates them into the narrative: Michael, Bruce, and Isha are constantly browsing dating apps, and if anything sticks, we see the actual date unfolding on screen. As a result, new people are constantly rotating in this already fascinating world, bringing with them new dramas and new issues.

Twenty Years: Austin Nor is it shy about describing “America’s ‘new normal’ of 2020,” as Netflix promises in the show’s official synopsis. The series was taped in early fall 2021, and COVID-19 is really part of the equation: Many roommates have been made redundant or struggled during the pandemic, and they’re still looking to get back on their feet. the time they arrive. Of course, living in “the America of 2020” also requires navigating a delicate political landscape, and no one, not even these good time enthusiasts, is immune to this rhetoric. It becomes evident when Isha worries that she and Bruce, a South Carolinian, may not be a good match because he could be a Republican. With a few tips from her roommates and a (rather) candid conversation in a gay bar, Isha solves the problem, but new questions about roommates and the people they meet in Texas are sure to emerge.

With The Real World Reunion performing on Paramount +, it was only a matter of time before Netflix released its own version of the MTV staple. As for imitators, Twenty Years: Austin is one of the streamer’s best efforts. If the model holds, the twenteeth spinoffs in Los Angeles and San Francisco should be announced within the year.

Part 1 of Twenty Years: Austin premieres Friday, December 10 on Netflix. The remaining six episodes will be released on the following Friday, December 17.

Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV editor-in-chief of Primetimer and an expert on The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.



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