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Until Tuesday, MTV had shown a repeat of each new episode of Underemployed right after it premiered. Not so this week—it preferred a days-old rerun of Jersey Shore in the 10 PM Central time slot, followed by another episode of the reality show. The show's ratings pointed out why: Underemployed pulled an audience of just 400,000 people for its third episode, down from 650,000 for the first two. The third episode of I Just Want My Pants Back, Underemployed's conceptual and generational predecessor on MTV, pulled a much healthier 1.88 million, and even that show got canceled. That spells trouble with a capital "WTF."
Could it be the show's fault? Psssh, duh. Last week's episode (which I'm just getting to because of Barack Obama, but really MTV? You programmed a new episode against the election?) was the first that flat-out sucked, trotting out the "So Sophia's gay" thing again when her parents drop in to visit her and their favorite restaurant, Days of Yore. Like the very concept of a medieval-themed restaurant, Sophia's parents are trapped in the past—specifically the 90s—because they're not down with the gay thing when their daughter comes out to them. Giving off a serious Marcus and Michelle Bachmann vibe, they tell their adoptive daughter they'll "step back" as parents for as long as she chooses to stay gay, and won't pay the rent: "It would be bad stewardship." Pretty Freaks and Geeks, and that's it for the passable story lines. The rest involve the couple with the baby squabbling over budgeting and the advertising one getting all upset when her roommate tries to work on a campaign she's been developing.
Here's the show's problem: nobody wants to watch kids acting like adults, they want adults acting like kids (cf Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother, most of Friends. I could go on). If you do have kids acting like adults, they'd better be staking vampires every episode (Buffy) or be so real it hurts (Friday Night Lights). It's no fun to watch thin characters handling shitty jobs, coming out, sleeping with the boss, or having a baby with grace, aplomb, and dignity. There is literally no medium where that story would be more compelling if it weren't hilariously embarrassing. OK, maybe public radio.
Here are ten things whose depiction would have made Underemployed less dull or more real*:
Preemptive RIP Underemployed. RIP Underemployed recaps.