generation cryo and the age of the docudrama

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MTV as a channel that plays music videos hasn’t existed for most of my life. For the past 25 years or so, they’ve been experimenting with original programming and getting lots of hits and misses. For every Real World, there’s four Clone Highs. Recent success has been found in the world of reality docudrama, and the new series Generation Cryo intends to build on that buzz.     The past half-decade of MTV shows have mostly been failed attempts at “how the other half lives”, with Jersey Shore leading the way.  MTV’s last ridiculous smash hit, it focused on a group of young people who were caricatures at best, all the while spawning ridiculous catchphrases. None of it felt human, all too often a ridiculous sitcom-like repetition of events every week. Interest fell off, and the show was ended.

While Jersey Shore produced a couple of spin-offs, none of them has been as successful as Catfish:the tv series. Based off the movie of the same name, Nev Schulman seeks out a person who has been a long-term online relationship every week and sets them up with their romantic interest. Often, the person on the other end of the OKCupid inbox is a farce, or at least a very exaggerated version of their selves.

MTV may have been interested in the show because of the low production cost, but it’s become a hit. Nev is a smart host, who uses his experiences portrayed in the film version of Catfish (whether those were real or not) to relate to each episode’s participants. What makes it so compelling is that the applicants need not be television-pretty, just interesting. More often than not, the person who contacted Nev ends up being disappointed.  I dislike this portion of the show, even though I know it’s coming.  Despite that, the reveal ends up being one of the more human parts of the show.

 

Next Monday, the channel debuts Generation Cryo (you can catch the first ep on the MTV app right now), about a girl named Bree who goes to find her sperm donor. Unlike the upcoming movie Delivery Man, these are real people who have to deal with the consequences. Bree’s backstory: her lesbian parents wanted a child, and took the necessary steps to bring life in to the world with a sperm sample.  Approaching the end of high school, Bree has understandable questions about who the donor is and who her siblings are.

 

To be perfectly honest, most of the show does revolve around what has to be a smartly-produced setup. Bree, knowing she has to get a DNA sample from a male, wants to get her half-brother (who she visits) to agree with it. The episode takes place mostly in Atlanta, where Bree meets her half-siblings Jonah and Hilit. Bree encounters a situation much different than hers, as Jonah and Hilit live in a practicing Jewish household. The brother-and-sister pair came about as a result of their father being able to reproduce. Thus, their parents went to a sperm donor as an outside donor.  This leads to the most pivotal moment of the show.  After Bree gets Jonah to donate a swab from his cheek, she has to get permission from his dad.

 

 

In one of the more powerful admissions on docudrama television, Jonah’s dad Eric admits how depressed he felt when he found out he was sterile. Eric’s confession at the family dinner table is among the most earnest things seen on television, even if a producer set it up just a bit. After taking it over with his wife, Eric agrees to the mission.

The series will follow Bree as she tries to find more siblings and uncover the identity behind the donor.  The format feels a bit like Catfish–the main character gets on a plane, finds someone to talk to, and gets them to reveal human emotions. If it works as well as it did the first episode, it will be one of the few shows MTV has worth watching.

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