‘Laguna Beach’s’ love lessons

Photo courtesy of MTV

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
September 19, 2005

Every woman in a relationship should watch at least one episode of “Laguna Beach,” MTV’s reality series about a group of young, beautiful and rich kids from Orange County, Calif.

This suggestion isn’t being made for the eye candy elements of the show — though there’s plenty. Rather, the male-female dynamics are something familiar to most women in their 20s, 30s and, yes, even 40s. And sometimes just turning on the TV can give you the dating pointers that your friends aren’t.

Ever wonder why your dates are such jerks? Are you surprised at the venom you feel against the other woman, rather than your boyfriend, when he does you wrong?

Romantic woes have been well chronicled in film and television for decades — and, in recent years, by reality TV. “Laguna Beach” may be the current favorite among programs capturing the realism of dating today.

“It’s not just kids watching this show,” says Jared Shapiro, senior editor at Inside TV magazine. “It’s adults watching and relating to the scenarios that are universal — love, breakup and the ensuing drama.”

The show, which airs at 9 p.m. tonight on MTV, is in its second season. The premier season of the series is available on DVD (Paramount Home Video, $38.99) and in stores now.

The show is one of MTV’s most popular programs. Last season, “Laguna Beach” averaged 2.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. This year, the average is 3.1 million.

Much of the drama that helped make the show such a hit in its debut season is still there this season. Kristin and Stephen, the golden couple, aren’t together anymore but their lives are still intertwined, much to the chagrin of another of his ex’s, a woman named LC who likes him sooooooooooo much. Kristin’s BFF (that’s best friend forever), Jessica, is being jerked around by teen Lothario Jason. And Alex M. is on a manhunt and wants Jason at all costs.

It’s not often something on MTV can actually teach us anything about human nature. But “Laguna Beach” surprisingly hits home for women who feel they don’t quite have control of their love lives.

We presented several scenarios from the show to Kimberly Williams, a relationship expert for www.AdviceForSingles.com, to find out what the kids are doing wrong and what we, um, they, can learn from their relationship mistakes.

JASON AND JESSICA

THE PROBLEM: Pretty Jessica has had a string of bad luck with boys. She thinks she’s hit the jackpot with Jason, a charming low-talker whose verbal skills are somewhat lacking. He doesn’t return her calls. He doesn’t take her out when he says he will. And the more attention she pays to him, the more he withdraws. This makes her more possessive and screechy than ever. What’s a girl to do?

THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED: “Boyfriend? WHAT boyfriend? Jason may have been her boyfriend in the past, but he is now just her friend who happens to be a boy. Jessica’s desperation makes her appear less and less attractive to Jason, thus his diminishing interest in her. Jessica needs to stop pursuing Jason, thus giving him the space to decide if he wants to rekindle the relationship, or to give it a proper burial. As for Jason, he needs to stop telling lies to Jessica. He needs to stop saying he will call or come over when he knows he doesn’t actually intend to do so.”

WHERE THE COUPLE CURRENTLY STANDS: Jason finally broke up with Jessica, who is so not over it. He knows this and toys with her. In the middle of hanging out with the boys, he asks Jessica to hang out with him. Did they or didn’t they hook up? We’ll find out on tonight’s episode. But for every woman who has sat by the phone waiting for that call that never came, we feel for her.

STEPHEN, LC AND KRISTEN

THE PROBLEM: Stephen still has a thing for his ex-girlfriend Kristin, but he also likes being adored by another ex, LC, with whom he hooks up on occasion. On Valentine’s Day, he took Kristin out for dinner. The day after, he stopped by LC’s house with flowers and candy.

THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED: “LC must immediately stop hooking up with Stephen. She needs to realize ‘having sex with’ and ‘having a romantic interest in’ are two totally different things. They broke up, so he should not receive the benefits of a relationship without providing the commitment LC desires.”

WHERE THE COUPLE CURRENTLY STANDS: Stephen is still calling Kristin to try to get her back. LC is worried about losing a friend if she dumps Stephen. LC should realize she’s hotter than Tara Reid during her “American Pie” days and date some of the other guys who undoubtedly are lining up for the opportunity to take her out.

JASON AND ALEX M.

THE PROBLEM: Alex M. likes Jason and maneuvered to break up he and Jessica (above). It worked, and the two are dating. But now he’s calling Jessica. Should Alex be worried?

THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED: “If he dogged Jessica, he will dog Alex. Why wouldn’t he? … I sense a severe self-esteem / self-worth deficit which seriously needs to be addressed. Alex deserves her own boyfriend and should focus her attention on the 100 percent available guys.”

WHERE THE COUPLE CURRENTLY STANDS: Alex asked Jason if he wants to be with her. He shrugged and mumbled something that translates into, “Not so much.” She blames Jessica and suggests she and Jason see where they are after they come back from separate vacations. Oddly enough, on tonight’s episode she’ll find herself vacationing with a group that includes Jessica. Can you say cat fight?


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