Either MTV is determined to capture every aspect of vapid, status-obsessed teenagers' lives and transform it into inane, completely forgettable half-hours of television -- or they're friggin' geniuses. In my mind, The Real World, groundbreaking though it may have been, simultaneously set the bar and lowered it for the ensuing decade-plus of reality TV. MTV has always been at the leading edge of convincing self-consumed teens to split open their lives and share all of the boring, messy details (Engaged & Underage, Made, Laguna Beach, The Hills, so on and so forth). We live in an age now where humanity's worst (and very rarely, its best) are on full display, week after week, for the glory of nothing greater than some paltry prizes, big ratings or six months of C-list notoriety.
My Super Sweet 16 (somehow entering its fifth season) often feels like a mirror held up to MTV's core audience (teenaged girls and guys), one which reflects the ugly, venal reality that the generation of 16-year-olds now maturing will probably throw all of their elders into nursing homes when they hit 50 or so, sell their parents' houses and use the cash to host bitchin' beach parties. 95 percent of the kids featured on this skin-crawlingly fascinating series are spoiled, bratty, epically stupid and possessed of a sense of entitlement that is truly staggering. Throwing a fit because the car your parents gave you is the wrong color? Howling in misery because a party doesn't unfold exactly the way you planned? Demanding outrageous (and occasionally, near impossible) things like having major pop stars perform at your birthday? The mind reels - yet you keep watching. Therein lies my point about MTV being geniuses. They know this stuff is pure human trainwreckery, but you can't turn away. Watching and waiting to see when the shit hits the fan (and it inevitably does, every single episode) is the only reason to tune in. Oh, that and what MTV says is "what it's really like to turn 16 these days." (Insert stifled laughter here.)
Paramount hasn't tricked out these first two seasons of My Super Sweet 16, dumping each season onto its own disc and housing the whole shebang (one disc on each side) in a slimline keepcase. It's worth noting that the online sources I checked mention two episodes in Season 2 that, for whatever reason, aren't on this set (Amanda and Carlysia). For both seasons, all episodes are playable separately or all together. Season 1
Jacqueline and Lauren: The show kicks off with this California duo taking over a Hard Rock Cafe, posing for pictures with Pauly Shore and headbanging to Unwritten Law. It's hysterical and incredibly sad that straddling a Harley with Pauly Shore qualifies as a memorable event in their lives.
Jacque: Probably one of the most overall enjoyable shows in the entire two-season set, if only because Jacque doesn't fit the traditional spoiled brat stereotype (in looks, anyway) and her hard-drinking mother seems hell-bent on having a Mardi Gras-themed party no matter what her daughter says. Oh, and I did mention party crashers?
Ava: The first of many Arabian-themed nights (what is it with teenaged girls and being in harems?) -- but the coup de grace comes when Ava's mom whisks her daughter off to Paris to shop for dresses, second only to the moment when she cancels Ava's credit card because of a forbidden trip to Santa Barbara, Calif.
Hart: One of only two guys featured during the first two seasons, the kid screams "douchebag" from the moment you lay eyes on him; his dad, a prominent, equally douchy caterer, shows just how close to the tree this particular apple fell. He's a wannabe tennis pro, but a consummate tool.
Natalie: A rags-to-riches tale that includes a manicure with real diamonds, jetting off to Vegas to find the perfect dress and copious references to the late, great TV show The OC.
Sierra: Daughter of rapper Cee-Lo Green (who, at the time the show was filmed, had yet to explode with Gnarls Barkley), lil' miss Sierra is a royal terror who, in a rare occurrence on the show, actually discovers humility when her grades suffer and her level-headed parents threaten to cancel her party. Cee-Lo has the best line of the first season: "We'll call the next show 'Parents Go Broke Hosting a Birthday Party.'"
Sophie: The second season kicks off with a bang, introducing primo bitch Sophie to the world. Demanding a Moulin Rouge-themed shindig, this most wretched of children screams, pouts, harrumphs and fake-smiles her way through these 22 minutes with such grating self-awareness that you might contemplate a contract killing.
The triplets: The petty, back-biting trio of Candace, Jessica and Ashley want to stage a Vegas party, but can't quit lusting after the school hunk and trying to outdo one another (I'm gonna sing! I'm gonna dance! I'm gonna walk around looking like a drunk showgirl!). The oneupsmanship is amusing, but you can't help feeling really sorry for their parents.
Lila: This delusional San Diego snot, who probably reads US Weekly like it's great literature, is the ringleader of a clique dubbed the LTDs, who hop in Daddy's jet to fly to Las Vegas for clothes shopping expeditions and tool around like they're famous, constantly mentioning how much they adore Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan.
Jazmin: A Pennsylvania foster child who should, by rights, pluck your heartstrings, but in My Super Sweet 16 tradition manages to make your gorge rise as she plots, in her words, the "biggest, most expensive party this town has ever seen." Thrill as she drools over BMW convertibles. Shudder as she models her Tiffany jewelry. Cringe as she shows off her family's Cozumel beach house. Watch in horror as she callously dismisses one of her friends from the VIP limo.
Bjorn: Flaming, self-proclaimed "divo" prizes his Chanel bag (wonder if they edited out the part where he's mercilessly whaled on at school) and desires to throw a (no kidding) "House of Bjorn" fashion event complete with a red carpet and bare-chested classmate models. Kinda makes you wanna never visit Connecticut, since no one really bats an eyelash.
Cindy: The true sweet 16 cliches don't pop up until here, where the words "fairy tale" are thrown around a lot, Cindy's mom attempts to steal her daughter's thunder by dressing up like a queen and a horse-drawn carriage figures into the evening's festivities.
Janelle: This Cuban, wannabe ballerina goes way over-the-top for her quinceanera, cattily informing her friends about her handmade invitations and improbably, insisting on a choreographed dance with her friends. What is this, She's All That? The DVD
Presented as originally broadcast on MTV, the first two seasons of My Super Sweet 16 bow on DVD with a passable 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer, retaining the grainy look typified by shows shot on video. There's the odd visual defect here and there but it's due to the source material and no fault of the transfer. Visually, this is probably as good as it's gonna get. The Audio:
Again, in keeping with the show's original broadcast specs, the two seasons arrive on disc outfitted with Dolby 2.0 stereo tracks that preserve every elated squeal, every frustrated sob and every half-hearted thank you with acceptable fidelity. The instances where dialogue is less than intelligible (I'll avoid any wisecracks there), MTV helpfully provides burned-in subtitles onscreen. No optional subtitles are included. The Extras:
Curiously, with two episodes missing from the second season, neither of them materialize as bonus features. Instead, the first disc boasts a bonus episode of My Super Sweet 16 following Chelsie as she plans her big day, as well as a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Super Sweet 16 movie. The second disc houses another bonus episode (Alexa's quinceanera) and trailers for Super Sweet 16: The Movie, My Super Sweet 16: Season 5, Laguna Beach: The Complete Third Season and Bam's Unholy Union. Final Thoughts:
Wonder why foreign countries hate Americans? Look no further than My Super Sweet 16, a slick, half-hour MTV series that glorifies obscene celebrations of stupid, spoiled brats who should be locked up in sensory deprivation chambers until they're 21. The mind reels - yet you keep watching. Therein lies MTV's genius. They know this stuff is pure human trainwreckery, but you can't turn away. Watching and waiting to see when the shit hits the fan (and it inevitably does, every single episode) is the only reason to tune in. Oh, that and what MTV says is "what it's really like to turn 16 these days." (Insert stifled laughter here.) If you're a fan (God help you), then you won't find much to sink your teeth into here, aside from the episodes. This is a solid rental otherwise.