Does MTV Make Austinites?


Yesterday evening I joined a few gals from work for happy hour at Jasper’s in the Domain. It’s a swanky place with swanky drinks and menu items (also participating in Austin Restaurant Week!), but the happy hour pretty much rocks with $5 martinis – both foofoo-girly with sugar on top and hardcore with bourbon and mint leaves.  However, the best part about Jasper’s happy hour is the gouda macaroni and cheese. Meant as a side dish for four, I finished the heaping helping in about two sittings.

Between glorious bites of mac and cheese and a blue-cheese-covered potato chip or two, we started talking about Austin appearances in television. Celebrity Austinites (ehem, Sandra) talk (and blab on) about how much they love the city, and word gets around. Apparently Austin is still a hot topic of conversation in other major cities like Manhattan and Los Angeles. But how much do TV appearances dedicated to Austin influence who moves here?

I keep thinking about MTV’s “The Real World” and the 2005 season-long stint in Austin. The group of seven strangers from all over the country took over a gigantic warehouse off Third and San Jacinto – now a Mexican restaurant and printing company.

The Real World Austin

The Real World Austin Cast

As an Austinite, I couldn’t even bring myself to watch the show more than a handful of times. But I can’t help but wonder, what did “The Real World” audience outside of Texas think of Austin when they watched the show? I can only recall a lot of fighting and a ton of partying on Sixth Street, also known as “Dirty Sixth” by many Austinites. Oh, and they had the coolest job in the world – shooting a documentary about a band at South by Southwest.

Cool job set aside, would incessant partying downtown and street fights make you want to move to a new city? I can’t really tell. But I think the show could have done a better job shining light on the city that serves as the true oasis of the Texas rather than silly Sixth Street bars.

But “The Real World Austin” wasn’t MTV’s first stab at bringing Austin into the limelight. In 1997, the network aired its first prime time sitcom called “Austin Stories” about three friends and their funny misadventures in Austin. It got canceled after one season and I was only 11 when it aired, so I can’t tell you if it was actually funny or if they did more than party it up on Sixth Street every night. Then again, this wasn’t reality TV.

Cast from Austin Stories ... Hello, 1997

Cast from Austin Stories ... Hello, 1997

But now I’m curious – if you moved to Austin in the last five t0 10 years, why? Was it because of MTV and shows like “The Real World,” or was it because of the music scene, rolling hills, and good old Austin weirdness?

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