A reality show built off the model of MTV’s popular “Laguna Beach” must involve sun, beaches and rich, stupid people. MTV hits all three in “Maui Fever,” the network’s latest glimpse into the life of those privileged few with nothing better to do but complain about their love lives. “Fever” follows seven college kids as they waste their parents’ money, hook up with each other and lie on the beach. It’s not much of a premise, but the real draw of shows like this isn’t setting or plot – it’s the drama of real-life characters.
Well, as real-life as other stock MTV “reality” casts. There’s Chaunte, a diminutive blonde, who spends her days manipulating dumb boys. Or, Corbin, the laid-back surfer who plans to continue his lifestyle of casual sex and surf-instructing well into middle age.
But “Fever” does make some subtle changes to its genre, particularly with its casting. The show’s males – unlike their counterparts on “Laguna Beach” – are hilariously awkward and, best of all, not even handsome. Main character Cheyne looks like a young Ron Howard, if Ron Howard were a surfer, and his geeky friend Sean hits on tourists with a pathetic neediness that would shame “Laguna Beach’s” Jason Wahler (see season 2). The show benefits a surprising amount from using college-age characters; unlike the immature “Laguna” cast, the “Fever” crew seems to have left its petty grudges and childish drunken antics back in high school.
The group is also, notably, 100 percent Caucasian, an interesting social note considering that whites make up only 38 percent of Maui County. But though this fact has drawn complaints from native Maui Hawaiians, “Fever” defends itself with the reminder that it isn’t about mixing people of different backgrounds – it’s about the uncomfortable delight of watching seven privileged people make messes of each other’s lives..
Another pop-culture escape into triviality, “Fever” reminds us that TV can’t always take itself seriously. Some have criticized “Fever,” like “Laguna,” for scenes and conversations which sometimes seem scripted, but this is fun of MTV “reality” – its focus is on events so trivial that no sane screenwriter would ever revolve a show around them.
Wednesdays at 10:30p.m.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars