The future spawn of O-Town makes life difficult on There and Back

There and Back may have its haters, but for me, it’s almost becoming more fun than the rapidly tiring Challenge show that airs before it. The big problem with There and Back, however, is that it doesn’t really work if you didn’t watch the first season of Making the Band. That context infuses the series with irony, and ratchets up the humor. For someone not familiar with O-Town, Jacob Underwood’s appearances might have just seemed like some guy in dreads, not Jacob! Anyway, while he was MIA this week, the show didn’t let up. Highlights:

  • “I wonder what he’s going to look like when he comes out,” Tiffany wondered about their baby. “Probably more like you, to be honest,” Ashley said. “That’s what I’m preparing myself, anyway, so I don’t have my feelings hurt.” What would really hurt his feelings is if the baby looked like Lou Pearlman.
  • “We vibed, and I dig him,” Ashley said about his new songwriting partner, whose name is Zandy and who actually used the phrase “awesome tunes.” What decade is this again?
  • “If I don’t come down here and help do stuff, you don’t do anything,” Tiffany said. “That’s not true,” Ashley said, and then Tiffany shot him a look of death that may very well have started his hair on fire, and it looks pretty flammable.
  • When Ashley discovered that a very-pregnant Tiffany had left the house without telling him, he called her repeatedly, leaving a message that said, “I’m seriously concerned. When you get this message, will you please call me back.” Then he slammed his cell phone into the ground. Way to facilitate a call-back, dumbass.
  • Somebody at MTV is so fired. Right after Tiffany’s mom said that cell phones just don’t get reception in certain places, we got an apparently coincidental but totally ironic interstitial ad: “There and Back is brought to you by Cingular Wireless. Cingular. Raising the bar.” That was followed by an ad that included a voice-over saying, “When it matters, more bars in more places.”
  • Ashley said, “I just feel like I’m spreading myself really thin and I’m trying to be everything to everyone now.” Wow, he even speaks in song lyrics.
  • Watching Ashley and company drink, Tiffany said, “I’m going to be pregnant for the rest of my fucking life.” Her mother consoled her, “Don’t be sad. You won’t be. You’re not an elephant.”
  • After Ashley said he’d be there to help during labor, Tiffany called him on his disingenuousness. “I’m sure you’re going to be plenty of help giving birth. You give birth, and I’ll watch, and I’ll coach you,” she said.
  • When Tiffany’s doctor walked into the room, he said, “What is going on? A pregnancy is going on.”
  • “Can we take him out? I can’t be pregnant any more,” Tiffany said. “Like, I’m finished. I don’t want to be pregnant any more. I’m done. I swear.” It would have been funny except she started crying and sucked the funny right out of the moment, dammit.
  • Thankfully, she brought back the funny a minute later, talking about strangers commenting on how big she is. “Men stop me and say that. ‘Woo, that kid needs to come out. Like, we think it’s feet might be hanging out.'”
  • Ashley logged into his Bank of America account, which showed that he has a negative balance of -$27.17. The editors blurred out his online ID, as if anyone would want to log in to steal his negative $27.
  • Time for more pop-out-of-the-screen narration. Ashley said, “Here we go again. Fuck. This is the second time I’ve had to ask to borrow money from someone in the last few months, and now this time, it’s from my girlfriend’s mom. Yeah, it’s painful.” So is this writing.
  • Is MTV not paying him until the series stops filming? Cheap bastards.
  • Ashley told his girlfriend’s mother, who said she could lend him some of her severance pay, “I swear, I swear, I promise this album is going to be successful, and I promise I’ll be able to pay it back to you.” Oh, Ashley. Here we go with that foreshadowing thing again.
  • Near the end of a fight where they each kept saying the same things over and over again, Ashley started lecturing Tiffany about his problems. “You don’t understand, really, what it’s like to walk in my shoes. In terms of household chores…I have it pretty easy. In other areas, no, I don’t have it pretty easy. I feel a lot of pressure all the time for what I’m trying to do right now. I have all my eggs in the basket of coming out and trying to be a successful musician, and I’m coming up against a huge stereotype and a lot of shit. … I have different pressures. I’m trying to write an amazing album during all of this.” And that, ladies and gentleman, is the most unsympathetic speech ever, and the worst way to get sympathy from your pregnant girlfriend.
  • Ohmygod, next week Dan cameos! And he looks gayer than ever!

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.