Mingling with the Commoners: Watching MTV’s The City


It’s no secret that for the better part of The City, the least dreadful and single most entertaining storyline has been Olivia’s ongoing disdain toward Whitney’s boyfriend, friends, and her life in general. At the forefront of this feud is Olivia’s presumption that since MTV strategically placed her at Diane von Furstenberg to work alongside the New York newcomer, the position also entitled her to spew wisdom in Whitney’s general direction at all times. But Whitney, perhaps due to Jay’s mouthy suggestions that Olivia is a pompous elitist brat, has yet to embrace Olivia’s socialite world. Like a stoic construction worker at a particular disagreeable job, Whitney has offered Olivia gruff workplace camaraderie in lieu of friendship, a tactic that thus far has failed, since these two are perhaps the least likely ever to have any idea how people actually relate to one another at work.

Worse, this church/state division was breached last night when Whitney invited Olivia to the Cutting Room where Jay, alias Brent Tuhtan, was performing with his band, Tamarama. To give Olivia the illusion that she was not in fact at a mid-level rock show, Tuhtan offered a quarantined area–“So she doesn’t have to mingle with the commoners,” he says to Whitney. Olivia, skeptical, consults with her houseguest/cousin/boyfriend Nevan (he refers to her as “babe”); Bevan, as Jay calls him, gives his blessing, saying it would be her good deed of the day.

Before the show, Olivia hosts the girls at her quaint Tribeca apartment, where they meet her white little pooch Mr. Butler, sip on some “champy,” and wait while she changes into an all-black rock show outfit. Meanwhile, Jay and his band waited for Whitney and/or the cameras to show up. They arrive, and Tamarama, a cross between Vampire Weekend and the Dave Matthews Band, finally goes on. Olivia, who lacks rhythm, tries her best to move to the music, fails (this may have had something to do with the lack of one listenable note), and then bolts. In socialite world, this is what passes for a vote of confidence: The next day at DVF, Olivia offers the band a gig at one of her charity functions. “What is she, our new booking agent?” asks Jay, chafing at the patronage. Pride does not prevent him, however, from taking the job.

And so, the hipsters and socials will do battle once more, this time at a New York Cares event at the Gansevoort. Tamarama, it turns out is underdressed. Smelling blood, the socialites unleash jokes. The event is a disaster. The band, according to Olivia, “didn’t do their research.” Whitney, in turn, defended her man, saying he felt out of place. Like the good friend that she is, Olivia derides Jay’s “insecurities.” Her conclusion? “We have to keep work and our social lives separate.” And that was that.

MTV also allotted about a 10-minute segment on Erin’s pitiful relationship mishaps that I refuse to discuss.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 10, 2009

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