Typical college stuff, but for nineteen-year-old Jessica Crump and seventeen-year-old Emmanuel Boyd, these are also the subjects of a documentary of their lives through 2005.
Last summer, the University of Missouri-Kansas City's communications office debuted Four Years, Two Stories, a local take on the reality-programming trend that's produced a national glut of Survivor rip-offs. The UMKC show, which appears quarterly in the school's online video magazine INSITE, follows the college careers of freshmen Crump and Boyd as they study and work and pierce and play through four years of undergraduate life in Kansas City.
Each episode opens with shots of students walking around campus interspersed with flashing words: SEX, LOVE, JOBS, MARRIAGE, BILLS, GRADES, GRADUATION. The show is the one serial program on Insite, an infotainment Web site that producer John Couture envisions as "a little bit like 20/20, but with a younger focus and more fast-paced." The 1996 UMKC graduate credits his reality show for INSITE's swelling viewership. During the first week that the latest episode was viewable, the site averaged 600 hits a day.
The first two episodes of Four Years, Two Stories introduced audiences to Crump and Boyd, both Kansas City natives who consider themselves outgoing enough to expose their lives to anyone with a modem and ten minutes to spare on someone else's banality. To date: Crump, undecided on her major, works in the school library, where there is reportedly a ghost on the fourth floor. She enjoys using slightly offbeat words such as "flaccid." Boyd majors in music with an emphasis on piano. He models on the side, dislikes having to admit his age to girls and racks up speeding tickets as if it were a job.
The latest and best episode, which debuted February 22, features both students' horrid automobile histories, including the plunge of Boyd's car into Brush Creek. Also, we get to meet Crump's newfound love interest, Ryan. Viewers will get their next online peek at Crump and Boyd in mid-April.
Four Years, Two Stories may sound like the area's closest relative to The Real World, but Couture insists his program will not imitate MTV's ten-year-old reality-TV juggernaut. "I don't want to do the typical reality-TV show," he says. "I want to show people the dramatic changes and real changes in these people's lives."
Though he dismisses the voyeurism inherent in the success of commercial reality programs, Couture admits that some aspects of the genre would enhance his show. "It would be really cool if we could start talking about their relationships," he says. More information about Crump's boyfriend is sure to come. Boyd, meanwhile, is hesitant but finally game for the show to examine his romantic side.
"That's a risky thing," Boyd says. "But then I have to sit down and think, 'What am I doing here? This is a video of my life.'"