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Different reality show, same question: Why do they do it? Why they show the world their lives

It’s probably a bad sign that I don’t know a lot of people in Southern California’s “most hip and stylish 18- to 20-something set.” At least, not that I can think of at the moment. Nor is it a good idea, as I found out with some degree of embarrassment this week, to approach young women on the street and ask if they’re over 18 and, if so, that I’d like to talk to them.

But I needed someone that age, because I wanted to find out what it is that would entice them to audition for a TV show that promises to expose their lives to the rest of us.

Yes, I know these shows have been in our midst for a few years now, and starting with “The O.C.” in 2003, the networks have seemed to like Orange County’s youth culture. Except for “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” that is.

But you’d think enough would be enough.

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Not even close.

For a new fall show, the Bravo network is looking for another round of youthful prospects who, according to a network ad, live in the fast lane, possibly attend college, are looking for a first apartment, are starting a new business or whatever.

The only catch: The network is partial to people living in the Newport Beach-Irvine and coastal areas.

And then there’s this: Bravo wants the prospective thespians to “have an involved relationship with their parents,” either because of outright financial help or the comfort zone knowledge that the kids can always come back home if necessary.

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It took some doing, but I hooked up Thursday afternoon with Justin Azarioon, a cousin of a friend in the office. He grew up in Washington state but is now a Southern Californian with a lot of time spent in Orange County’s cooler venues.

Best of all, he’s 22.

You’ve got to remember, Justin says, that a lot of twentysomethings have spent their formative years watching MTV’s reality series, especially the one featuring Laguna Beach teens.

“That set the pace,” he says, “with kids [on the show] who were popular, had money, living the cool easy life. And you still see kids from that show in the tabloid magazines. So, other kids are thinking, ‘Maybe I can get my name out there.’ ”

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It’s possible, Justin says, the wannabes think they have the coolest dad or mom around and would love to trot them out on TV.

“Or it could be the totally opposite side of the spectrum,” he says, “where the kid is totally frustrated with his dysfunctional family and thinks that if they get on TV, his parents will see how big a fool they’re making of themselves and maybe they’ll change.”

I know my parents would have appreciated that opportunity.

Bravo is billing the new series as a “docu-soap.” Its ad says everyone in the young person’s orbit must be prepared for some TV face time.

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Not to sound so pre-MTV about it, but isn’t exposing yourself to a TV audience a pretty big line to cross over?

“For a lot of kids,” Justin says, “it’s a sacrifice they’re willing to make. They think, ‘If I can get my name out there, if I’m pretty or good-looking, if I’ve got the right kind of smile or gestures to create the right kind of drama, maybe I’ll get noticed.’ ”

Tell the truth, Justin, would you audition? “First of all, I really hate reality shows,” he says. “The only two I like are ‘Man vs. Wild’ and ‘Deadliest Catch.’ Watching women gossip is not my forte,” and I can only assume he’s referring to “The Real Housewives. . . .”

Is that a no? “I don’t think I’d want that many people seeing my family, what we go through, our dysfunctionality, because a lot of those are our private moments. Why would you want other people seeing it?”

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Well, as he says, it’s about a shot at becoming popular and making money and living out the fantasy of, ironically, being on a reality show. Once upon a time, you had to go to the community playhouse to do that; now, you don’t have to leave your house.

Justin says he has friends who might give some thought to giving the show a whirl. And for sure, he says, some have talked about relatives who would be naturals.

But not him. No way. “There’s just no value in that for me,” he says.

However . . . a small confession spills out.

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“I used to watch ‘The Osbournes’ when I was in high school,” he says. “Ozzy was older than hell, he was still cracked out, and his hands were shaking. At least that was funny.”

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Dana Parsons’ column appears Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at dana.parsons@latimes.com. An archive of his recent columns is at www.latimes.com/parsons.


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