Spotlight Iowa City: ‘True Planet’ show keeps UI students busy

BY NORA HEATON | MARCH 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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As he prepared to chug a bottle of ketchup, DJ Mawe thought it might be not be the best idea.

But the show must go on.

He and fellow UI student Ryan Thompson stood in the kitchen of their friends’ College Street apartment, chugging ketchup like champs for an upcoming episode in their YouTube video series True Planet.” Minutes later, his friends shot video footage of the defeated Mawe taking a lap of shame around the block.

“True Planet” is a spoof of MTV’s “The Real World,” Thompson said. It mainly features a group of six students living in a downtown apartment, similar to the MTV show’s format in which strangers are brought to live together in a house to have their personal lives recorded on film. Goings-on in their apartment, along with visits from other friends, are edited into 10-minute episodes uploaded to YouTube.

Its subject matter spans from fights on the Ped Mall captured on film to skateboard accidents to “Single Ladies” dancing in the rain to, of course, ketchup chugging.

Thompson, the kitchen competition’s victor, just shook his head, saying Mawe had tried to chug too fast.

“Slow and steady wins the race,” he said. “You learn that in kindergarten.”

Nick Rhomberg, the competition’s unofficial judge, sported a polar-bear suit. Speaking through a massive furry head, he gave the camera a “confession.”

“I’ve seen worse things than that happen,” he said. “Back where I’m from, we polar bears have Coke chugging contests.”

The newest episode, which features a road trip to the University of Northern Iowa and a vacation to Cancún, Mexico, will air on YouTube today, they said. The series has been on a four-month hiatus, because group members have moved around Iowa City and filming became more difficult to coordinate. They do, however, have enough footage for around four new episodes, once they’re edited.

During the next academic year, everyone involved will live “basically next door,” Greg Thorsteinson said, and filming will be easier. Chris Cooling said Season 1, Episode 1 premièred on YouTube the same night the idea for “True Planet” was conceived as a way to have fun and laugh at “The Real World.” And a little fame couldn’t hurt.

“We’ve been talking to MTV about picking us up,” Brad Robinson said.

“Talks are one-way,” Mawe said.

But multimillion dollar TV deal or not, the makers of “True Planet” plan to continue with their filming. Though “Real World” spoof episodes are a favorite, the group members are open to new ideas. They recently opened a competition on their Facebook page, on which they have 354 fans. The best idea posted will become a future episode.

Even MTV’s “Jersey Shore” is a possibility, they said, scheming together about which actor would play Snooki.

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