MTV's 'True Life: I'm Saving Detroit' Might Make Your Head Explode

Illustration for article titled MTV's 'True Life: I'm Saving Detroit' Might Make Your Head Explode

Say what you want about MTV, they've given us some golden moments with "Catfish." But just when you thought they were back on the upswing, here comes another Detroit-style documentary.


The Detroit News reports that while General Motors North American President Mark Reuss was at an automotive industry breakfast, he let it slip that MTV's "True Life" crew was in town recently. I'd love to see the train of thought that led from talking about the new Impala to a bunch of engineers to MTV's progamming schedule.

Obvious non-MTV watcher Reuss thought the title was "True Life: Detroit Rising," but someone at MTV clarifies that it's actually "True Life: I'm Saving Detroit" because you have to have that "I'm" part in the title, of course.

Jeannie Kedas, a spokeswoman for MTV, said Tuesday the show has already been filmed and produced and slated to air this summer. She said the episode features three young people who've decided to battle Detroit's blight one block at a time.

This sounds like an epic drinking game in the making. I can already tell you the train station or the Packard Plant will be shown in the first 30 seconds. I'll roll the dice and say maybe there won't be an overt Slows BBQ reference, but you can bet the outside facade will show up at some point.

Two of these people will be white so it fits the narrative, and one of these people will be black. One of the white people will have a backstory that's something like "I'm originally from small-town Nebraska and I just wanted the big-city life but I couldn't afford NYC, so here I am!" The other white person will be from the suburbs and be all like "something something riots something something 8 Mile something something parents don't support my choice something something coffee."

The black person will talk extensively about how they grew up in a Big Three family and all the negative stats you hear about Detroit — 47% illiteracy rate, 70% unsolved murder rate, auto industry collapse — will revolve around them. I won't knock that person's tragedy but you can guarantee their story won't be as sunny as the others.

Expect at least one scene of a changemaking conversation at Astro Coffee and another scene of a party somewhere in Woodbridge with people drinking Ghettoblasters. Also, coneys, archive Motown footage, police arresting youths and obligatory grizzled old black person commenting on the good ol' days.


Do you see what I'm trying to say now? I'm not saying the story shouldn't be told. It's just that the story is being told over and over and over and over again with the same script. And no, I'm not going to offer an alternative. I am wondering why we've never had a season of "The Real World" filmed here, though. I'd watch that.

UPDATE: Thanks to some generous commenters, we have some info about "True Life" that actually sounds more promising that I predicted. One participant is reportedly a Denby High grad and another is a current student at Cody High. Motor City Blight Busters, a local organization which does exactly as the name implies, also is reportedly involved. Keep the info coming.


UPDATE #2: The Detroit Free Press has a program linked with high school newspapers at Detroit Public Schools. I was in that program and I've always wondered why some stories beyond changes in dress codes and hottest songs on the radio never made it to the daily Freep. Here's an example why they should: As local journalist Alan Stamm points out, Cody High's newspaper profiled the young woman featured on "True Life." But there's only so much to glean from the piece because it's behind a paywall.

(Photo via AP)

(Anyone have any other info about "True Life: I'm Saving Detroit?" Leave some info down below in the comments!)



Hope you'll be willing to eat your words and update the post in the wake of the show's premier. You were entirely wrong, and the show has more heart and love for Detroit and its youth than any other superficial hipsterfied depiction you could imagine.

I get it though, and don't blame you. The points you bring up in this post are true, and it's almost impossible to find a non-problematic portrayal of urban America. In a cynical time when there's little to be hopeful about or find refreshing, this episode of True Life is a real breath of fresh air, and the young women featured have more hope and drive than myself and most adults. As this is the first link to appear in a google search of "True Life: I'm Saving Detroit," I hope you'll be willing to update again and let people know the episode is definitely worth watching. Your head will explode, but for good reasons.