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Reviewed by Will Harris
TV’s viewership generally tends to be less than discerning when it comes to their tastes in reality programming, preferring the sensational to the subtle, so it’s rather startling to find that “Life of Ryan,” the series which follows the life and times of professional skateboarder Ryan Sheckler, is more easily described by the latter adjective. The show offers an unexpectedly sentimental look at the life of a teenager who, despite having a lifestyle that’s far from average, manages to come across as someone who you wouldn’t mind your kid hanging out with.
But here’s the real telltale question: have you ever even heard of Ryan Sheckler?
I’m not going to lie to you: I hadn’t. Not that I’m the primary demographic for a show like this, but his name hadn’t even so much as come across my radar. Turns out that, during 1997-2001, Sheckler won all of the California Amateur Skateboarding League state championships, then went on to win at the X Games, Gravity Games, Vans Triple Crown and Slam City Jam. It’s no surprise, then, that he decided to go pro in ’03, nor is it terribly shocking to learn that he started pulling in a lucrative living via various sponsorship deals. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the kid is that, as of this writing, he’s only reached the ripe old age of 19.
Yeah, you can kind of see why MTV decided that he deserved his own reality show. They must have really started chomping at the bit, however, when they realized just how normal Sheckler was. As “Life of Ryan” kicks off, he’s rolling in dough, but his biggest issues are trying to find the time to spend with his friends and family in between all of his career responsibilities: practicing, attending competitions, participating in photo shoots, and so forth. Yeah, yeah, sounds like a really rough life, right? But it’s the guy’s career. There are episodes where he has to deal with the fact that, although he’s in a position where he can have the time of his life, he’s got to keep things under control and be a mature adult, or the whole house of cards could come tumbling down on him.
The key storyline to Season Two is the relationship between Ryan and his girlfriend, Kayla, and to be fair, the oldsters in the audience will probably find themselves laughing aloud at his indecision. After spending the entire first season complaining about how he can’t find a girlfriend, he finally finds one, but the second she starts to get serious about the relationship, he begins worrying that maybe things might be going too fast and that she might be putting more into the situation than he is. Dude, what do you think a relationship is? Well, to be fair, the guy does have to spend a lot of time dealing with the emotional repercussions of his parents getting a divorce and subsequently getting back into dating. That’d take a toll on anyone’s opinion of relationships.
“Life of Ryan” is an unexpected pleasure in the world of lame-ass reality shows. Like the majority of the other series within its genre, it’s not high art. Sheckler’s narration rarely sounds less than hackneyed, and you sometimes want to smack him for being such a teenager. It is, however, a show which generally ends with a moral, one from which your kids could learn some valuable life lessons. When was the last time you could say that about an MTV series?
Special Features: There’s not much going on here for those whose interest in Sheckler is limited solely to the series, but skate rats will probably enjoy the three skating videos – “Kamikazes,” “Peace with Nothing,” and “Call It Off” – which have been included. Unfortunately, that’s the sole extent of the bonus material, and even that only adds up to just under seven minutes of footage. Wow, what a bonus!