MTV is cable's high school cafeteria. The beautiful people are at one table (``Laguna Beach") and the slutty guys and gals are at another (``The Real World"). The rich kids? In the girl's room mirror (``My Super Sweet 16" ) and as far from the greasers (``Pimp My Ride") as possible. And beginning tonight, the jocks and cheerleaders will have a perch of their own, called ``Two-a -Days."
The reality show, at 10:30 p.m., will chronicle Alabama's Hoover High School football team's fight for its fourth state championship in five years. That's MTV's description of the show, and, strangely, that's what the show is. Rather than belaboring the romantic escapades of the players, the eight-episode series spends most of its time on their acute physical and psychological stress (they practice twice daily, thus the show's title). When handsome co-captain Alex is accused of cheating on his girlfriend, Kristin, ``Two- a-Days" lets us know, but doesn't suddenly become all about that.
The show is remarkably similar to ``Friday Night Lights," a new NBC series, debuting Oct. 3, about high school football in a small Texas town. These guys need to find time for their homework and have social lives, but they are nonetheless consumed by football pressures. And the ``Two- a-Day" coaches -- particularly a tormentor named Rush Propst -- are nasty dudes. They harangue their players without a hint of humanity, calling parents when a player's game isn't up to par and refusing to let players take sick days.
As if these kids don't already know the entire town is depending on them. ``The only fire we can't put out is Hoover football," a local fireman tells the cameras.
Like many MTV reality shows, ``Two- a-Days" doubles as a kind of anthropological look at a lifestyle of the young and not-famous-yet. This particular subculture isn't as jaw-droppingly garish as that of ``Laguna Beach" or ``The Real World," and yet those of us who weren't jocks or cheerleaders might be struck by some of their unusual rituals. For example, on game day, the cheerleaders can paint a particular player's number on their midriff. That's when Kristin confirms that something is amiss, since another girl has also marked herself with Alex's number. It has a primitive undercurrent that is fascinating.
But will ``Two- a-Days" ever become a sensation like ``Laguna Beach"? Without any hot-tub action, and with copious amouts of Ben-Gay, probably not.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com.