If real life could only be more like it is on MTV -- a complete and total fantasy -- it wouldn't be raining the day we arrive at the "MTV Beach House" in East Quogue, N.Y. Instead of a tan, we're forced to come back with a story.
Instead of playing volleyball out back by the waves, two dozen staff members are jam-packing themselves and their equipment into a four-bedroom house, where a soggy but still attractive group of teens and twentysomethings is gathered in the living room, waiting to be used as a backdrop.
Still, even between the raindrops, you can see the allure.
Now in the thumping throes of its second summer season, the "MTV Beach House" is heaven in the Hamptons to 57 million viewers, most of whom are between 12 and 34.
On- and off-screen, it's a veritable Fantasy Island, a playpen for buff beach boys and bikini-clad girls and a visual enhancer for much of the music channel's regular programming, including "MTV Blocks," "MTV Jams," "Most Wanted" and "Top 20 Video Countdown."
Though you would expect a huge,clamoring crowd of Clearasil users outside, that's rarely the case.
"From the street side, you wouldn't even know we were there," says Beach House executive producer Lauren Levine. But that's not the case beachside, she says. There, "It's just party central."
So how cool is it?
Well, among the big sun-and-fun attractions outside are a giant water slide that runs from the decked roof to the requisite pool, an 8-foot replica of MTV's famous "Moon Man" (whose one working bodily function is considered a fountain of fun) and a treasure trove of inflatable water toys, from a banana boat to a big green 'gator.
Inside you can tool around with some major-league video games in the living room (a mix of seaside luxury, studio necessities and dorm-room-poster-oriented sensibilities); enjoy lunch in the kitchen with its big, bright fried eggs painted on the walls; grab a couple of Snickers, Milky Ways or Dove Bars from a candy machine that dispenses everything for free; or hang out in the tropical-paradise master bedroom upstairs with its jungle-motif bathroom.
"To say we made some alterations is probably an understatement," says Ms. Levine.
All that work, all that effort, just to make the MTV summer -- and the five minutes or so per hour when the veejays do their shtick -- a little hipper, a little faster, a little bit more fun. Even on a rainy day.
And the viewers aren't the only ones who seem to like it.
Kim Coles of Fox Broadcasting's "Living Single" has already stopped by on this wet afternoon, just one of an endless stream of TV stars, rockers, rappers, supermodels and just plain kids plucked from the beach who get into the act.
"I think the MTV Beach House is a great idea," says the ever-up Bill Bellamy, host of "MTV Jams" and a 27-year-old comic turned veejay. "You know, we're all out here, it looks like we live here, and we're just movin' and groovin' around. . . . And I think that's a fantasy for a lot of people."
Many mornings he's in at 11 and out by 3 in the afternoon, says Mr. Bellamy, who later welcomes the group All 4 One to the Beach House, where they do their hit "I Swear" around the sofa. "So you work anywhere from between two and three hours a day. That's not a hard day. And then you got the rest of the day to chill. Or you can go on the beach."
Nice work if you can get it. That is, if you can call it work at all.