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True Life is a documentary series running on MTV since 1998. Each episode follows a particular topic, such as heroin addiction as in the first episode, "Fatal Dose". A camera crew follows a series of subjects through a certain part of their lives. Episodes cover a large variety of topics, including drugs, teenage pregnancy and "I'm a Staten Island Girl". The show won an Emmy in 2009 for Best Special Class Series.
- A-Cup Angst: In the episode "I Hate My Small Breasts"
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents:
- The episodes "I Have Embarrassing Parents" and "I Have Embarrassing Parents 2". The first one had featured a wannabe rocker dad, a couple of nudists and a Star Wars fanboy dad. The second one had the triplet daughters of clowns and the daughter of a Playboy model.
- A specific version of this trope also appeared in the episode "I Have a Hot Mom".
- Bittersweet Ending: Sometimes, the subjects of the segments don't quite progress with reaching their goals, but very few of them run into a situation that gets astronomically worse by the episode's end.
- Cure Your Gays: Occurs in the episode "True Life: I Want to be Straight".
- Deep South: "The Theriot Family: The Riot in the Bayou". The episode is about a Louisiana family with 3 girls and 1 boy.
- Downer Ending: A pretty rare occurrence overall, but the show sometimes leaves the subject being defeated in some form or fashion.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Although not all of the segments end happily for the protagonists, the main problems presented at the start have been solved in some fashion by the episode's end.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Almost all the episode titles start with "I", followed by the topic, such as "I'm Deaf," "I Have Embarrassing Parents," or "I Have Schizophrenia".
- Long Runner: Running since 1998.
- Mood Whiplash: Sometimes an episode about drug use will be followed by an episode about being on vacation.
- Multi Part Episode: The episode "The Theriot Family: The Riot in the Bayou" had two parts, one aired in 2011 and the second part aired in January 2012.
- Pac-Man Fever: Averted hard on the three video game based episodes, "I'm a Gamer", "I'm a Professional Gamer", and "I'm Addicted to Video Games". Copyright blockades seem to be a non-issue, or at least more lax in these episodes, so the video games can be shown on screen. An odd subversion on non video game related episodes, which often censor the games from being shown on screen (by blurring the screens).
- Sudden Downer Ending: The episode "I Don't Trust My Partner" ends on an unexpectedly depressing note with the second couple, Shawny and Nikki. After the couple seemed to have improved their troubled relationship and moved into an apartment they picked out together, mere months later, Shawny suddenly died from a hernia issue, in his early twenties. Nikki went into a period of deep mourning and eventually looked to Christianity for comfort. For a series that hardly travels beyond a Bittersweet Ending, that was a punch to the gut.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?: Played with on the episode "I Am A Sex Offender". On the one hand, a twenty-something male was shown going to court numerous times to get his sex offender stated repealed, because he had sex with a 17-year-old classmate when he was 18, and her mother reported him as a felon out of spite. Ouch. On the other hand, an older twenty-something male got his sex offender status repealed once already (he was previously convicted of sexually interacting with a 15 year old girl), and after messing with another underage teen girl, he had to attend court to get his status taken away again. By the episode's end, the guy who didn't deserve the sex offender status still didn't get the appeal he sought, while the one who did deserve punishment managed to get rid of his status a second time.