Real World (TV series)
Logo for recent season
|Opening theme||"Up Like" performed by SILAS (Season 29–present)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||32|
|No. of episodes||602|
|Production company(s)||Bunim/Murray Productions|
|Distributor||October Moon Productions|
|Original release||May 21, 1992– present|
Real World (formerly known as The Real World from 1992 to 2013) is a reality television series on MTV originally produced by Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray. First broadcast in 1992, the show, which was inspired by the 1973 PBS documentary series An American Family, is the longest-running program in MTV history, one of the longest-running reality series in history, and is credited with launching the modern reality TV genre. Seven to eight young adults are picked to temporarily live in a new city together in one residence while being filmed non-stop.
The series was hailed in its early years for depicting issues of contemporary young-adulthood relevant to its core audience, such as sex, prejudice, religion, abortion, illness, sexuality, AIDS, death, politics, and substance abuse, but later garnered a reputation as a showcase for immaturity and irresponsible behavior indicative of the declining morals of contemporary youth.
Following Bunim's death from breast cancer in 2004, Bunim/Murray Productions continues to produce the program. The most recent season, the 32nd, set in Seattle, Washington, premiered on October 12, 2016.
The series has generated two notable related series, both broadcast by MTV: Road Rules, a sister show, which lasted for 14 seasons (1995–2007), and the ongoing spin-off reality game show The Challenge, which has run for over 30 seasons since 1998.
On June 8, 2018, it was announced that MTV and Bunim-Murray Productions are working on a potential revival of Real World, with the hopes of selling the new version to a streaming platform.
- 1 History
- 2 Cast member successes
- 3 Format and structure
- 4 Recurring themes
- 5 Seasons
- 6 Spinoffs and related projects
- 7 Criticism
- 8 Parodies, derivatives, and references
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
|Part of a series on|
MTV in the United States
|Programs on MTV|
|Censorship on MTV|
|Viacom Media Networks|
The Real World was inspired by the 1973 PBS documentary series An American Family. It focuses on the lives of a group of strangers who audition to live together in a house for several months, as cameras record their interpersonal relationships. The show moves to a different city each season. The footage shot during the housemates’ time together was edited into 22-minute episodes for the first 19 seasons, and into 44-minute episodes beginning with The Real World: Hollywood, the series' 20th season. The narration given over the opening title sequence used during the first 28 seasons by the seven housemates states some variation of the following:
This is the true story…of seven strangers…picked to live in a house…(work together) and have their lives taped…to find out what happens…when people stop being polite…and start getting real…The Real World.
The Real World was originally inspired by the popularity of youth-oriented shows of the 1990s like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place. Bunim and Murray initially considered developing a scripted series in a similar vein, but quickly decided that the cost of paying writers, actors, costume designers, and make-up artists was too high. Bunim and Murray decided against this idea, and at the last minute, pulled the concept (and the cast) before it became the first season of the show. Tracy Grandstaff, one of the original seven picked for what has come to be known as "Season 0", went on to minor fame as the voice of the animated Beavis and Butt-Head character Daria Morgendorffer, who eventually got her own spinoff, Daria. Dutch TV producer Erik Latour claims that the ideas for The Real World were directly derived from his television show Nummer 28, which aired in 1991 on Dutch television. Bunim/Murray decided upon the cheaper idea of casting a bunch of "regular people" to live in an apartment and taping their day-to-day lives, believing seven diverse people would have enough of a basis upon which to interact without scripts. The production converted a massive, 4000-square-foot duplex in Soho, cast seven cast members from 500 applicants, paid them $2,600 for their time on the show. The cast lived in the loft from February 16 to May 18, 1992. The series premiered three days later, on May 21, 1992.
At the time of its initial airing, reviews of the show were mostly negative. Matt Roush, writing in USA Today, characterized the show as "painfully bogus," and a cynical and exploitative new low in television, commenting, "Watching The Real World, which fails as documentary (too phony) and as entertainment (too dull), it's hard to tell who's using who more." The Washington Post's Tom Shales commented, "Ah to be young, cute, and stupid, and to have too much free time...Such is the lot facing the wayward wastrels of The Real World, something new in excruciating torture from the busy minds at MTV." Shales also remarked upon the cast members’ creative career choices, saying, "You might want to think about getting a real job."
Nonetheless, the series was a hit with viewers. One early sign of the show’s popularity occurred on the October 2, 1993 episode of the sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live, which parodied the second-season Los Angeles cast's recurring arguments over cliquism, prejudice and political differences.
The show also gained widespread attention with its third season, The Real World: San Francisco, which aired in 1994, and depicted the conflict between David "Puck" Rainey, a bicycle messenger criticized for his poor personal hygiene, and his roommates, most notably AIDS activist Pedro Zamora. As the show increased in popularity, Zamora’s life as someone living with AIDS gained considerable notice, garnering widespread media attention. Zamora was one of the first openly gay men with AIDS to be portrayed in popular media, and after his death on November 11, 1994 (mere hours after the final episode of his season aired), he was lauded by then-President Bill Clinton. Zamora’s friend and roommate during the show, Judd Winick, went on to become a successful comic book writer, and wrote the Eisner Award-nominated graphic novel Pedro and Me, about his friendship with Zamora, as well as high-profile and controversial storylines in mainstream superhero comics that featured gay and AIDS-related themes. Zamora's conflicts with Rainey were not only considered emotional high points for that season, but are credited with making The Real World a hit show, and with proving that the infant "reality" television format was one that could bring considerable ratings to a network. By July 1995, the series surpassed Beavis and Butt-head as the network's top-rated show during the fourth season, The Real World: London.
Cast member successes
Appearing on the program has often served as a springboard to further success, especially in the entertainment industry.
Eric Nies of the New York cast went on to become a model, actor, and television host. His housemate, Kevin Powell, became a successful author, poet, journalist, and politician. Their housemate Heather B. Gardner went on to become a hip-hop music artist under the professional name Heather B.
Los Angeles cast member Beth Stolarczyk has produced men's and women's calendars and television programs featuring reality TV personalities, including herself and other Real World alumni, including Tami Roman (who became cast member on Basketball Wives and spinoff Basketball Wives LA), 2002–2003 Las Vegas' Trishelle Cannatella, 2002 Chicago's Tonya Cooley and Back to New York's Coral Smith. Stolarczyk, Cannatella, and Miami's Flora Alekseyeun appeared in the May 2002 Playboy magazine, with later issues spotlighting Cannatella's 2002–2003 Las Vegas housemate, Arissa Hill. Cooley appeared on playboy.com. In addition to Playboy magazine, Cannatella has also posed for the online Playboy Cyber Club, as well as for Stuff magazine.
San Francisco alum Judd Winick is a noted comic book writer and artist, with the majority of his work appearing in comic books published by DC Comics, including writing such well known characters as Batman, Green Arrow, and Green Lantern. Winick also published Pedro and Me, a graphic novel about his friendship with fellow castmate Pedro Zamora, who died of AIDS related complications not long after his experience on the show.
Boston cast member Sean Duffy was elected to the United States House of Representatives for Wisconsin's 7th congressional district in 2010 as a member of the Republican Party. He is married to San Francisco alum Rachel Campos-Duffy, a conservative TV news personality.
Mike Mizanin has also found fame as a WWE wrestler wrestling under the name "The Miz," a character he debuted during the Back to New York season. His successes have included the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
2002 Chicago cast member Kyle Brandt’s acting career includes starring in the soap opera Days of Our Lives. His castmate Tonya Cooley also appeared on an MTV special of True Life: I'm a Reality TV Star.
2002–2003 Las Vegas cast members Trishelle Cannatella and Steven Hill appeared in the horror film Scorned. Cannatella has also appeared on other reality shows, such as The Surreal Life, Battle of the Network Reality Stars, and Kill Reality, the latter of which also featured Hill and Cooley.
2004 San Diego castmate Jamie Chung, who has appeared in various television and film roles, including Dragonball Evolution, Sorority Row, and The Hangover Part II. Cameran Eubanks, also from the 2004 San Diego cast, has been a main character on Bravo's hit reality series Southern Charm since its 1st season in March 2014.[better source needed]
Philadelphia cast member Karamo Brown appeared as a cast member on the TV One original reality series The Next :15 and is the host on Are You the One? Second Chances. He is also the Culture guide on Netflix's Queer Eye reboot.
Dozens of former cast members from The Real World and its sister production Road Rules have appeared on the spin-off series The Challenge, which pays $100,000 or more to its winners. Various cast members have also earned livings as public speakers, since Bunim-Murray Productions funded their training in motivational speaking by the Points of Light Foundation in 2002, allowing them to earn between $1,500 and $2,000 for an appearance on the college lecture circuit.
Format and structure
Each season consists of seven to eight people, aged 18–25 (a reflection of the network's target demographic), usually selected from thousands of applicants from across the country, with the group chosen typically representing different races, genders, sexual orientations, levels of sexual experiences, and religious and political beliefs. Should a cast member decide to move out, or be asked to do so by his or her roommates, the roommates will usually cast a replacement, dependent on how much filming time is left. Cast members are paid a small stipend for their participation in the show. The cast of the first season, for example, was given $2,500. However, because cast members are not actors playing characters, they do not receive residuals routinely paid to actors whenever a TV show on which they appear is aired and replayed.
Each season begins with the individual members of the house shown leaving home, often for the first time, and/or meeting their fellow housemates while in transit to their new home, or at the house itself. The exception was the Los Angeles season, which premiered with two housemates picking up a third at his Kentucky home and driving in a Winnebago RV to their new home in Los Angeles.
The residence is typically elaborate in its décor, and is usually furnished by IKEA. The residence usually includes a pool table, a Jacuzzi, and an aquarium, which serves as a metaphor for the show, in that the roommates, who are being taped at all times in their home, are seen metaphorically as fish in a fishbowl. This point is punctuated not only by the fact that the MTV logo title card seen after the closing credits of each episode is designed as an aquarium, but also by a poem that Judd Winick wrote during his stay in the 1994 San Francisco house called "Fishbowl". In some seasons, the group is provided with a shared car to use during their stay, or in the case of the St. Thomas season, a chauffeured motorboat to transport cast members from their Hassel Island residence to Charlotte Amalie. There is also a home phone and a computer provided for cast members to have contact with family and friends, as they are not allowed to use their mobile phones during their stay in the house.
The housemates are taped around the clock. The house is outfitted with video cameras mounted on walls to capture more intimate moments, and numerous camera crews consisting of three to six people follow the cast around the house and out in public. In total, approximately 30 cameras are used during production. Each member of the cast is instructed to ignore the cameras and the crew, but are required to wear a battery pack and microphone in order to record their dialogue, though some castmembers have been known to turn off or hide them at times. The only area of the house in which camera access is restricted are the bathrooms.
Despite the initial awkwardness of being surrounded by cameramen, castmembers have stated that they eventually adjust to it, and that their behavior is purely natural, and not influenced by the fact that they are being taped. Winick, an alumnus of the show's third season (San Francisco), adds that castmembers eventually stop thinking about the cameras because it is too exhausting not to, and that the fact that their lives were being documented made it seem "more real." Other cast members have related different accounts. Members of the London cast found the cameras burdensome at times, such as Jay Frank and Jacinda Barrett, who felt they intruded on the intimacy of their romantic relationships. Lars Schlichting related an anecdote in which roommate Mike Johnson asked a question when cameras were not present, and then asked the same question five minutes later when cameras were present, which Schlichting adds was not typical of Johnson. Johnson himself has remarked that castmate Barrett "hammed it up a lot," and that roommate Sharon Gitau withheld details of her life out of fear that her grandmother would react negatively. Movement of the roommates outside of the residence is restricted to places that are cleared by producers through contractual arrangements with locations to allow filming.
The producers made an exception to the taping protocol during the third season, when Pedro Zamora requested that he be allowed to go out on a date without the cameras, because the normal anxieties associated with first dates would be exacerbated by the presence of cameras.
At the end of each week, each housemate is required to sit down and be interviewed about the past week's events. Unlike the normal day-to-day taping, these interviews, which are referred to as "confessionals," involve the subject looking directly into the camera while providing opinions and reflective accounts of the week's activities, which are used in the final, edited episodes. The producers instruct the cast to talk about whatever they wish, and to speak in complete sentences, to reinforce the perception on the part of the home viewer that the cast is speaking to them. Winick described this practice as "like therapy without the help." The confessionals were originally conducted by Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray, but were eventually delegated to production staff members like George Verschoor and Thomas Klein. Beginning with the second season (Los Angeles), a small soundproof room was incorporated into each house for this purpose, which itself has also become known as the Confessional. (The soundproofing practice appears to have been discontinued in later seasons.)
The various casts were often creative in their use of the confessional, which Bunim and Murray referred to as "inspired lunacy," such as a group confessional that the Los Angeles cast conducted on their last day in order to appear less contentious, but which ended with them arguing and storming out, an appearance by San Francisco housemate Judd Winick in a nun's habit, and Miami roommates Melissa Padrón and Flora Alekseyeun dressing up as prostitutes for a shared confessional in which they discuss why their roommates did not get along with them. During Mardi Gras, 2000 New Orleans cast member Danny Roberts used the confessional to engage in a sex act.
Initially, the show documented the housemates as they struggled to find and maintain jobs and careers in their new locales, with minimal group activities aside from their day-to-day lives in the house and their socializing in the city. The only group activity engineered by the producers during the first season was a trip for the three females to Jamaica. By the second season, sending the entire cast on a vacation and/or short-term local trip would become the norm for most seasons. By the fifth season, the cast would be given an ongoing, season-long activity, with the Miami cast given startup money and a business advisor to begin their own business. This aspect of the show remained in most subsequent seasons. The assignments are obligatory, with casts assigned to work at an after-school daycare program, a radio station, public-access television station, etc. Beginning with the tenth season, a rule was implemented that required a roommate fired from the group job to be evicted from the house and dropped from the cast. Hollywood's Greg Halstead and Cancun's Joey Rozmus were evicted from their respective houses after they were fired from their group jobs. Beginning in the 28th season, certain jobs in the area were approved by production that the cast had the liberty to apply for independently if desired.
Physical violence of any kind is typically not tolerated by the producers. After an incident occurs, producers or cast members are typically given the choice as to whether a violent housemate can stay due to a contract clause that prohibits violence. After an incident during the Seattle season in which Stephen Williams slapped Irene McGee as she moved out, a response to the event was debated by the housemates, who were not present but were shown a videotape of the incident. The producers, not wanting to be seen condoning violence, gave the housemates the choice of having him leave, but instead the housemates chose to let him stay, and Williams was ordered to attend an anger management class. During the 2002–2003 Las Vegas season, Brynn Smith and Steven Hill got into an altercation in which Smith threw a fork at Hill. Hill contacted the producers who notified him that it was up to the cast to decide on Smith's fate. The cast let Hill make the ultimate decision, and he chose that Smith could stay. During the Sydney season, Trisha Cummings shoved Parisa Montazaran to the ground during a heated altercation. Producers gave Montazaran the choice as to whether Cummings could stay or leave, and she chose that Cummings had to leave. Denver housemates Tyrie Ballard and Davis Mallory got into an explosive altercation that required production to intervene on-screen and separate the two before any violence occurred. Similarly, Hollywood castmates William Gilbert and Dave Malinosky got into an explosive altercation with fellow housemate Greg Halstead that also required intervention from production, as well as Gilbert and Malinosky to undergo anger management. During the Portland season, Nia Moore physically attacked Johnny Reilly in retaliation for Reilly purposely throwing a drink on her during a heated altercation, and later got into a physical altercation with Averey Tressler, when Tressler defended Reilly from an attempt by Moore to attack Reilly again with a hair dryer. Moore also took exception to coming into contact with the fecal matter of Tressler's pet dog Daisy. Unlike prior seasons where the one assaulted housemate was given the sole choice as to whether the attacker could stay, the Portland cast had its producers decide that only those not involved in the confrontation could decide whether Moore could stay via a majority vote. They chose to let her stay, and producers did not order Moore to anger management, despite subsequent threats to attack other cast members. As a result, Reilly and Tressler chose to leave the loft during that season's final episode, along with Tressler's dog Daisy. In the final three episodes of the Go Big or Go Home season, castmates Jenna Thomason and Ceejai Jenkins got into two physical altercations while in the house. During the second altercation, Jenkins gave Thomason a black eye and bruises. As a result, both were removed by production due to the altercation.
Cast members are also subject to random drug tests, and a cast member failing a drug test will lead to him or her being evicted from the house. This was the case with Brandon Kane of the St. Thomas season, who was removed from the house in that season's eleventh episode after testing positive for cocaine usage.
Cast members are held responsible for any damage to property that occurred within the house. For example, Brooklyn's J.D. Ordoñez was required to pay $350 after destroying a coffee table in one episode, and 2011 Las Vegas' Adam Royer was held responsible for the $3,105 worth of damage that his drunken and disorderly behavior caused to the suite that housed that season's cast.
As their experiences on The Real World were often the first time that cast members encountered people of different races or sexual orientations, many episodes documented conflict over these issues. First season housemate Kevin Powell had such arguments with Eric Nies, Julie Gentry, and Becky Blasband. The premiere episode of the Los Angeles season depicted regional epithets exchanged between Jon Brennan, Dominic Griffin, and Tami Roman. 1994 San Francisco housemate David "Puck" Rainey's treatment of Pedro Zamora's homosexuality was an issue for Zamora. Flora Alekseyeun, during an argument with her Miami roommate Cynthia Roberts, dismissed what she referred to as Roberts' "black attitude," and their roommate Melissa Padrón, during a heated exchange with openly gay Dan Renzi, called him a "flamer". Racism and religious intolerance was a point of contention among 2000 New Orleans housemates Julie Stoffer, Melissa Howard and Jamie Murray on more than one occasion.
The stereotypical views about blacks imparted to Back to New York's Mike Mizanin by his uncle offended Coral Smith and Nicole Mitsch when he related them, and they tried to educate him on African American culture. They were also offended by the fact that biracial roommate Malik Cooper wore a T-shirt with the image of Marcus Garvey, who was against miscegenation, despite the fact that Cooper was of mixed heritage and by his own admission had never dated a black woman.
Philadelphia's Karamo Brown expressed being "borderline racist" towards Caucasians, though he had softened in these feelings by the end of the season. In the Denver season, Davis Mallory and Stephen Nichols confronted each other over Mallory's homosexuality and Nichols' race, and Mallory later used a racial epithet during a drunken argument with black housemate Tyrie Ballard.
During the Sydney season, Persian housemate Parisa Montazaran was offended at an anecdote related by housemate Trisha Cummings, in which Cummings described an Asian McDonald's employee whose command of English was not perfect, though Cummings later insisted that she misworded her anecdote. A similar confrontation occurred during the Brooklyn season between J.D. Ordoñez and Chet Cannon, after a drunk Ordoñez made offensive statements about immigrants, following an incident at a drugstore.
Hollywood's Kimberly Alexander got into an argument with Brianna Taylor, who is African American, and said, "Let's not get ghetto." When roommate William Gilbert saw this as racist, Alexander explained that Taylor had previously described herself has sometimes behaving "ghetto," and was merely referencing that.
During the 2010 New Orleans season, tensions escalated between Ryan Leslie and openly gay Preston Roberson-Charles, amid questions about Leslie's own sexuality, and their mutual use of homophobic slurs. In addition, Roberson-Charles also drew some homophobic remarks from housemate Ryan Knight. During the 2011 San Diego season, tensions arose between Frank Sweeney and his male housemates Zach Nichols and Nate Stodghill over Sweeney's bisexuality, and Nichols later made what he said he intended to be a humorous remark to lesbian roommate Sam McGinn that alluded to gay bashing, to which McGinn took exception. In the Go Big or Go Home season, Jenna Thomason made homophobic and racist comments toward her roommates, causing tension between her and the rest of the cast.
Politics and religion
Los Angeles housemate Jon Brennan disagreed with Tami Roman’s decision to have an abortion, and argued with castmate Aaron Behle, and Behle's girlfriend, Erin, who were both pro-choice. Rachel Campos, a conservative Republican member of the 1994 San Francisco cast, clashed with liberal roommates Mohammed Bilal and Judd Winick. Paris housemates Simon Sherry-Wood and Leah Gillingwater argued over the Iraq War, and in a subsequent episode, Chris "C.T." Tamburello became confrontational and threatening toward Adam King, referencing the war himself. Nehemiah Clark, of the Austin cast, expressed disapproval of President George W. Bush and the Iraq War, coming into conflict with Rachel Moyal, who served in Iraq as a combat medic for the U.S. Army. Sydney's Dunbar Flinn angered Parisa Montazaran and Trisha Cummings with his comments about Jesus and the Bible. The 2008 United States Presidential election served to highlight the political differences among the Brooklyn cast. In the Washington, D.C. season premiere, atheist Ty Ruff got into an argument with Christian roommates Ashley Lindley and Mike Manning.
Many cast members tried to maintain long-distance relationships that predated their time on the show, though remaining faithful was often a challenge. Miami's Flora Alekseyeun attempted to maintain relationships with two boyfriends simultaneously. 2000 New Orleans' Danny Roberts cheated on his boyfriend Paul, who was stationed in the military. During the Seattle season, Nathan Blackburn’s girlfriend worried about their relationship. Shauvon Torres departed from the Sydney house to reconcile with her ex-fiance. Her housemates, Trisha Cummings, KellyAnne Judd and Dunbar Merrin, all flirted, dated or had sex with people other than their significant others back home. Cancun's Jonna Mannion, Washington D.C.'s Josh Colón and 2011 Las Vegas' Nany González severed long-term relationships following suspicions and admissions of infidelity, and in the case of González, after she began a relationship with housemate Adam Royer.
Some cast members developed romantic relationships with their castmates. 1994 San Francisco roommates Pam Ling and Judd Winick have since married, as have their roommate Rachel Campos and Sean Duffy of the Boston cast. In the 2002–2003 Las Vegas season, Trishelle Cannatella and Steven Hill consummated a romance during the show, while their roommates Irulan Wilson and Alton Williams began a relationship that continued for three years after they moved out of the Las Vegas suite. The Austin cast spawned two relationships, between Wes Bergmann and Johanna Botta, as well as Danny Jamieson and Melinda Stolp; the latter couple married in August 2008 but divorced in spring 2010. Hollywood's William Gilbert became involved in a relationship with The Real World: Key West alumna Janelle Casanave, who made guest appearances in several episodes during that season. However, their relationship ended when Gilbert later became attracted to his roommate Brittni Sherrod. Portland housemates Johnny Reilly and Averey Tressler developed a mutual attraction, leading to a relationship that they continued for one year after filming ended.
The level of sexual experience varies among a given season’s cast members. New York's Julie Gentry, Los Angeles’ Jon Brennan and Aaron Behle, 1994 San Francisco's Cory Murphy and Rachel Campos, Seattle’s Rebecca Lord, 2000 New Orleans’ Matt Smith and Julie Stoffer, Paris' Mallory Snyder, Austin’s Lacey Buehler, and Brooklyn's Chet Cannon, for example, all stated they were virgins during their respective seasons. On the other end of the spectrum was 2000 New Orleans’ David Broom and Cancun's Joey Rozmus, who took pride in their promiscuity with various sexual partners during their respective seasons. Denver's Jenn Grijalva and Alex Smith, Sydney's KellyAnne Judd and Dunbar Flinn, Cancun's Ayiiia Elizarraras, and 2011 Las Vegas' Nany González and Heather Marter were sexually intimate with multiple castmates during their respective seasons.
More than once, fellow housemates have been involved in pregnancy scares, such as Steven Hill and Trishelle Cannatella during the 2002–2003 Las Vegas season, Cohutta Grindstaff and KellyAnne Judd during the Sydney season, and Leroy Garrett and Naomi Defensor during the 2011 Las Vegas season.
Overt sexual behavior was minimal during the show's early seasons, relegated mostly to discussion. In subsequent seasons, the level of sexual activity greatly increased, beginning with the Miami season, which depicted or touched upon activities such as exhibitionism, frottage, voyeurism, and threesomes.
Jon Brennan’s Los Angeles roommates speculated that he had developed a crush, or possibly had fallen in love, with Irene Berrera. 2000 New Orleans’ Melissa Howard was attracted to Jamie Murray, who did not reciprocate. Their roommate Julie Stoffer harbored similar feelings for Matt Smith, who also did not reciprocate. Back to New York's Lori Trespicio developed an attraction for Kevin Dunn, though he only saw her as a friend.
Many times, housemates have left the Real World house (and the cast) before production was completed, due to conflicts with other roommates, personal issues, homesickness or violations of work assignment policies. Replacement roommates would sometimes move in as a result. Housemates who departed over personal conflicts with other housemates include Los Angeles' David Edwards, 1994 San Francisco's David "Puck" Rainey, Sydney's Trisha Cummings and 2010 New Orleans' Ryan Leslie, though Rainey and Leslie continued to appear in subsequent episodes following their departures. Housemates who moved out due to personal issues back home include Hawaii's Justin Deabler, Sydney's Shauvon Torres and Portland's Joi Niemeyer. Housemates who moved out due to homesickness include 2004 San Diego's Frankie Abernathy and Washington D.C.'s Erika Wasilewski. Housemates who were evicted after being fired from group work assignments include Hollywood's Greg Halstead and Cancun's Joey Rozmus, though Rozmus returned by that season's finale.
Housemates have also departed for other reasons. Irene Barrera moved out of the Los Angeles house when she got married. Irene McGee claimed a relapse of Lyme Disease was the reason for her moving out of the Seattle house, though in a previously unaired interview from her time on the show that aired during the 2000 reunion show, The Real World Reunion 2000, she explained that the main reason was her ethical objections to aspects of the show's production, which she characterized as an inauthentic environment designed to fabricate drama and conflict, and not the social experiment it was portrayed to be. McGee further explained that this was an unhealthy environment for her to live in, and that the stress and manipulation of the production exacerbated her illness. Joey Kovar moved out of the Hollywood house, fearing a drug and alcohol relapse after spending time in rehab, though he returned for that season's finale. 2011 Las Vegas' Adam Royer was evicted from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino that housed that season's cast, following a series of drunken and destructive incidents within the suite and accompanying Vanity nightclub, though he returned for that season's twelfth episode. St. Thomas' Brandon Kane was the first cast member ever evicted for failing a random drug test during filming.
Coping with illness
Pedro Zamora lived with AIDS. He succumbed to the disease on November 11, 1994, hours after the 1994 San Francisco season finale aired. 2004 San Diego housemate Frankie Abernathy suffered from cystic fibrosis. She died on July 9, 2007. Philadelphia's Sarah Burke, Key West's Paula Meronek and Skeletons' Violetta Milerman each suffered from an eating disorder, anorexia and/or bulimia. Denver's Colie Edison battled mononucleosis. Cancun's Ayiiia Elizarraras had a history of drug abuse and self-harming, the latter of which manifested during that season's fifth episode. She received treatment for it after filming ended, and recorded a public service announcement on the condition that aired at the end of that episode. 2010 New Orleans' Ryan Leslie suffered from severe obsessive compulsive disorder, which had deleterious effects on his relationship with the rest of the cast.
One recurring illness with which a number of cast members have dealt is addiction. While cast members sometimes become inebriated in social situations during filming, Hawaii's Ruthie Alcaide, Hollywood's Joey Kovar and 2011 San Diego's Frank Sweeney entered treatment programs for drug or alcohol addiction during filming. Other cast members have recounted past troubles with addiction that they had endured prior to filming, including 2002 Chicago's Chris Beckman, Hollywood's Brianna Taylor, 2010 New Orleans' Ryan Knight, St. Thomas' Brandon Kane and Skeletons' Madison Walls.
- Note: Seasons 1–19 aired 30-minute episodes, while one-hour episodes began airing with season 20.
In 2002, MTV also produced a made-for-TV movie, The Real World Movie: The Lost Season, ostensibly about a season of The Real World whose cast members are terrorized by a rejected would-be member.
Since the introduction of The Real World, Bunim/Murray has introduced a number of other reality shows, most notably Road Rules, in which five strangers (six in later seasons) are sent off in a Winnebago RV and asked to travel to various locales and complete certain tasks to eventually gain a "handsome reward." Other Bunim/Murray productions include The Challenge, which pits teams of alumni from both shows against each other in physical competitions.
Bunim-Murray also produced Pedro, a 2008 film by director Nick Oceano, which dramatized the life of Pedro Zamora, including his stay in the Real World house. The film, Bunim/Murray's first scripted project since the original unaired "Real World" concept, was an Official Selection at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.
As with other reality shows, The Real World has received criticism for being staged. During a reunion show featuring the first four Real World casts, Heather Gardner, of the original New York cast, asked some members of the 1994 San Francisco cast if their situations were real. She noted that situations from the original season seemed to repeat themselves in the other incarnations, stopping short of accusing them of acting. On an edition of the E! True Hollywood Story that spotlighted the series, cast member Jon Brennan revealed that he was asked by the producers to state on the air that he felt hatred towards housemate Tami Roman for her decision to have an abortion, and that he refused to do so, stating that although he disagreed with her decision, he did not feel hatred towards her. Another accusation is that producers selectively edit material in order to give the false impression of certain emotional reactions or statements from the castmates. New York cast member Rebecca Blasband says producers paid a man $100 to ask her out on a date, and that she terminated that plan when she learned of it. She also says that the argument she and Kevin Powell had in the seventh episode of that season was edited to make both of them appear more extreme.
Some critics see the very concept of being in "the real world" as a misnomer, asserting that in the real world, people do not live in luxurious dwellings for free, are not given jobs in the media without any effort, and are not taken to exotic locations for free, a 'reaction' that has been 'experienced' by Judd Winick, who calls the series "reality in context".
Behavior of housemates
The early seasons have been reassessed in light of history, and in comparison to that of later seasons, particularly in terms of the cast. Writing in 2011, Meredith Blake of The A.V. Club found the first-season cast's career goals to be "ambitious, articulate, and thoughtful", particularly in the context of the time when the show was produced, when cast members may have sought to be on TV to further their career goals, but not to be reality TV personalities, which was not yet a common goal at the time, stating, "What's so curious about the show’s somewhat chilly critical reception is that, compared to today’s reality fare—Jersey Shore, the Kardashians, the various Real Housewives—The Real World: New York now seems incredibly, achingly earnest, bracingly raw, and sweetly idealistic." Blake contrasts this with the casts of later seasons, such as that of 2011, who tend to be defined more by their pasts than by their career goals, and who are never unaware of their own onscreen "narrative". In addition, the later seasons earned the series a reputation for immature or irresponsible behavior on the part of the cast, which Nola.com has described as being "sometimes fit for a police report." On the final track of his Become the Media spoken word album, activist Jello Biafra discusses a conversation he had with The Real World: Seattle cast member Irene McGee, who was slapped by castmate Stephen Williams, saying:
|“||We know Real World is not the real world. I recently met a woman named Irene McGee who quit this show and said not even the house was real. The fridges were all filled to the brim with Vlasic pickles delivered daily by the crate load along with gallons of Nantucket Nectar. If she drank anything else, the crew took it from her hand and made sure the Nantucket Nectar label was facing the camera instead. When she walked out, another guy in the cast of Real World hit her and the camera guy did nothing ... When she spoke out, MTV sued her. And Entertainment Weekly rated Irene getting smash mouthed the 47th most interesting event on TV that whole year ... Can’t you MTV think of a better way to raise audience awareness of domestic violence than to make it look cool?||”|
McGee has toured colleges to discuss media manipulation and the falsehoods of reality television. She later started a youth-oriented radio show/podcast, No One's Listening, covering a wide range of pop-culture and media-related issues.
The show has also been accused of being characterized by the casts' drunken and sexual antics, beginning with the show's 2002 Las Vegas season. There is a larger conception that it has become increasingly superficial with respect to the drama and angst depicted on the part of cast members. As critic Benjamin Wallace-Wells put it:
|“||No longer an outlet for twentysomethings to brood about their future careers, the show has become a cyclic three-month on-air party for young adults to mingle in hot tubs and obsess about the present. The locales have changed from creative meccas like New York and London to vacation spots like Las Vegas and Hawaii. MTV has rejiggered the show to require characters to engage in artificial, season-long contests or projects – like putting together a fashion show – which the characters embrace in the way most American teenagers experience spring break: as a big party.||”|
|“||The show that once seriously delved into hot-button issues like homosexuality, AIDS, racism, religion and abortion was now purposely pushing someone’s buttons to have that person implode on air.||”|
The Parents Television Council, which has frequently criticized MTV, has also frequently criticized The Real World for its overtly sexual content. In addition, that organization contends that because MTV routinely reruns Real World episodes with a simple "TV-14" rating without the "L" (language) descriptor, parents cannot block out the show with a V-Chip, although countering reports claim that the V-Chip does not totally rely on content descriptors added to the general ratings to work. An episode of The Real World: San Diego that was broadcast in January 2004 came under intense criticism from both the PTC and American Family Association for its sexual content.
In December 2005, Aaron Gillego, a columnist for The Advocate, criticized the series for having never cast an Asian man in the then-13 years of its existence, opining that Asian women have been cast on the show because heterosexual men have been socialized by the media to think of them as exotic beauties or sex objects, but that Asian men have been largely invisible in popular media. As of 2018, an Asian man has never been cast in the 25 years of the show's existence.
Parodies, derivatives, and references
- The show was satirized in the October 2, 1993 episode of the sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live. The episode, which was hosted by Shannen Doherty, featured a sketch depicting a Real World cast patterned after the Los Angeles cast, and poked fun at the discussions of racism, bigotry, and political differences that served as a recurring theme that season. Another SNL parody of The Real World came in a 1996 episode hosted by John Goodman in which Bob Dole (Norm Macdonald) is thrown out of the house.[episode needed]
- The 1994 movie Reality Bites, starring Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke, focuses on a group of twentysomethings whose video diaries are misappropriated for a Real World-style documentary series. This fictional documentary series, as well as the title of the movie itself, closely parodies and satirizes The Real World format.
- A fifth-season episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 called "Unreal World" depicted David Silver using a character named Tuck as the subject of a class video project. When Tuck refuses to participate, the rest of the cast pretend to be Tuck and his roommates for the project. Another character named Beth is also used in the project.
- In an episode of the animated comedy Pinky and the Brain, Pinky and the Brain join the cast of a show called Real Life hosted by TV personality Eisenhower for the network MTTV in order to broadcast the a cappella voice of Rush Limbaugh in order to take over the world.
- A satirical TV movie called The Lost Season parodied The Real World. It depicted a season of the show that supposedly took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was abandoned because its participants were kidnapped.
- The reality show The Surreal Life is structured similarly to The Real World, except that the housemates, who live together for ten days, are celebrities. The show's original name was "The Surreal World."
- "Swept Away – A Very Special Episode", a Season 11 episode of the crime drama Law & Order that premiered February 28, 2001, featured a plot involving the investigation into the murder of a housemate on a reality show akin to The Real World called Deal With It. An episode of the crime drama Diagnosis Murder also featured a plot involving a murder committed during the filming such a show.
- Dave Chappelle lampooned what he perceived as the targeting of minority cast members for criticism or ejection on the show on his Comedy Central sketch comedy show, Chappelle's Show, with a sketch entitled "The Mad Real World", portraying, with hyperbole, the results of what would happen if one white person were to cohabitate with a collection of crazy black people.
- The Comedy Central series Drawn Together is an animated reality show parody that borrows much of its format and conventions from The Real World, but whose cast is populated by animated cartoon archetypes.
- The music video for the Eminem track, "Without Me", contains scenes which parody The Real World, with appearances by New Orleans castmate Julie Stoffer, Boston castmate Syrus Yarbrough, and San Francisco castmate David "Puck" Rainey.
- The 1999 romantic comedy She's All That features Matthew Lillard playing Brock Hudson, an ex-Real World cast member kicked out of the house for being obnoxious to his fellow castmates.
- In "Text, Lies & Videotape", a fifth-season episode of the television series Dawson's Creek, Audrey (Busy Philipps) is speaking with Joey (Katie Holmes) about recording her audition tape for the fictional The Real World: Ibiza season. In a sixth-season episode, "The Importance of Not Being Too Earnest", some college students speculate whether Joey sent an e-mail to the whole campus (by accident) in an attempt to get attention or because she was on The Real World.
- In "The Route of All Evil", a third-season episode of the animated television series Futurama, the characters watch an episode of The Real World: The Sun. An incredulous Leela remarks on how much a house on the Sun would cost, a reference to the upscale houses in which that the casts on The Real World live.
- The WB television series Mission Hill based an entire episode on The Real World, in which the show's protagonist joins the cast and attempts to destroy The Real World from the inside by exposing it as an elaborate hoax with microphones and hidden cameras telling each person how to act and behave on camera.
- The TV show Muppets Tonight featured a skit called The Real World: Muppets. Most segments of it were only shown in United Kingdom. It showed Rizzo the Rat, Bobo the Bear, Clifford, Bill the Bubble Guy, and a goth girl named Darci.
- In "Morality Bites," a second-season episode of the television series Charmed, the sisters travel to 2009, and on the television can be heard, "Now back to your regularly scheduled programme, MTV's Real World 18: On the Moon!"
- The computer game Afterlife features a Hell punishment called "The Unreal World", which features the description "This is the true story, of 5000 SOULs, picked to live in a house, and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting damned."
- In "My Hero", a 2001 episode of the TV series Scrubs, a cutaway gag shows a number of the characters introducing themselves in the style of The Real World's opening sequence.
- In the April 10, 2005 episode of the stop motion animated television series Robot Chicken entitled "The Deep End," Aquaman is one of seven housemates in the fictional parody of The Real World entitled The Real World: Metropolis.
- Dutch TV producer Erik Latour claims that the ideas for The Real World were directly derived from his television show Nummer 28, which aired in 1991 on Dutch television.
- The Nickelodeon children's comedy show All That parodied The Real World in its last season with "The Unreal World", in which nearly all of the housemates were undead beings, such as vampires, zombies, ghosts, and a floating head.
- Video artist Eileen Maxson's short film Tape 5925: Amy Goodrow is set up as an audition tape for The Real World, a familiar component of the series' casting specials and season openers. Maxson portrays the title character, a sensitive and awkward young woman whose main hobby is paper craft, and reveals a surprising sexual encounter between her teenage self and a teacher. The resulting confession lands on the desk of a jaded MTV employee, who fast-forwards through the details of her depressing story. The video was named one of the "sweet 16" experimental film and video works of 2003 by Village Voice media critic Ed Halter.
- In "More Like Stanksgiving", the fourth episode of the third season of the TV series Happy Endings, the characters watch clips from an episode of The Real World: Sacramento, on which they themselves were previously cast members. The fictional season was said to have not aired due to one of the cast members burning down the house.
- List of programs broadcast by MTV
- List of Real World cast members
- List of Real World seasons
- Road Rules
- The Challenge
- Are You the One?
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