When The Real World premiered in 1992, reality TV was young. It was hot. It was dangerous. The show perfectly exemplified those values, inviting a diverse group of attractive twentysomething strangers to share a stylish house in a stylish city. Some of the attractive twentysomething strangers would fight each other, some would hook up, some would both fight and hook up. Eventually, even that wasn’t enough, and the Vegas season added excessive drinking to the mix. It was a formula, but it worked. Unfortunately, it doesn’t anymore.
For years, The Real World – MTV’s longest-running series – has drawn from a commedia dell’arte pool of stock characters: the outspoken gay, the judgmental conservative, the slut. As the touchiest hot-button issues of the ’90s (race, sexuality, gender) have gained mainstream acceptance and visibility, Real World cast members have become as boring as we are. The novelty is lost. For that reason, and for the first time ever, MTV plans to revamp the series’ format for the first time in 28 seasons.
When Season 29’s attractive strangers arrive at the house, they’ll have no reason to suspect that anything’s amiss. In fact, the entire first month of their three-month stay will pass without incident. But then, when the roommates leave for a day trip, they’ll return to discover that their exes have moved in, too. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting The Real World: Ex-Plosion.
This twist could be absolutely great – reality television thrives on conflict, and exes are conflict personified. It could also be grating. Remember how annoying Jersey Shore was when on-again, off-again Sammie and Ronnie (who, somehow, are still together?) were off again? It was exactly like spending time in real life with a couple that’s broken up – no fun for anybody. But God knows we’ll be tuning in, which is exactly what MTV wants.