Few things conjure up images of the early 1990s more so than the original first season of MTV’s The Real World: New York. If you’re of that time – say it loud say it proud, fellow Gen X’ers! –that inaugural season is as indelibly stamped on your 90s sensibility as grunge rock, River Phoenix and feathered bangs. And now, according to our Bartles & James swigging, Movieline Magazine reading, Macarena dancing compatriots over at The Hollywood Reporter, The Real World is winging its way back to television.
It’s often difficult to remember – after 32 subsequent seasons of debauchery and bacchanalia that would make even the ancient Romans wince – that when it first aired lo those many moons ago on May 21, 1992, The Real World was actually taken seriously for what it set out initially to be; an honest-to-Pete sociological experiment that dropped seven complete youthful strangers from disparate backgrounds into a fishbowl of a world where their every move and utterance was recorded for posterity. What followed was not only ratings gold for MTV, but also the start of a genuine pop culture phenomenon that presaged a glut of so-called reality shows that all but dominates the airwaves of 2021.
The revival of The Real World will bring back together the original seven New York cast members: Kevin Powell, Eric Niles, Becky Blasband, Andre Comeau, Heather B. Gardner, Julie Gentry and Norman Korpi in an ongoing format structured like the original first season. The title of the show sounds one-part documentary and one-part horror movie: The Real World Homecoming: New York.
MTV’s head honcho and all around swell guy Chris McCarthy had this to say about The Real World’s return from the ashes: “MTV’s The Real World has been credited with creating the reality TV genre and was one of the first series that tackled important and yet unrepresented topics of the time, from HIV/AIDS, race, gender, orientation and religion. With Paramount+ being the home to so many global reality hit franchises, it seems only fitting to bring back the franchise and cast that started it all.”
As someone who actually applied for the fourth season of The Real World (and thank gads that bit of casting never happened) and as a card-carrying member of Generation X, I’ll be watching this diligently as I ooh and awe over the ageing of the cast members that I, in part, came of age with. Then I’ve no doubt I’ll go stand in front of my bathroom mirror and marvel at my own good fortune to have come out the other end of the early ‘90s tunnel even as I lament my own ever-diminishing real estate of hair and my own very noticeable wrinkles, all things and concepts that would have sent me into fits of apoplexy in 1992. The Real World, indeed.
The Real World Homecoming: New York launches March 4, 2021 on Paramount+.