For reasons that can only be chalked up to complete lack of any other programming or a weird dare, MTV will be airing three old seasons of its hit reality show The Real World. Beginning March 22, the original first season of the show will air at 8 p.m., followed by smutty season numero 12 on March 23 at 2 p.m., and then closing the real deal will be a showing of Season Three, which will always be known as that season with Puck and Pedro, on March 24 at 8 a.m.
The trip down memory lane is in an effort to kick off season number 28, which will be taking place in Portland, OR and will be nothing like Portlandia but will be exactly like The Real World Season 27.
Coincidentally, or not at all because one has nothing to do with the other, I showed a clip of the original The Real World to a communications class I teach to show what reality television used to be like when people had to use VCRs when they weren't home and you had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to your friend's house to watch cable. My students' response was that this show was "boring." Boring? This was the season that started it all; Eric and Julie's romance was not fabricated for the camera's purpose, arguments weren't staged, and the "characters" had honest-to-God occupations and aspirations in life, whether they were good at these things or not (Heather); this was when shit was actually real.
I recall very fondly when this show first came into existence. It was amazing; it was a show about a bunch of hip, young adults going after their dreams in the big city. And they were all so alt-rock-pensive-angry and '90s, which made them all that much cooler in my mind. As far as I knew (and still naively think), everything on the show was certifiable. The concept behind the show was like nothing that had ever been done before. Seven strangers, thrown together for a few months to live out their lives, were taped by a team of cameras. And when they got into arguments they weren't petty or alcohol-fueled, these people argued about racism and sex and adult stuff. There was an entire episode about politics in which the cast went to a pro-choice rally in Washington. There was an episode where southern belle Julie hung out in a homeless shelter. How could that be fake?
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I don't know what happened to The Real World but somewhere around Miami the producers decided that just shooting a bunch of regular people wouldn't be interesting anymore, and they would need to make them "do" something. Season Five they were given $50,000 to start a business that failed; compare that to the cast of Season One's measly $2,500 pay check. Miami was also the season where alcohol and sex were more important than conflicting personalities. I understand that people love drama, but Season One had it and it wasn't forced with tequila shots; it's easy to get into a fight when everyone is wasted. Once MTV threw the hot tub into the mix, it all went to hell.
I haven't watched the first season since it aired in 1992 and I was not as old and jaded as I am now. I don't think I will watch this weekend's marathon because I am afraid it will mar my idealistic memory of the show and all it did for television. But if you watch it, let me know if Eric is as ridiculously hot as I remember him to be.