Bunim/Murray Productions had announced last week that problems with Philadelphia union groups had resulted in a decision to pull out of the city only three weeks before filming of The Real World was to begin. The announcement set off a series of protests and outcry by residents and business leaders who had hoped that the popular MTV series would help turn around the city's "uncool" reputation and assist in stemming the ongoing "brain drain" and departure of graduates of the area's local universities.
Once the public outcry began, state and local politicians predictably got involved -- including Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell -- as the union leaders quickly backpedaled from their previous tough public comments and the public lobbying for the show began in earnest.
After local business, young professional, and tourism groups began protesting the Tuesday departure announcement -- which at the time The Philadelphia Inquirer had stated "could give a black eye to the city" -- efforts to get the show back started almost immediately, beginning with a protest by a group called Young Involved Philadelphia on Wednesday evening and including Governor Rendell personally calling the producers on Thursday to "apologize" for the union behavior and ask that the producers reconsider.
Pat Gillespie, the manager of the Philadelphia Building Trades Council which had organized most of the previous union picketing over Bunim/Murray's decision to not use union crews for the house renovation and had previously bragged about how his group's picketing was an example of "why Philadelphia is a great town," seemed unprepared for the public backlash. "The venom of some of these television viewers surprises me," Gillespie told the New York Times. "They used to say religion was the opiate of the masses. I guess now it's these voyeuristic television programs."
Once both the governor and the mayor reached out to the company, Bunim/Murray representatives -- who reportedly had begun to reach out to other possible cities including Austin, Texas -- returned to Philadelphia over the weekend and the formal wining and dining efforts commenced.
"Philadelphia is close to having their MTV," John Dougherty, business manager of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, told The Inquirer after a three-hour closed-door City Hall meeting between all parties on Monday. Later, Mayor Street and Joey Carson, Bunim/Murray's chief operating executive, continued talking late into the evening during dinner at a local upscale Philadelphia restaurant according to The Philadelphia News.
According to the mayor's office, the producers signed an agreement with the city this morning. In a backslapping press release issued this afternoon, Mayor Street said, "There is no better place to live, work or visit than the city of Philadelphia. Its history and strong neighborhoods make Philadelphia the real Real World, and we look forward to this great production."
Stated Bunim/Murray COO Carson, "On behalf of everyone at Bunim-Murray Productions, MTV and The Real World, I would like to thank Governor Rendell, Mayor Street, Congressman Brady, Michael Barnes from IATSE, John J. Dougherty from the IBEW, Pat Gillespie from the Building Trades Council, City Controller Saidel and everyone else involved in getting us to where we are today. I am pleased that season fifteen of The Real World will be produced here in Philadelphia, as originally planned. On a personal note, I would like to acknowledge the support of the many young Philadelphians who played a major role in keeping the show in town, as well as two prominent local businessmen, Larry Cohen and Charlie Breslin, for their unflagging commitment to keeping The Real World in Philadelphia."
Added Governor Rendell, "Recognizing the economic impact that The Real World can have on our city and state, I am thrilled that the young people's voices were heard and we were all able to come together and be able to announce today that The Real World and seven strangers have chosen Philadelphia to live."