The Real World

The Real World (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

The Real World is a reality television program 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 and one of the longest-running reality series in history, credited with launching the modern reality TV genre.

The series was hailed in its early years for depicting issues of contemporary young-adulthood relevant to its core audience, such as prejudice, abortion, sexuality, AIDS and substance abuse, but later garnered a reputation as a showcase for immature and irresponsible behavior.

Following Bunim's death from breast cancer in 2004, Bunim/Murray Productions continues to produce the program. The twenty-seventh season, set in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, premiered on June 27, 2012, and ended its first run on September 12, 2012. The upcoming twenty-eighth season, set in Portland, Oregon, is expected to premiere in early 2013. The show is currently renewed by MTV through its 28th season.

The series has generated two notable spin-offs, both broadcast by MTV: Road Rules, which lasted for 14 seasons (1995"2007), and the reality game show The Challenge (originally known as Road Rules: All Stars before being renamed Real World/Road Rules Challenge after both its precursors), which has run for over 20 seasons (1998"present). The Challenge is mostly cast-contestant dependent on both The Real World and Road Rules, as it combines contestants from various seasons of both shows. Coordinating the series with its spin-off, MTV alternates between airing seasons of The Real World and The Challenge and ends out seasons of both shows by showing previews for the upcoming season of the other.


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 by the seven housemates states some variation of the following:

Before the finished version of the show debuted, the idea of a "scripted" version was toyed with. Rather than being themselves, a set of strangers (not the first-season New York cast) were given story and character arcs to attempt to recreate (a la soap opera). Bunim and Murray decided against this, and, at the last minute, pulled the concept (and the cast) before it became the first season of the show, believing seven diverse people would have enough of a basis upon which to interact without scripts. 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.

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.

Cast member successes

Appearing on the program has often served as a springboard to further success, especially in the entertainment industry. 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, is regarded as the Real World alumnus with the most successful media career. Other Real World alumni who have gone on to media careers include London cast member Jacinda Barrett, whose acting career includes films such as Ladder 49, The Namesake, The Human Stain, and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and Hawaii cast member Tecumseh "Teck" Holmes III, who appeared in films such as National Lampoon's Van Wilder and in TV series such Friends.

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, as well as 2002"2003 Las Vegas' Trishelle Cannatella, 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 In addition to Playboy magazine, Cannatella has also posed for the online Playboy Cyber Club, as well as for Stuff magazine.

Lindsay Brien of the Seattle cast became a radio and CNN personality.

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 castmembers 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.

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.

Boston cast member Sean Duffy was elected to the United States House of Representatives for in 2010 as a member of the Republican Party.

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 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.

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. There are no televisions or radios in the cast residences, though a television was provided to the Chicago cast in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

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 Jon 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.

Footage taped throughout each season is edited into episodes (half-hour episodes for the first 19 seasons, one-hour episodes beginning with the twentieth).

Physical violence of any kind is not tolerated by the producers. 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. Trisha Cummings was ordered out of the Sydney house after a physical altercation with Parisa Montazaran. Hollywood castmates William Gilbert and David Malinosky were ordered into anger management for incidents that occurred during their season.

Cast members are also subject to random drug tests, and are held responsible for any damage to property that occurred within the house. Brooklyn's J.D. Ordoñez, for example, 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.

Recurring themes


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. 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. 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.

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 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 Flinn, 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. 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. 2011 San Diego housemates Zach Nichols' and Ashley Kelsey's mutual attraction led to a relationship that they decided to continue 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, San Francisco's Cory Murphy, 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 Cancun's Ayiiia Elizarraras 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.

London's Sharon Gitau expressed difficulty with relationships, and with being open about this and other aspects of her life with her castmates.

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.

Unrequited love

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.

Departed housemates

Many times, housemates have left the Real World house (and the cast) before production was completed, due to conflicts with other roommates, personal issues, 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, 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 and Sydney's Shauvon Torres. 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

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