forget the real world, long live "the real world"
Where has The Real World gone?
Earlier this week one of my close friends asked me, when is the real world coming back? and I didn’t have an answer.
The show is a guilty pleasure for both of us: our favorite thing, and I know this sounds a little silly, is trying to explicate the show from its trailer – we pick early favorites, predict the fights and hookups, and eagerly await the drama that’s sure to unfold.
But we haven’t done this in more than nine months, an eternity for MTV, which usually turns programming around pretty quickly. The Real World’s most recent season, Bad Blood, finished back in January, and there’s been no mention of a new one since.
So I didn’t have an answer for my friend earlier this week, but I think I have one now: I think MTV is quietly trying to kill The Real World.
If you haven’t watched an episode of the show in a few years, then you might be surprised to learn that things have changed. For the past four seasons, producers have been adding new twists to the show – such as 2014’s Real World Skeletons, where enemies from the roommates’ past came to visit the house, or 2016’s Go Big or Go Home, where the roommates had to compete in challenges in order to stay in the house, (which sounds a lot like the popular Real World spin-off show, The Challenge – but more on that in a couple of paragraphs).
They’ve also re-conceived their approach to filming – The Real World now breaks the fourth wall: we see roommates having conversations with producers, security, and camera crew. They’re also now allowed to have cellphones and post to social media while filming. These have been mildly interesting additions to the series, but not enough to entice viewers to come back to the show. Even when a castmate from Go Big or Go Home posted a scathing, viral blog post about one of his roommates’ racists remarks, which made big headlines at the time, the show continued to see its lowest ratings.
MTV also seems to be phasing out The Real World by replacing it with two other Real World-esque shows: the aforementioned The Challenge, a competition-based show made up of former MTV reality stars, and Are You The One?, MTV’s version of The Bachelor, where contestants try to find their ideal mate. The Challenge, which just celebrated its 30th season, has pushed out 3 seasons alone in the last 14 months, a record. Are You The One?, gearing up to release its sixth season, is currently in a heavy promotional cycle – it’s even being promoted on MTV Real World social media channels.
MTV might be counting on the fact that if they keep the airwaves continually full with these other shows, we might not notice them pulling the plug on one of TV’s original and longest-running reality shows.
I could be wrong. MTV might release the latest The Real World trailer tomorrow, and it might feature some convoluted plot to send contestants to the moon or meet estranged fathers, or some other extreme that hasn’t yet happened on the show. But until then, I’m in mourning.
The Emmys moves toward inclusion
“Everything is better on television,” Stephen Colbert sang in his opening number at last weekend’s Emmys, and it’s hard to disagree. Television continues to prove itself the premier platform for diverse storytelling, quality writing, and bold risk-taking.
I’m an award-show junkie – I love the fashion, the glamour, the celebs hanging out together; it’s great. And this Sunday’s show didn’t disappoint (or surprise, save the the much covered surprise appearance by Sean Spicer, and what his cameo says about our ability to quickly forgive public figures). Importantly, though, there were a lot of groundbreaking firsts that occurred:
- Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing for Master of None;
- Riz Ahmed became the first Muslim and South-Asian man to win any acting Emmy for The Night Of;
- Sterling K. Brown became the first black actor in almost 20 years to win lead actor in a drama for This Is Us (the last being Andre Braugher in 1998);
- Donald Glover became the first black person to win an Emmy for directing in comedy for Atlanta (he also won for lead comedy actor).
It’s also notable that women were celebrated this year, more so than at previous Emmys, with many of the show’s awards going to HBO’s Big Little Lies and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale – both stories, in their own way, about women being silenced by the men around them. This kind of public acknowledgment of stories about powerful, strong women makes me hopeful, although I also worry that women are again being pigeonholed, this time as fighters-against-an-oppressive-force. It’s not perfect, in other words, and there’s still a long way to go until equity in television is more the norm and less headline-worthy news, but still: progress. Which is worth celebrating.
header image: "emmy at the lake," liam ward / flickr