This week in reality TV, Below Deck docked on dry land for the season, Survivor got reset, and, most importantly, MTV announced the format for the new Real World. In fact, this week’s column is going to be solely dedicated to this news about the most influential, even if it wasn’t the first, show in the reality TV genre.
Last season, Real World took a real risk: It opted out of the “seven strangers picked to live in a house” model, dubbed the season Real World: Ex-Plosion, and had the seven strangers’ exes move into the house. It worked really well. It added tension, it divided the house, and, best of all, it doubled The Challenge draft pool. In addition, it tore down the fourth wall by letting the crew show up in shots, releasing cast footage before it aired, and allowing them to talk openly about filming a show for television. It seems like a little tweak, but it was truly refreshing. Well, this season has another twist in the traditional format. Take it away, MTV press release:
Seven strangers move into an old nightclub turned fabulous urban loft in Chicago’s West Loop, looking forward to high times in the Windy City — leaving their hometowns behind. But each of these roommates has skeletons in their closets — shattered lives, broken relationships, estranged family members, and dark secrets. They soon discover they cannot run away from their past mistakes; unresolved issues and abhorrent behavior will resurface as the ‘last person on earth they wanted to see,’ comes knocking on their door. Each episode, a new skeleton literally arrives on their doorstep to stay in the house, forcing each roommate to deal with their past lives. Visiting skeletons reveal surprising details about each of the seven roommates, exposing their secrets, their loves, and their ultimate desire to overcome the mistakes of their past. Full of tears, laughter, conflict, and romance; this groundbreaking season of Real World will be like no other.
This release has its own dramatic saga as well. It was put up on MTV.com, then Huffington Post had a piece with even more details about the “skeletons,” then the MTV.com page was taken down, then the MTV.com page went back up. Or something like that. It’s confusing. But not as confusing as my feelings about the announcement.
To best explain how I feel about this, we need to start with some science. Every human, in essence, is just a collection of atoms. Atoms are each balanced by positive (protons) and negative (electrons) charges. Thus, we each have a positive and negative side to ourselves. I call the two sides of myself Negatron Jacoby and Positron Jacoby. Negatron Jacoby thinks that reality TV is destroying his life, cheeseburgers are keeping him from being slim, and we are all going to die in an alien invasion. Positron Jacoby thinks that reality TV is teaching him about the true nature of humanity, cheeseburgers make him happy, and that the aliens are invading, but they only want to party and listen to ’90s R&B. The “half full/half empty” outlook lies within all of us, and, in the case of this news about Real World, Negatron Jacoby and Positron Jacoby are more at odds than ever. They are so opposed that the only way to unpack this announcement is to have them each deliver their version of the GRTFL Top Five. Let’s do this.
The Top Five Reasons Positron Jacoby Can’t Wait for Real World: Skeletons
5. The “Estranged Brothers” Bruno and Bria: Estranged brothers can be extremely compelling as a source of drama or a big fight over who didn’t do their chores. It can really break either way. However, when the brothers are named Bruno and Bria, you know it’s going to be good. Also, they look like this:
4. “A ‘player’ and three of his past relationships” are on the show: Why isn’t this an entire season format itself? Get a bunch of people who sleep around, lead people on, and break hearts, and then have all their victims move in. How is it that there are seven reality show about dudes who fish for a living and none about “players” living with the people whose hearts they broke? Call it On Second THOT and then call it a day because you just had a million-dollar idea.
3. Real World: Ex-plosion was excellent: Remenber how you watched all the Interstellar trailers and you were like, “This all just looks like Matthew McConaughey yelling in a snowstorm, this is not awesome.” But then you remembered that every Christopher Nolan movie was super-bitchin’, so you’re going to see it anyway? That’s how I feel about Real World right now. Ex-plosion was so good that I trust the Bunim/Murray team implicitly at this point.
2. Another Kansas City cast member: We had Wes, then Jenny, then Brian, and now we have Sylvia. If the Royals lose the World Series, at least they will always have Wes.
1. A “secret baby mama” who is due to give birth in a few weeks: Imagine you are filming Real World, planning your life of party appearances, TV hosting, and easy sex, because you are going to be the most famous person in the world, and then a woman knocks on the door and says your future is actually going to be full of diapers, playgrounds, strollers, never leaving the house, and, you know, being responsible for another human life. This is going to be great.
The Top Five Reasons Negatron Jacoby Thinks Skeletons Is Going to Ruin the Real World Franchise Forever
5. It’s reaching: There are only so many of these gimmick formats MTV can roll out. For the first one, Ex-plosion, it brought people from the cast members’ pasts to create drama. For the second one, Skeletons, it’s bringing in people from the cast members’ pasts to create drama. I’m not so much worried that this will be a bad season. I’m worried that in four years we will be watching Real World: Fender Bender Revenger.
4. “Each episode, a new skeleton literally arrives on their doorstep to stay in the house, forcing each roommate to deal with their past lives”: Wait, wait, wait. Are you telling me that every single episode will be focused on one cast member only? The whole enjoyment of this show is watching the evolution of the group dynamic. With this format it feels like it will go from being a serialized show like Parenthood to being an episodic procedural show like Law & Order. Never in the history of television has a show made this switch successfully. OK, fine, I have no idea if that is true, but it probably is, so I’m saying it anyway.
3. “… will welcome a cyber bully — her past enemies show up”: I’m old and have no idea what a cyber bully does, but I can’t imagine that a confrontation between people who wrote mean tweets about each other will be as interesting as a chick showing up eight moths pregnant and telling you you’re about to be a father.
2. No feeder system for The Challenge: It’s as simple as this: After last season there were 12 eligible candidates for The Challenge franchise, and this season there will be seven. This would be a bigger concern if The Challenge didn’t open eligibility to basically anyone who has appeared on MTV. We are three seasons away from Jesse Camp and Kennedy donning the Under Armour.
1. Wait, is this season going to be [gasp] serious? This sounds a lot more like Intervention than Real World: Las Vegas. I watch this show because we want to watch young people get drunk and make bad decisions. Stay in your lane, Real World.
Since I was on the subject, I went to see what the all-knowing and omnipresent witches and warlocks of Vevmo had about the cast. In a shock to no one, they had everything. Fun facts, photos, the whole deal. I didn’t want to read too much because Vevmo is spoiler-heavy, but if you can’t help yourself, go for it.
But there you have it: overanalysis of a minuscule announcement, a couple of Top Fives, and even a THOT joke. Standard GRTFL fare. Check back next week for more highlights of lowbrow TV, listen to the Right Reasons, and, as always, enjoy the shit out of your weekend.