"This is the story of seven strangers picked to live in a house." This is the famous opening to what is perhaps reality television's most significant phrase. That's how MTV has started nearly every season of its seminal, but now-struggling, reality series The Real World. Until now. In an effort to revitalize the flagging franchise after twenty-one years on the air, the show's producers have decided to drastically mix up the formula. The next season, set in San Francisco, will begin traditionally enough, but a third of the way through, things will go haywire.
The season will initially feature the usual seven young people meeting each other for the first time and navigating various social dynamics. (These days that means getting too drunk and hitting on each other. Or just hitting each other.) But then, a month into the shoot, the kids will go on a trip only to find, upon their return home, that all of their exes have moved into the house. Dunh dunh dunh! What a twist — though, a twist better suited to something more unapologetically sleazy, like Big Brother or, uh, MTV's Real World spinoff The Challenge. Not that The Real World is some high-minded, noble endeavor at this point, far from it. But it has, with only a few minor variations, at least relied on the same relatively lo-fi, tried-and-true formula since the beginning and should, in this longtime viewer's estimation anyway, continue to do so. Without that central, defining conceit, it's just not The Real World anymore.