In 1992, television’s first ever unscripted show, MTV’s The Real World, promised to show us what happens when people stop being polite—and start getting real. The concept was a simple: gather a bunch of strangers to live in one house in New York City and just, watch them interact. Canny producers realized that all the drama they could ever wish to instigate and capture on camera was there for the taking. After all, there’s no simpler equation than “young people plus alcohol plus cameras equals must-watch TV.” Every season thereafter (there have been 32 to date!) the MTV hit show traveled around the country, and later around the world (shoutout to The Real World: Cancun!), shaping what we now know as reality television.
And because this is 2019 and no older property is immune from a reboot, MTV has partnered with Facebook Watch (yes, that’d be the social media’s newest streaming service) to bring back the OG reality show. “MTV’s The Real World helped to define a generation and created a new genre of television with a simple yet powerful idea of connecting people from wildly divergent backgrounds to find common ground on the issues that often divided them,” said Chris McCarthy, president of MTV. The twist this time around is that three different seasons set and produced in three different countries will drop this year: The Real World: Atlanta, El Mundo Real: Ciudad de México, and The Real World: Thailand.
Hoping to capture both the high-stakes drama (there’s always so much yelling!) and the hot-button heart-to-hearts that characterized the show in its heyday (remember Pedro Zamora opening up about his AIDS diagnosis?), these three seasons have a lot to live up to. Then again, the cast for Atlanta includes Arely, a mother and a DACA recipient, while Ciudad de México boasts Dany, a trans drag queen, as well as Israel, a rapper of Hñähñu origins, so perhaps its producers know precisely the kind of cultural conversations they want to stage this time around. The question is: do we, in 2019, really wanna see what it looks like when people stop being nice and start getting real—on Facebook of all places?