44° Good Afternoon
44° Good Afternoon

'The Real World': Newsday's 1992 review

"The Real World" premieres on May 21, 1992. The synopsis? Make seven strangers live together and see what happens. What happened was reality gold. The show has gone on to have 25 seasons. Credit: MTV

MTV Classic, the newly launched channel featuring MTV’s most-beloved programming from the 1990s and 2000s, will air the entire first season of "The Real World" on Sunday, starting at 1 p.m.

Here’s how Newsday originally reviewed the show:

Who`d expect MTV to be the place for a taste of The Real World?

Yet there it is, in all its interpersonal incomprehensibility. Don`t believe the hype about stereotypes: This new 13-episode MTV series (debuting tonight) gets way past the channel`s preoccupation with image, taking us deep inside the heads and hearts of young adults trying to get it together and get along in this confounding society.

"The idea to take seven totally different strangers from seven different walks of life and put them into a loft together for three months is just totally crazy," says Eric -- who ought to know, since he was one of the seven people recruited to have documentary cameras record their every step during this 13-week social experiment.

Eric, (last names are not used on the show) an admittedly "immature" model, found himself sharing a fashionably furnished Soho loft with Heather B., an assertive black rapper, and Julie, a wide-eyed white dancer from Alabama. Plus, Becky, waitress and would-be troubadour; Kevin, poli-sci grad and poet; Norman, a bisexual designer, and Andre, a musician with a rock-idol mane. All seven, between the ages of 19 and 25, would live and learn together as they struck out into the working world.

MTV calls this series "soap opera" because that`s the genre it was exploring when The Real World developed. It does follow unfolding lives in something approaching real time. But that label doesn`t nearly describe this result: These people are real, their lives aren`t scripted, and the action isn`t as melodramatically tidy as the serial form.

Take the topic of racism. While TV tends to portray the big blow-up, most of us face prejudice in mundane forms, and that`s what The Real World delivers. As Heather`s beeper sounds one day, Julie jokes, "Are you a drug dealer?" That gets under Heather`s skin, and she and Julie have to deal with it. Not in one revelatory talk, but through their daily encounters.

"Once a week, we`d sit them down in an interview situation," says Mary- Ellis Bunim, who co-created and produced The Real World after stints on several daytime dramas. (Co-creator Jonathan Murray comes from a documentary background.) This direct approach offers a window "not just on what happened but how they were feeling when it happened."

We aren`t just viewing this Real World from an objective point of view -- watching people behave -- but participating in a fresh way. Sorting through all those first-hand viewpoints, we`re coming to understand where these diverse people are coming from and why they act the way they do. "I didn`t think it was gonna get so intense," said Eric. "I didn`t think that everybody was gonna get so involved and get so emotional. When I first got there, everybody was so different and nobody had anything in common...I didn`t think any friendships were gonna come out of it. And sure enough, they did."

The Real World tries harder to consider questions than to reach resolutions. "A lot of the issues are the current issues for this age," says Bunim, who views it from the perspective of a "40-ish" mother with adolescent kids herself -- the conflicts with parents, the stresses about the choices they`re making in their lives, and the pressure to make those choices; the struggle with the economy, and the insecurities that are natural for that age.

"The racial issues, too, were fascinating," she adds. "These kids experienced the L.A. riots on television together and were really able to articulate where they were coming from. I don`t think there are many television programs that give you such a frank perspective."

Speaking of frank perspective, the project held one final lesson for its participants: After MTV`s 13-week lease on their lives ended, so did their lease on the loft. Eric`s back living with his mom in New Jersey.

Welcome to the real world.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

More Entertainment