The Real World turns 20 today: seven strangers spawned 27+ seasons, 20 years of reality TV

On May 21, 1992, MTV debuted The Real World, with its creators, Jonathan Murray and Mary-Ellis Bunim, taking a cue from PBS’ American Family and turning real people’s lives into a soap opera. But as the introduction said, this wasn’t a pre-existing family, but something else:

“This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives taped. Find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real: The Real World.

It’s impossible to overestimate the show’s impact on popular culture and television today, so I won’t even try, but everything we watch today and call reality television started here and carries its DNA.

And, of course, the show gave us a lot of entertainment on its own. Just watch this montage of the first 25 seasons’ intros and see how much comes back. I remember getting choked up watching the season finale of Boston, and didn’t quite understand that until I realized I’d gotten to know these people and spent considerable time with them each week. That’s the show’s greatest gift: It showed us how interesting, revealing, informative, and engaging real people’s lives could be.

Programming note: I’m taking a badly-timed break (Celebrity Apprentice finale!) to unplug and recharge. Back in a few days.

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.