Although it was facing down its own demise, The Real World has been renewed by MTV, since its 29th season. That’s because The Real World Ex-Plosion, was a success: it was the franchise’s “highest-rated season since 2011″ and “was up 44 percent vs. last season, and experienced 33 percent growth from the season debut to the finale,” MTV said.
Yes, borrowing from Big Brother actually worked.
The gimmicky twist of having exes move in after a period of time helped, I’m sure, even though the attempts to create conflict ruined the show. But the less-publicized decision to break the fourth wall pretty consistently really gave the series a new feel. Sure, it was the same tired nonsense–people acting stupid, getting drunk and being stupid, being physical and violent for no reason, et cetera–but even with the totally artificial layer of the exes, it felt much more authentic.
The show has broken the fourth wall since season one, when Becky and the show’s director became romantically involved with each other and he was shown briefly on-screen. Other seasons have featured producer meetings, back in the time before it became acceptable to beat the living shit out of other cast members with no consequences. Still, a scene like the one below, a meeting with a producer, feels like it wouldn’t have made the cut on an earlier season, or even been filmed.
More significantly, cast members look directly at the camera like they’re on The Office, we hear producers ask questions, and we see the crew filming the cast. Despite its content and artificial context, The Real World is more of a documentary than many series, and showing so much from behind the scenes made that more evident. In an age where so many cast members are coached and producers script story lines and even lines, it was a reminder that the cameras were just documenting what happened when 12 non-strangers have their lives taped.