The original seven strangers of the original modern reality show, The Real World, are reuniting in the original loft where they gave birth to an entire genre of television.
At least, that’s what MTV and Paramount+ promised in announcing this season: “The first Real World installment will reunite the original New York cast in the iconic NYC loft.”
In reality, one of them, Eric Nies, will never actually be in the loft or in the physical presence of his roommates, because he appears in the entire series via video chat, just like so many of us have been doing as we live our lives on Zoom.
I did not notice that in the trailer that MTV released late last week—and it is an excellent trailer, playing on nostalgia perfectly and also teasing a season that looks substantive and interesting.
I also didn’t catch that the press materials so far have never specifically said all seven would be living together. Instead, it has sentences such as this: “the original seven strangers will revisit the shocking moments and explosive issues that transpired during the historic season and discuss how they parallel in today’s social climate” and “The first roommates are moving back in almost thirty years later.”
Then again, the caption on the trailer says, “the original ‘seven strangers’ that paved the way for modern reality TV are moving back into the New York loft where it all began.”
That is not true.
In the trailer, Eric is in none of the group scenes, and is only shown talking to the camera from a couch. I assumed that was a confessional—Norm is also shown seated on a couch talking to a camera in the trailer—but it’s actually a hotel room he wasn’t allowed to leave. Details are below.
But there’s a lot we don’t know yet. Is he present for all the conversations, just constantly talking from the wall like he’s Big Brother in a 1984 telescreen? Or will he be effectively absent for things like meals or random conversations? Will the other cast members turn him on and off, like he’s Mister Rogers‘ Picture Picture?
MTV won’t say why Eric was kept out of The Real World loft. Yet?
The very first image from the very first season of The Real World is of Eric Nies in front of the iconic and metaphoric fish tank. And now he won’t be anywhere near the fish tank, which is actually in the original loft, unlike Eric. (I assume the fish are not the original fish.)
Eric did not mention his absence in an interview with The Boston Globe, but he alluded to it when asked about his “role”:
“I can’t elaborate on that until the show airs. But I can say that everything has happened in divine order. We’ve stayed in contact with each other over the years. We’re on a group text together; some have communicated more than others. But they are aware of my journey. They are aware of what I’ve personally gone through.”
Eric’s absence was revealed in a New York Times article about the season. It says:
Eric Nies, the fashion model who parlayed his ‘Real World’ fame into hosting roles on MTV programs like ‘The Grind,’ said that he made it as far as a New York hotel room and was never actually able to set foot in the SoHo loft for ‘Homecoming.’
Asked why, Nies said in a phone interview, ‘I’m not sure how much I can get into that right now.’
That sounds to me like they’re withholding the reason for the show in order to reveal it in the future, and thus turning it into some kind of drama. MTV’s going to MTV, even when it’s effectively dead and its iconic show is now on Paramount+.
In the story, the Times reports that Eric “was able to communicate with the other housemates over a video monitor” and says he said “the circumstances of his separation were ‘definitely not by my choice, but I accepted the outcome — more will be revealed in the future.'”
The Times also says “MTV declined to comment on this.” Of course they did. They can’t actually communicate about their actual shows. Why would they give up a plot point and run the risk of someone not spending $5 to subscribe?
The obvious possibility, of course, is that Eric wasn’t cleared to enter the loft because of the pandemᎥc, and thus remains quarantᎥned in a hotel room. Is it because of a positive test result? Or a violation of protocols? Or something else entirely?
And will the reason for Eric Nies’ absence be revealed in the opening moments of The Real World Homecoming: New York, or will it be an enduring mystery?