The Legacy of MTV’s “The Real World”

Not only is it hard to believe that MTV’s The Real World is beginning its 25th season, but Matthew Gilbert asks an interesting question. Is the show the most influential show on the current television landscape?

You may not like this thought. I don’t like this thought. Twelve years after “The Sopranos’’ premiere, I would prefer to focus on how the morally complex mob drama paved the way for everything from “Mad Men’’ to “The Shield’’ while it opened up the once unfamiliar region of cable for mainstream audiences. I would rather look back at the legacies of “The Twilight Zone,’’ and “All in the Family,’’ and “Seinfeld,’’ whose fetishizing of lifestyle minutiae still plays out on today’s sitcoms. I would rather talk “Lost.’’

But after 25 seasons, “The Real World,’’ which premiered in 1992, is begging for credit — or blame, depending on your point of view. “The Real World’’ led to the creation of an entire new genre, one that has changed the nature of privacy, fame, and TV. It is the show that spawned almost every reality TV convention we now take for granted, from the ever-present cameras and fourth-wall confessionals to the glitzy home design and the editing-room shaping of “story line.’’ Created by Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray, “The Real World’’ was the breeding ground for everything that “Real Housewives’’ and Kardashian fans now hold most dear.

Hard to answer no on this one.


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