In the past decade, MTV aired 14 seasons of The Real World (with another one premiering tonight). As one of the first reality shows, it's introduced us to 105 strangers picked to live in various mansions around the world.
Airing in the summer and fall of 2000, the ninth season of The Real World took place in New Orleans, where the roommates lived in The Belfort, a remodeled Civil War-era mansion located in the Garden District. (Years later, the mansion managed to survive Hurricane Katrina.)
The cast reflected the cultural climate of the new millennium, featuring a mix of progressive lifestyles that highlighted the country's conservative standards. Danny—a 22-year-old gay man from Georgia—was, at the time, dating a U.S. Army captain named Paul. Because of military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Paul's face had to be blurred for each appearance he made on camera, when visiting his boyfriend. Julie, a 21-year-old virgin, was the first Mormon to be featured on the series. At the time, she was a student at Brigham Young University, and after the show began airing, she was suspended for breaking the school's conduct code by living with men—during her stay in The Belfort—to whom she wasn't related/married. Other cast members included: Jamie, who was 22 at the time, an internet entrepreneur; Matt, a 21-year-old devout Catholic (and the house's other virgin), was a web designer and blogger; Melissa, a 22-year-old biracial woman, was the house comedian; Kelley, a 21-year-old blond sorority girl, met and dated a doctor on the series, but then later married Party of Five star Scott Wolf. And then there's David…
David—a 22-year-old musician—provided us with one of the best original songs in Real World history.
For its 10th season, The Real World: Back to New York returned to the original city where the first season of the Real World was filmed, and aired in the summer and fall of 2001. The cast lived in a four-story loft in Manhattan's West Village in a pre-war building that used to house a sausage factory.
However, there wasn't a lot of sausage packing going on during the season. The roommates were, for the most part, good friends, aside from a few heated conversations about race that were viewed more as opportunities to educate each other about other ethnicities. Coral (a 21-year-old African-American college student) and Malik (a biracial DJ who attended Berkeley) would often talk to Mike (a 20-year-old frat boy who admitted he'd never had much interaction with gays or non-whites) about racial sensitivity. Mike would later go on to wrestle in the WWE. Rachel was the punk, Kevin was the other white guy, Nicole was the one with the eyebrows, and Lori was the one who was always singing (which is a totally annoying trait in a roommate!).
The 11th season—The Real World: Chicago—was the first to have been filmed in the Midwest. Although the show aired in the winter and spring of 2002, it was filmed over the summer and fall of 2001, so it later made headlines as one of the few reality shows to have documented the cast's reaction to the unfolding of the events of September 11, 2001. Because the Real World residences do not allow for televisions (a rule implemented in the fifth season), the cast had to be told about the terrorist attacks and were later shown video footage of the twin towers crumbling by the production staff. Because of this, the show was criticized for "staging" these reaction scenes.
This season was the first to feature two gay cast members*: Chris, a 24-year-old male model and recovering alcoholic, and Aneesa, a half Jewish/half black lesbian who had a predilection for walking around naked and pooping with the door open. Tonya—a 21-year-old from Walla Walla who had been a foster child that aged out of the system, and who also suffered from chronic urinary tract infections—couldn't stand Aneesa's nakedness and dirty mouth. Oddly, Tonya would go on to pose in Playboy and act in some soft core movies. Other cast members included Keri, a 22-year-old southern belle; Kyle, a 23-year-old Princeton grad who would later go on to play Phillip on Days of Our Lives; Theo, a 19-year-old pastor's son; and Cara, a 22-year-old student from Boston.
*(The show's eighth season—filmed in Hawaii—featured a gay man and a bisexual woman.)
Another Real World first on this season was the night vision cameras in the bedrooms and microphones hidden in the headboards. The cast was shocked to learn that their sexual activity had been filmed and, some of it, aired (in one scene, you can actually hear a condom being opened). Cara, in particular, was unhappy that the footage showed her with several different men (all at separate times).
The 12th season of the show—which aired in the fall of 2002 through winter 2003—was the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a $5,000 a night penthouse suite in a casino in Las Vegas. (It's also the same suite Britney Spears was staying in when she proposed to and married her childhood friend Jason Alexander.)
The cast members included: Arissa (the violent one); Irulan (the one who hooked up with their gross boss); Alton (the muscle-y guy who played violin); Brynn (the threesome instigator); Frank (the muscle-y guy Trishelle wouldn't sleep with), Steven (the muscle-y guy Trishelle did sleep with); and of course Trishelle.
This season marked a turning point for the show, as it began to be known more for the roommates' drunken antics than their diversity. Trishelle—a 22-year-old from Cut Off, Louisiana—is a Real World MVP, as her curiosity brought lots of sex to the season, helping to make it one of the most highest rated in the show's history. On the third night in the penthouse, Trishelle, Steven and Brynn engaged in a threesome.
The Real World: Paris—the series' 13th season, and the second season to be filmed in a foreign country—aired in the summer and fall of 2003. The cast lived in a 19th-century chateau in Le Vesinet, a suburb of Paris.
The cast included Ace (a frat boy turned bar owner), Adam (the son of one of the Commodores who unwisely would rap in his confessional sessions), Mallory (a virgin who would later model for Sports Illustrated), Christina (a biracial military brat with breast implants), Leah (who didn't realize that the letter from her gyno saying that she had pre-cancerous cells meant that she had HPV), Simon (a gay leprechaun), and C.T. (who for some reason was billed as "Chris").
The 14th season—which aired in the winter and spring of 2004—was filmed in San Diego. The cast lived in a converted restaurant on a wharf. During taping, a 22-year-old woman claimed she was raped in the house, by a guest of one of the roommates, after being roofied. Apparently, the production staff found the woman lying naked on the bathroom floor. One cast member said she heard the accused rapist of walking out of the bathroom saying, "I just hit that." The cameras were rolling when the woman woke up, and one of the female roommates in the house informed her that she may have been sexually assaulted. The woman went to the police the next day, who began an investigation. However, the cast and crew had already left for Mexico, where they were filming their "vacation." A producer of the show did allow police into the home for a search, and provided them with the consent forms and IDs of guests in the house.
As if that weren't scandalous enough, a lawyer for Bunim/Murray stepped in and refused to let the cops search the bedrooms. The police, most likely pissed off, returned with a search warrant and seized all bedding, editing equipment, and tapes from the time of the alleged crime. The result was that nearly a month of footage ended up on the cutting room floor because it wasn't returned in time, including the cast's Mexican vacation footage. No arrests were ever made in that case.
However, two of the roommates—Brad (the guy with the thick Chicago accent who loves motorcycles and hates atomic wedgies) and Robin (a Challenge regular) were arrested on the same night, for two separate incidences, both of which involved alcohol.
The other original cast mates included: Cameran (who earned the nickname "Cammy Faye" for the amount of mascara she wore); Jacquese (the boring, mature one); Jamie (a Korean-American who oddly went on to become a small-screen action hero); Randy (the hot one); and Frankie (the "alternative" one). Frankie, who was always dramatic and complaining about things, claimed she had a phobia of large boats—so much so that she couldn't even look at them. Unfortunately for her, the roommates were assigned to work as crew members for a large boat. Frankie suffered from cystic fibrosis, but was often shown smoking clove cigarettes. She ended up leaving the show, because she insisted that her roommates didn't like her. Her replacement—18-year-old Charlie—only appeared on three episodes of the show, even though he was technically in the house longer than Frankie. (This was due to the tapes that the police confiscated and did not return in time.)
Sadly, Frankie lost her battle with cystic fibrosis three years after the show aired, at the age of 25. She is only the second cast member of The Real World to have died, to date.
The 15th season—The Real World: Philadelphia—aired in the fall of 2004 and winter of 2005. The roommates lived in a 14,000 square foot building near Betsy Ross' house.
This was the first season to feature two openly gay men (Karamo and Willie) in one cast, and the first season to feature an openly gay African-American man. Other cast members included: Melanie (the girl who got scabies); Shavonda (a one-time Hooters waitress); M.J. (the guy who looked like an ancient Greek statue); Sarah (the one with the issues); and Landon (the one who frequently wore a shirt that said "Huggable").
The Real World: Austin—the series' 16th season—aired in the summer and fall of 2005. The job assignment for this cast was to make a documentary film about the Austin music festival SXSW. So essentially, the show was a documentary about the making of a documentary.
The cast included: Wes (the ginger); Johanna (the Peruvian); Nehemiah (the wise one); Rachel (the Iraq war vet); Lacey (the virgin who was dating a paraplegic); Danny (the one with the wicked bad accent from Boston); and Melinda (the skinny one with the natural boobs and long blond hair).
This was the first time that—during taping—a roommate's (Danny) parent died. Melinda and Danny were the first Real World cast members from the same season to begin dating while filming and subsequently get married.
For its 17th season, The Real World returned to Florida, this time to Key West. The show aired in the spring and summer of 2006, but was filmed during hurricane season. Hurricanes Rita and Wilma both hit Key West, forcing the roommates to evacuate and live in a hotel. The house sustained damage from Hurricane Wilma.
The cast—who were assigned to run a spray tan establishment—included: Svetlana (the sexy Russian); Janelle (the bitch); Tyler (the bigger bitch); Johnny Bananas (the one with stupidest nickname); Jose (the responsible one); Zach (the one with the pretty eyes); and Paula (the one who would get drunk and lose her shit).
Paula often made no sense.
The 18th season of the show was filmed in Denver and aired in the winter of 2006 and the spring of 2007. The house was a 21,000 square foot commercial space and was the first property in the 18 seasons of the show that Bunim/Murray productions purchased.
The cast included: Alex (the swimmer); Jenn (who inexplicably always screamed "rock star" when she was drunk); Davis (the gay guy who called roommate Tyrie the N-word); Tyrie (who almost killed the gay guy for calling him the N-word); Stephen (the black republican); Colie (a one-time president of her college sorority). And then there's Brooke.
Brooke—whose frequent emotional meltdowns appeared regularly on The Soup—might be one of the best things to happen to The Real World aside from Trishelle's boobs.
For its 19th season, the show left the country again, this time, to film in Sydney, Australia, airing in the summer and fall of 2007. The roommates lived in a converted sports venue on Darling Harbour. Right before the series premiered, MTV put out a press release stating that cast member Parisa was the first Muslim to be featured on the series. However, Tami (The Real World: L.A.) and Mohammed (The Real World: San Francisco) were both Muslim.
The cast included: Parisa (the third Muslim); Cohutta (the hick); KellyAnne (the confused one); Dunbar (the asshole); Isaac (the one who used to take too much acid); Shauvon (the one whose implant later popped); Trisha (the bigot); and Ashli (who replaced Trisha after she was kicked out for slapping Parisa).
This season marks the first time that a female cast member was sent home for violence.
For The Real World: Hollywood—the series' 20th season—the show returned to L.A., and switched from 30-minute episodes to one-hour episodes. The show also dropped any pretense about being "real." The roommates lived in what was once a CBS television studio (where I Love Lucy was taped) and they all pursued careers in show business.
The cast included: Joey (a bodybuilder and former addict who fell off the wagon during taping and left to check into rehab); Brianna (a stripper, former meth/coke head who had auditioned for American Idol); Kimberly (the stuck-up one); David (the guy who fucked Kimberly); Sarah (the feminist); William (who meets a Real World: Key West cast member Janelle while filming and begins dating her); Greg (the weirdo who gets kicked out for being creepy); Nick (a forgettable replacement); and Brittini (another replacement).
For its 21st season the series returned to New York City once more, this time, in Red Hook Brooklyn, and aired in the winter and spring of 2009. It also marked a sort of return to form for the show. Since the fifth season, the cast members were made to work at a job together, but the Brooklyn roommates were not, and instead, were encouraged to pursue their own interests in the city. Also, more of an emphasis was placed on social issues (the 2008 presidential election played a big part in the storyline) and the roommates' personal histories.
This season was the first to have eight original roommates (a standard the show has kept), and for the first time, a transgendered person was part of the cast. Katelynn was born male, but began living as a woman at 17. One month before moving into the Brooklyn house, Katelynn traveled to Thailand for sex reassignment surgery. Ryan was an Iraq war vet who learned toward the end of the season that he's been recalled to active duty. There was also Baya (the dancer), J.D. (a gay man and dolphin trainer), Sarah (a tattooed art therapist); Scott (a male model); Devyn (a former beauty queen with a dubious wig), and Chet (the Mormon virgin who was fond of purple clothing).
If The Real World: Brooklyn was a return to the earlier days of the series, The Real World: Cancun—the 22nd season—brought it all back to the drunken debauchery of The Real World: Las Vegas. Eight roommates lived in the penthouse suite of a hotel in Cancun, Mexico during spring break. The catch was that the cast was assigned to work for a tourism company that specialized in spring break activities, however, the employees were not allowed to drink on the job. Only one cast member (Joey) was sent home for his failure to comply with the job's rules.
The cast included: Joey (the rocker who maybe had herpes); Ayiia (the bisexual Hooters waitress); Emilee (the Adderall-prescribed Hooters waitress); Jonna (the girl whose name is not pronounced how it's spelled); CJ (the blond guy); Bronne (the zombie-obsessed guy); Derek (the gay guy); and Jasmine (the drunk girl).
Jasmine had one of the drunkest (or rather best) confessional moments in Real World history.