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The Real World is a reality television program on MTV originally executive produced by Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray. First broadcast in 1992, the show is the longest-running program in MTV history. Following Bunim’s death from breast cancer in 2004, Bunim/Murray Productions continues to produce the program.The nineteenth season aired from August, 2007 to January 2008. The show is now in production of its twentieth season, which is set in Hollywood, California, and will premiere on Wednesday, May 21, 2008, the same date the first season of The Real World premiered.The show focuses on the lives of seven strangers who audition to live together in a house for several months, as cameras record their interpersonal relationships. The show moves to a different city each season. The footage shot during the housemates’ time together is edited into 22-minute episodes. The narration given over the opening title sequence by the seven housemates states some variation of the following:

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

Before the televised version of the show debuted, a “scripted” version of it was toyed with. Rather than being themselves, a set of strangers (not the New York cast) were given story and character arcs to attempt to recreate (a la a soap opera). Bunim & Murray decided against this, and, at the last minute, pulled the concept (and the cast) before it became the first season of the show, believing seven different people would have enough of a basis on which to interact without scripts. Tracy Grandstaff, one of the original seven picked for “season 0” went on to minor fame herself as the voice of the animated Beavis and Butt-head character Daria Morgendorffer, who eventually got her own spinoff, Daria.One sign of the show’s popularity occurred on the October 2, 1993 episode of the sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live, which poked fun at the show’s second season Los Angeles cast, whose members were depicted as contentious and bigoted, a parody of the numerous discussions of racism, bigotry and political differences that served as a recurring theme that season.

The show also gained widespread attention with its third season, The Real World: San Francisco, which aired in 1994, and depicted the conflict between David “Puck” Rainey, a bicycle messenger criticized for his hygiene, and his roommates, most notably AIDS activist Pedro Zamora. As the show gained more popularity, Zamora’s life as someone living with AIDS gained considerable notice, garnering media attention. Zamora was one of the first openly gay men with AIDS to be portrayed in popular media, and after his death on November 11, 1994 (hours after the final episode of his season aired) he was praised by then-President Bill Clinton. Zamora’s roommate and best friend during the show, Judd Winick, went on to become a popular comic book writer, and wrote the Eisner-nominated graphic novel Pedro and Me, about his friendship with Zamora, as well as high-profile and controversial storylines in mainstream superhero comics that featured gay and AIDS-related themes. As the San Francisco season continued to grow in popularity, it was clear that the “reality” television format was one that could bring considerable ratings to a network.

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MTV

MTV (Music Television) is an American cable television network based in New York City. Launched on August 1, 1981, the original purpose of the channel was to show music videos. Today, MTV broadcasts a variety of pop culture, youth culture, music videos and reality television shows aimed at older adolescents and young adults.Since its premiere, MTV has revolutionized the music industry. Slogans such as “I want my MTV” became embedded in public thought, the concept of the VJ (video jockey) was popularized, the idea of a dedicated video-based outlet for music was introduced, and both artists and fans found a central location for music events, news, and promotion. MTV has also been referenced countless times by musicians, other TV channels and shows, films and books.MTV has spawned a handful of sister channels in the U.S. and dozens of affiliated international channels around the world. MTV’s moral influence on young people, including examples of censorship and social activism on the channel, has been the subject of debate for years. MTV’s choice to focus on non-music programming has also been contested relentlessly, demonstrating the channel’s continued impact on popular culture.

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