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MTV’s Real World has dissed the District 11 times.
A few years ago, MTV approached the District’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Development with a request: to bring The Real World, the granddaddy of reality programming, to the nation’s capital. D.C. was on a very short list of cities competing for the honor, but the show went elsewhere. MTV did not have a comment on the decision, but according to one staffer at the film office, it came down to one simple shortcoming: The producers were unable to find “a house cool enough for the kids to live in.”
In the intervening years, it seems, the District has developed some trendier living spaces.
MTV is now scouting locations for its 12th season, and D.C. is back in the game. “We’ve always considered the city to be the eighth cast member,” writes series co-creator Jon Murray via e-mail. “We look for a city that is dynamic, young, and visually exciting. Washington, D.C., has always been on our list, and we continue to consider it as a potential new home to The Real World.”
The Real World follows the adventures of seven 18- to 24-year-olds as they live together in a huge, ultra-hip house for five months. The point of the show, according to the credits, is to “find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.” Up to this point, getting real has generally involved lots of fighting and slapping, a good amount of sexual confusion, and torrents of alcohol-fueled mayhem. Much of the drama comes from the producers’ penchant for placing disparate personalities under a single roof.
“[The Real World] is one of the most ridiculous shows I’ve ever seen,” says sometime MTV viewer Tony Bullock, spokesperson for Mayor Anthony A. Williams. “It’s sort of inane. But we would certainly welcome it to the city. It would expose a young audience to Washington, D.C., and there is a whole host of economic activity that would be directly related to the production of the show.” Bullock says he does not believe that the mayor is a fan of the program.
In the past, D.C. has lost out to New York (twice), Hawaii, Boston, Miami, and Seattle. The show’s next stop will be Las Vegas—a selection that has D.C.’s MTV generation shouting at the screen. “It’s been in other cities more than once, and I can’t imagine why it hasn’t come here yet,” says Washington-area native Mara Clark. “We’re the capital of the United States—we’ve got to be just as interesting as Seattle.”
Perhaps, but we lack the grunge, the coffee culture, and the techies.
“Washington, D.C., doesn’t have a kind of cachet attached to it that other big cities do,” says Georgetown University cultural studies professor Matthew Tinkcom. “The stereotypical view is that it’s full of lawyers and bureaucrats.”
But as Tinkcom points out, recent events may have made D.C. more MTV-friendly. “There is now a new popular fantasy, because of Monica Lewinsky and Chandra Levy, about what it’s like to live here. Now D.C. is seen as more of a youth city,” he says.
“It would be really great if The Real World were to come,” adds Crystal Palmer, director of the Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, who is currently in talks with the producers of the show. “I think eventually it will get here.” CP