As MTV readies its 28th season of The Real World (returning to San Diego, starting September 28th), I figured I’d share with you my ability to spurt out what are, hands down, the greatest moments in the series’ history since it was basically my major in college. Not sure I’d be able to rattle off the top ten moments from my own 31 years of life without having to sit down and really think it over. But when asked to come up with the top ten moments from The Real World, I become the Jewish Twista, quickly rattling off fights and funny moments like I’ve practiced the routine my entire life (I have).
Obviously my list stops in 2003 with Season 12 in Las Vegas, because if you have any RW moments you love post-Vegas, then I don’t want to talk to you and I want you to stay away from my loved ones. This list documents the show when it was innocent, naïve and a social experiment, before it became a springboard for Challenges, spring break appearances and moving to the San Fernando Valley to “act”. And with that, here’s my top ten moments from The Real World, listed in order of personal impact and cultural significance:
10. The Chicago 9/11 Situation – One major staple of The Real World is that the housemates have no connection to the outside world, besides a call with the easily disposable significant other whose name is scribbled above the phone in post-production or a bartender serving them Kamikaze shots. No TVs or radios are in the loft, so I always dreamt what would happen during a natural disaster or zombie attack. And when MTV set up shop in Chicago for the show’s 10th season in 2001, my dreams came true on 9/11 (starting to regret that wording choice).
During one of the only times this cast was silent (UGH, WALLAWALLA TONYA), we watched the houseguests sit in shock as producers stepped in with a TV so they could watch the events unfold. It was a pivotal moment of meta, watching my favorite TV show experience a shared American tragedy in real time… or so I thought. After the show aired, cast members revealed their filmed reactions to 9/11 were staged and they actually heard about the attacks from producers earlier that day during a photo shoot. So next time you’re around people talking about 9/11 conspiracy theories (cause that happens all the time, right?), remember to chime in and let them know that Cara’s tears were also totally fake and MTV needs to be investigated by an independent council.
9. London Neil’s Tongue – The Real World’s first foray outside of the US took them to London for the 4th season and honestly, I was never fully on board. Not sure if it was the accents or the fact that the drama was at an all-time low (OH NO! Jacinda’s dog is having trouble potty training??!!?) but I was not feeling it.
But like a true addict, I never missed an episode and for my hard work, I was rewarded with Neil, a British lead singer who dressed like what I’d describe to a blind person if I had to explain to them what techno music looked like. He hated Americans and talked about “beats” a lot, so he was obviously awesome to be around. BUT he was involved in one of the greatest Real World moments ever when, during one of his shows, a random audience member heckled and Neil’s first instinct was to lean down and kiss him. Neil fled the stage, bleeding profusely from the mouth as the heckler bit his tongue in outrage and took a piece with him. For a good remainder of the season, Neil was restricted from talking in Confessionals, using a computer instead, like a gothic Stephen Hawking. Neil’s girlfriend also sent him a gorged pig’s heart in the mail when he dumped her, so he may dress dark but he was a real shining light in a rather dim season.
8. Las Vegas’s Third Night Jacuzzi Threesome – Later in its lexicon, RW took up residence in Sin City, Las Vegas, giving the houseguests a lavish suite at the then-brand new Palms Casino & Resort. A lot of people believe this season was the wooden ramp for Real World’s shark jump, which is a theory I wholeheartedly subscribe to, but Season 12’s debauchery most certainly has a spot on my list.
Audiences love seeing Real World-ers hook up, especially in a Jacuzzi, which had organically become a tradition in Real World houses prior, especially around the last few days of the season with games like “Truth or Dare” or “game where you don’t actually play a game and all the roommates just kiss in turns”. With Vegas, things were accelerated to a point of ridiculousness, cause on the ripe third day, before anyone was even fully moved in, Real World’s first roommate threesome went down in the Jacuzzi.
Steven, Trishelle and Brynn partook in a sexual act that would normally happen in Vegas and stay in Vegas but instead was broadcasted around the world. Trishelle and Steven went on to seriously date (and have a pregnancy scare), while Brynn met, and years later married and had kids with, some dude off camera in Vegas but the effects of the three-way were catastrophic to The Real World and MTV programming in general. The immediate hook-ups and lack of judgmental response seen weekly on Jersey Shore can all be traced back to these 3 roommates, who may have only known each other for 3 days but are now forever solely known for this one act (except Trishelle, because I actually did see her movie Ninja Cheerleaders and that takes precedence).
7. Miami Mail Debate – In my opinion, The Real World: Miami was mediocre. Some people swear by it but, like seeing Tyrese in movies, I just don’t get why people would dig it. I remember almost nothing besides Flora, who was insane in a Miami Sound Machine Conga solo way. But I do remember very vividly the fight between the openly gay journalist/model Dan and Cuban Miami U student/phone sex operator Melissa.
When Melissa opens an unmarked envelope that contained Dan’s work documents, Dan berates her with one of the show’s greatest curse-word laden, Mel Gibson-esque personal attacks, spawning a rather beautiful catchphrase of, “It wasn’t yours to open up, you stupid bitch!” After around 30 seconds, Melissa explodes back in a manner usually reserved for overacted Al Pacino monologues and eventually let a few homophobic slurs fly, leaving a stunned Dan watching her storm away. The whole fight lasted only about a minute but its insanity will go on forever, no matter how hard it tries to disappear. Like Tyrese’s acting career.
6. Puck Gets Kicked Out – If The Situation is as dumb as rocks, then Puck is Stonehenge. The Granddaddy of all annoying reality stars, Puck (born David Rainey) was a bike messenger from the pioneering Season 3 in San Francisco, and was an all-around annoyance. The season is mostly remembered for HIV-positive roommate Pedro Zamora, who died shortly after the show aired (which is genuinely too non-ironically significant to be included in this list). While in the past, cast members would do whatever they could to be well liked in the loft, Puck was a nose-picking, personal space invading, smelly attention hog (also anti-Semitic, but that came out post show). His painful confrontations with Zamora and overall erratic behavior crowned him the second cast member to be booted in RW history when his roomies voted him out during a secret meeting. In retrospect, it was the right move to make, as Rainey has chocked up charges like battery, felony possession of ammunition, DUI, child endangerment, driving without a license and corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant since 2003. Puck, however, did make out with roommate Rachel before the eviction, which I can’t believe hasn’t haunted her husband’s political career (She’s married to Real World Boston alum Sean Duffy, the Sarah Palin-endorsed Republican Wisconsin Representative).
Puck was the first reality “guy you love to hate”, so blame him for Spencer Pratt, Scott (Kardashians) and every Basketball Wife ever (which p.s. – includes Los Angeles Real World alum Tami – some fodder for “sort of depressing trivia”!)
Be sure to look out for Part 2 – where I break down the top 5 best moments!