"Real World" creator Jon Murray talks keeping the longrunning MTV series fresh

Jon Murray is the co-creator of MTV's "The Real World." As it enters its 29th season, he talks about the show's evolution. (MTV)

Sure, but if there’s anybody who should be concerned about it, it should be me. After all, I’m the guy who created it with Mary Ellis-Bunim, so believe me, I am very attached to this series and to its history. I don’t think we’ve betrayed that at all. I think we very much have stuck to the DNA of the show. It’s still very much about young people figuring out who they are, making mistakes, fixing those mistakes.  It’s just now we have something that connects them all, in that they all have significant exes still in their lives.

I remember being so excited when I finally got permission to watch it. It exposed me to people and things that I hadn’t seen. Do you think the show holds the same meaning to viewers?

In many ways, we’ve made a lot of progress as a country. Young people, more than any other part of the population, seem to look beyond the color of the skin, they look beyond sexuality, but at the same time, there are lots of people this age who are figuring stuff out —on the show and outside the show. This season we have Ashley, where she says to a couple of the roommates that her family could buy their family. So, yes, we make progress, but there is always progress to be made. We still have that diversity on the show, it’s just that now it’s sort of cool that our lesbian cast mate is probably the least controversial in this cast.

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And the genre has certainly expanded since "The Real World" made its debut. We're getting a fishbowl look into everything.

Yeah, when we started "Real World," I’m not even sure people were using the word "reality." It was sort of this strange new thing. This experiment. And we were in the cable universe on MTV. We were the only one doing a show like this at 10 p.m. Nobody else was doing shows there, not original reality shows. Over the years, we’ve started to get more competition. Now you’ll have six or nine networks a night with reality shows at 10 o'clock. And each network goes for a specific audience. You have History Channel going for men, Bravo going for women. The competition is much greater. And every few years there’s this breakout show we’re up against. Whether it’s ["Here Comes] Honey Boo Boo" one year or "Duck Dynasty." There’s always some new show on the block.

But I think the amazing thing about "Real World" is it continues to survive. We hope it continues to. But it’s definitely not the open playing field it used to be a few years ago. I think part of "Ex-Plosion!" was trying to find a way to compete with all of that and give our show something that could stand out, something that we could promote, something that would bring viewers to it. I think we are pretty successful with that. The moment when the roommates return from a vacation and find all their exes in the house, it’s pretty amazing. And what follows from that — what they go through, the conflict that happens, the lovemaking that happens, all of that, I think, is really interesting. We'll see if I'm wrong.

 

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