Hot Tubs, Hook-Ups, Reality TV: 'Real World' Legacies

What hath "The Real World" wrought?

The MTV series that started out as a crazy social experiment in 1992 is still going strong -- its 20th season debuted earlier this month. And its effects are everywhere. From villains on reality TV to college coeds in hot tubs, took a look at some of the ways in which "The Real World" has had an effect on pop culture.

The Reality Show

It's hard to imagine TV without reality TV, but when "The Real World" debuted 16 years ago, it launched a whole new television landscape and signaled a cultural shift.

"Ten minutes into shooting, we realized we were capturing something that hadn't been captured before on commercial TV," said Jonathan Murray, who created the show with Mary-Ellis Bunim. "There was this energy, this idea of people coming together from different worlds, having to get together and figure life out. There was something about it that was almost magical."

Murray and Bunim originally pitched MTV a scripted series about young people starting out in New York, but when the network didn't have the money for it, they said, "Let's move seven people into a loft and shoot it and see what happens," Murray said.

What happened was the birth of the modern reality show.

"It's the grandfather of reality television," said Kimberly Speight Nordyke, a television writer for "The Hollywood Reporter."

Looking back at that first season, it bears scant resemblance to the current one or any of its reality show descendents. "It was really sincere," Nordyke said.

Today, there are dozens of reality shows and entire cable networks that would not have existed without the MTV show.

"Survivor," "Big Brother," "The Bachelor" and "America's Next Top Model" are all shows about what happens when a group of strangers live together. They each took their cues from "Real World" and put their own twist on it. And the genre continues to evolve with shows like "The Hills," which looks more like a slickly produced soap opera.

They all owe their start to "The Real World."

Reality TV Stars

It used to be that the 15 minutes of fame Andy Warhol said everyone would have lasted just that long -- 15 minutes. But appearing on a season -- sometimes even an episode -- of one of the shows spawned by "The Real World" can launch a career or a reputation that lasts years after the cameras stop rolling.

Eric Nies learned this early. He parlayed his "Real World: New York" gig into hosting his own workout/dance show on MTV called "The Grind."

"Real World: San Francisco's" Puck (real name: David Rainey) opened an orphanage, but he still hasn't lived down his reputation for being a self-centered, gay-bashing housemate.

Murray capitalized on audiences' affinity for cast members by combining the franchise with his other ultra-popular MTV reality series, "Road Rules," on "Real World/Road Rules Challenge."

The series, which began in 1997, takes ex-cast members from both shows and pits them against each other in physical challenges.

"We started doing 'Real World/Road Rules Challenge' to allow people to come back and participate in a game to win money and prizes. We've found that they're as popular if not more popular than the original two series," Murray said. "Clearly the audience has bonded with these cast members."

The phenomenon extends beyond "The Real World."

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