The 32nd Season of The Real World, possibly the worst Real World season in recent memory, according to Michael who still watches the show.
This is a guest entry by Michael, who co-manages The Officially Unofficial Challenge Fantasy league scoring.
The day the Challenge cast is revealed is sort of like Christmas morning (or Chanukah night or what have you); I anxiously rush to my computer to find out who will be challenging Bananas for the latest title. Every season, MTV usually casts a significant number of “rookies,” or cast members who have competed on few or zero Challenges. Those rookies often originate from the most recent seasons of The Real World or Are You The One. This year, I was particularly nervous to view the cast list for Invasion because I was worried about who MTV would cast from the Real World season that just aired: Real World Seattle: Bad Blood (a mouthful of a title that I will refer hereafter as “Bad Blood”), possibly the worst Real World season in recent memory.
Thankfully, my fears were assuaged when I found out that the only Bad Blood cast members on Invasion are Anika and Theo. Anika is a particularly odd choice; she barely had any storylines on Bad Blood and rarely interacted with her “bad blood” – her ex-boyfriend Will. I don’t anticipate many Challenge fantasy points for her. Theo is a much more obvious choice for The Challenge; he played football in college, where he was a teammate of New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garappolo at Eastern Illinois (not Indiana State, as the MTV cast list for Invasion incorrectly states). Theo also hooked up with Bad Blood castmate Tyara and got kicked off the show for physically fighting with his “bad blood,” his cousin and former roommate Kassius. Theo has proven that he can occasionally be a volatile personality (and obviously a good athlete), so I anticipate many fantasy points in his future.
While Anika and Theo are perfectly serviceable (if uninspiring) Challenge casting choices, their season of Real World as a whole was shockingly bad. Below are three ways the franchise can learn from Bad Blood’s failures and improve in the future.
There are several Bad Blood cast members who I never want to see on The Challenge. And that is the primary reason I hated Bad Blood, the very high percentage of unlikable people. The worst person on the entirely cast was undoubtedly Peter, who was the “bad blood” of cast member Mike. When Mike leaves the show for making racist comments, Peter becomes the primary focal point of the season.
Peter begins the season by romancing Anna, the “bad blood” of Katrina. After Anna breaks up with Peter at Katrina’s behest, Peter begins a relationship with Jenn, the “bad blood” of Robbie. But Peter and Jenn’s relationship is extremely toxic from the beginning. Peter becomes extremely angry at Jenn’s dancing style; he fights with her on a boat party because he thinks Jenn is dancing too provocatively. He then decrees that Jenn should never talk to Anna, seemingly taking away any of Jenn’s free will. At the same time, Peter claims that he loves Jenn and that they will move in together once the show is over (even Robbie comments that this is an absurd idea and if someone who nicknames himself “Maserrobbie” (a portmanteau of Maserati and Robbie) is the voice of reason, you know you have a problem).
The tension between Peter and Jenn leads Anna to Google domestic abuse on the house computer, leading to a truly baffling storyline in which Jenn finds out about the Google search (pro tip Anna: incognito mode is your friend) and fights with Anna and Katrina.
The tipping point in the relationship is a truly frightening night. The roommates are at the club and Jordan, after drinking too much, throws up in the bathroom. Jenn wants to take Jordan home, but Peter becomes incensed when Jenn and Jordan leave for the house without waiting for him. Peter fights with Jenn, and then Anna and Katrina join the fight, and then Anna fights Jenn, and then Peter seemingly fights the entire Real World security team. I like watching Real World fights, but this was over the line.
And that is a microcosm of why I so strongly disliked Bad Blood. The second half of the season was dominated by Peter, a truly contemptable individual. Anna and Katrina are not much better, as they may have broken the Real World record for most whining. Jenn seems fine, but her entire storyline revolves around her toxic relationship with Peter. I hope that we never see any of them on The Challenge (though I fear we will).
I have always maintained that the best Real World seasons are those in which there are enough cast members that you would actually want to hang out with. I don’t mind if there is a jerk in the cast, as long as that person doesn’t go over the line and there are enough good people to balance him or her out. On Bad Blood, by contrast, the only people with whom I would actually want to hang out and were actually relevant to the show are Maserrobbie (I seriously cannot believe I am admitting this in public) and Jordan. Anika, Kim, Orlana, and Will seem fine, but they didn’t get enough screen time.
Next time, The Real World really needs to think long and hard about its casting process and make sure that it is casting a better array of individuals.
Stop Casting From Other Reality Shows
Unsurprisingly, this was not Peter’s first foray into the world of reality television. He had previously won $500,000 on Million Dollar Maze Runner, a show that actually existed and was a tie-in with the film The Maze Runner. Peter was the “bad blood” of Mike, who had previously appeared on Are You The One, the bane of most Challenge fans’ existence.
Casting people who have previously appeared on other reality shows undermines Real World’s ostensible purpose to be “real.” Instead of casting relatable people, MTV has cast two individuals that obviously just want to be famous.
In the future, previously being on a reality show should be a disqualifier for being on The Real World.
Shrink the Cast
This is now the fourth time that MTV has done a themed season (Explosion, Skeletons, Go Big Or Go Home, and Bad Blood). I would argue that all four have either been duds or, at best, hit or miss. But Explosion and Bad Blood are notable for essentially doubling the cast. With only twelve episodes, it is borderline impossible to give sufficient screen time to fourteen cast members. Thus, cast members like Kim, Orlana, and Will barely appeared; I even sort of forgot Kim and Orlana existed for multiple episodes at a time (I assume none of them will end up on The Challenge).
Even worse, these themes sometimes lead to certain cast members declining to interact with everyone else. This was particularly notable on Explosion in which essentially every extant storyline ceased as the exes got back with each other. And on Bad Blood, before their dustup with Peter and Jenn, sisters Anna and Katrina ostracize themselves from everyone else in the house under the guise of working on their relationship. This totally undermines the point of The Real World. I want to see strangers interacting, not sisters or exes or cousins.
These themed seasons have not given The Real World the commercial shot in the arm that I assume MTV figured they would. As Johnny Bananas recently pointed out on Twitter, Bad Blood’s ratings were very small. I suppose it is nice that MTV now has a larger pool of people to draw from for future Challenges. But that is too small a benefit to justify such a bloated season.
Better Narratives and Editing
For whatever reason, this season contained some head-scratching storytelling. Most notably, as mentioned above, Mike decides to leave the show after he makes racist comments towards Jordan. But the scene is extremely bizarre. Mike makes the comments while out and extremely drunk, and seemingly makes the decision to go home in a fit of drunken passion. No one seems to question why Mike made this important decision in an inebriated state. Why doesn’t MTV just put Mike in a hotel for the night and then follow up in the morning (just like it did with Peter and Jenn after their fight with Anna and Katrina)? Further, the roommates do not seem that perturbed that one of their roommates left in such bizarre fashion. I feel like there must be something missing from the story.
Further, MTV never properly explored some of the “bad blood.” Most notably, Tyara’s “bad blood” Kim claims that Tyara’s English accent was completely fake. Given that Tyara claims that she grew up in England, this should be a big story. But the audience never finds out whether Kim’ claim is true. In actuality, Kim and Tyara barely even interact and then Tyara leaves the show early after she discovers that she is pregnant (which would have netted sixty fantasy points if she were on The Challenge). It is odd that the hook of the whole season is “bad blood” but the show ignored certain pairs.
I will keep watching The Real World but my patience is growing thin. Until the show improves, my primary reason for watching the show will be for Challenge scouting purposes.