It's been a good, long while since The Real World resembled the initial conceit that picked seven strangers to live in a house and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. The last half dozen seasons have been more interested in the drama that arises from bed and bar-hopping, with each subsequent round of houseguests looking less and less like the thoughtful men and women I came to love and identify with through the first nine seasons (or perhaps I've simply aged out of the target demo and the show is a terrifying, but accurate, representation of today's twentysomethings).
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In either case, the upcoming 29th season is changing its format for the first time ever with The Real World: Ex-Plosion, the San Francisco-set season that will, one-third of the way through filming, move the houseguests' exes into their swanky pad.
"Four weeks into the show, after some [housemates] started to develop new relationships, the exes come in -- thus, Ex-Plosion,” Jonathan Murray, who co-created the series with Mary Ellis-Bunim, told EW.com, who broke this story. “Then it got really complicated and really interesting. I'm still shocked we were able to pull it off.”
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Sagging ratings and a host of imitators could be cited as the reason The Real World is abandoning its initial concept after two decades of drama, and this former-fan (haven't truly felt compelled to watch since 2004's San Diego season) is a little disappointed to see the trailblazer aping other reality shows; this "Exes" twist played out on Big Brother's 2003 season. But reinvention is the name of the reality game these days with most shows selecting new twists every season (Survivor has split teams based on race, gender and DNA while Big Brother and America's Next Top Model also entertain "shocking" format changes every season).
Will The Real World: Ex-Plosion be intriguing enough to keep new viewers and bring older ones back? We'll find out next year when the 29th season premieres on MTV!