EXCLUSIVE: CNN's 'The Nineties' Examines 'The Real World' Phenomenon That Changed Reality TV Forever
By Philiana Ng
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CNN's new original series, The Nineties, from executive producer Tom Hanks, peels back the curtain on the decade's most iconic television shows.
In ET's exclusive sneak peek from the series premiere, the seven-part series takes a deeper look into The Real World phenomenon, which took the world by storm in 1992 on MTV and changed reality TV for good.
According to The Real World executive producer Jonathan Murray, MTV was looking to do a scripted program about young people. But after discovering that it was too expensive, they decided to apply the rules for a drama series to a documentary -- and hence, the "docu-soap" was born!
"You hadn't seen anything like that -- that open, honest discussion of race," Murray recalls in the clip, which highlights landmark Real World moments such as Tami Roman's televised abortion in 1993 and Pedro Zamora's life as an HIV-positive man in 1994, as well as Zamora and boyfriend Sean Sasser's commitment ceremony.
Of Zamora's time on The Real World, Will & Grace star Sean Hayes credited his portrayal as illuminating.
"It was such a triumph that Pedro had the courage to come out as someone who had AIDS. In my small gay community in college, we all felt like, 'Wow.' He was our hero," Hayes says.
In 2014, Murray spoke to ET at length about continuing the legacy of The Real World in the modern era.
"When we started The Real World back in ’92, there weren’t a lot of other reality shows on the air," he said at the time. "And what we were doing at that time -- putting seven people in a house from different backgrounds -- was very different from anything else in the television landscape. Our story came from their inexperience of living with people different from themselves, and that resulted in conflict, and that conflict resulted in growth, and that was our story arc."
"Flash forward 28 seasons later, there are lots of reality shows on the air now, and we were feeling like our show was feeling a little quaint. And part of it was our own fault, because by featuring people from diverse backgrounds we had actually helped, at least our young people, change their perspective on diversity."
The Nineties premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CNN.