At the close of the debut season of The Real World (1992-2017, MTV), the subjects of the reality series demand access to the control room. Eventually, the production crew unbolts the door and exposes the apparatus of a new kind of television in the making. The strangers picked by MTV to live in a New York City loft and have their lives taped 24/7 are astounded to see a clip of themselves on dozens of video monitors connected to surveillance cameras in the living space and the live feeds of camera operators who are recording the scene while production assistants log the footage in real time. Three decades later, the now middle-aged roommates are back at the same loft, watching and discussing this clip and others from the 1992 season for The Real World Homecoming (2021-), a new reality series on Paramount+ that reunites early Real World cast members. Homecoming restages the original to address “unfinished business” and reveal what the people who “paved the way for modern reality TV” learned from the experience. The curtain is hard to pull back on this “true story about a true story,” as it incorporates reflexivity's slipperier ways and shows how intertwined the content industries and ordinary people have become.
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