'Real World: Ex-Plosion:' Reality TV pioneer Jonathan Murray reveals why he's changing things up this season
After 29 seasons of success on "The Real World," MTV is taking a big risk with changing up the format of the reality show for the first time. Halfway through the new season, the seven original cast members get hit with the surprise that their exes are moving into the house to finish out the season with them. Obviously, drama ensues. Welcome to "The Real World: Ex-Plosion."
So why the big change after so long? Zap2it spoke with reality TV pioneer Jonathan Murray, co-founder of Bunim/Murray Productions and creator of "The Real World," to find out why they took the risk of changing the iconic show.
Apparently, new times called for new tricks. "This is a show for a new generation -- the generation that is watching TV now is watching shows like 'Duck Dynasty,' they grew up on 'Jersey Shore,' and the idea of 'The Real World' just being seven diverse people coming together to find out what happens when they stop being polite and start getting real, maybe that was a little quaint for them," Murray says. "I think they didn't really understand it because quite honestly a lot has changed since 'The Real World' came on the air."
One of the biggest reasons for the change this season is the fact that society itself has changed. "I think this generation is much more open to diversity," Murray says. "It's not unusual to have a boyfriend or girlfriend who is a different race, it's not unusual to have gay or lesbian friends. Things have changed a lot since '92. I hope 'The Real World' played a role in that."
So "The Real World" needed a makeover, but why did exes come into play? "In approaching this season, we wanted to find a new way into the show while still staying true to the DNA of a diverse cast," Murray says. "We're still telling stories of that unique time when it's your first time in the real world making these big life decisions by yourself and living with the consequences of your decisions. But we added this extra layer that we would explore a theme this season, and that theme is exes."
According to Murray, the new generation of "Real World" fans approach the idea of exes quite differently than past generations, and that's why the producing team focused on bringing those exes into play. "We feel we've given the show a big hook by casting these people who have these interesting ties to their exes, and then we surprise them about four weeks in when they come back from an off-the-grid vacation to find their exes there," Murray says. "It really forces them to confront, 'Who is this ex to me and how do we really feel about each other.'"
But the added wrinkle of exes isn't the only thing that fans will notice as different about the new season -- besides the new name, of course. "We also freshened up the show in terms of the graphic look. There's a new main title, we've done some different things with the picture transitions, and title cards like 'later' and 'meanwhile,' little things to just move the show along quicker," Murray says. "I think this generation can take in a lot of information much quicker than when we started in '92. Our goal was to achieve something that was fresher and more dynamic for people that are watching MTV today yet stay true to what the show has always done which is to tell stories that are relevant to the MTV audience. It's still your basic 'Real World' but our way in is just a little bit different."
Plus, the producing team gave the cast their own smart phones -- a first for the show -- and allowed the cast to not work throughout the whole season, which is also a first, but not something they intended to happen.
"We did clear a bunch of potential jobs in the community that they could apply for, but they never did," Murray says with a laugh. "Another change we made this season [is] you'll notice when they go out they actually have a smart phone. We made those available to them so they could take their own pictures, and we created a social website that they could post their pictures. As you'll see the season unfold, some of that will have repercussions at home when people see photos, when parents see photos, and when exes see photos."
Sounds like the real world to us.
"The Real World: Ex-Plosion" premieres Wednesday (Jan. 8) at 10 p.m. ET on MTV.