In ‘The Real World Homecoming: New York’, Creators & Stars Revisit Series That Birthed Modern Reality TV – Contenders TV Docs + Unscripted

On The Real World Homecoming: New York, the original cast members of the landmark MTV series reunite in the same loft where they filmed in 1992 to reflect on how it changed their lives, and the enduring resonance of the issues it brought to light.

Created by the late Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray, with George Verschoor producing and directing, The Real World was conceived as a social experiment, which would bring seven strangers from totally different backgrounds together to see if they could find common ground. Credited with birthing the reality television genre, which has exploded in the decades since its premiere, the series’ original cast members included Heather B. Gardner and Kevin Powell.

At Deadline’s virtual Contenders Television: Documentary + Unscripted event, Murray, Verschoor, Gardner and Powell discussed their experience revisiting The Real World, and what it feels like to be associated with the show all these years later.

For Powell, there is still a great sense of pride in what the show brought to popular culture. “[It was] game-changing, revolutionary,” he said. “I don’t think we really understood it back in 1992, but…it’s as important in pop culture history as us going to talking movies, as the birth of rock and roll, hip hop, as far as I’m concerned, because literally you can’t talk about TV in these times without reality television.”

Equaling the series’ impact on pop culture is the effect it had on the lives of all involved, many of whom still share a family bond. “I just learned so much as a human being by spending time with people like Kevin and Heather,” said Murray, who created and executive produced the docuseries from MTV Entertainment Studios. “I’ve learned to listen, I’ve learned to question myself, and I’ve learned to not be afraid to be challenged.”

From the perspective of Verschoor, who executive produced Homecoming: New York, the spinoff brought its own lessons. “What I’ve learned in this is that the story is never fully what you think it is, right in this second,” he said. “You have to be open.”

Check back Monday for video of the panel conversation.

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