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Commentary: Why ‘The Real World’ stands out among reality competition

Las Vegas,’ now in its 25th season, is currently airing on MTV.

Reality TV gets a bad rap these days, and for the most part, rightfully so. But for the better part of two decades, one show in particular has stood out.

“The Real World,” MTV’s long-running reality show, is now in its 25th season and will be holding an open casting call Saturday at McFadden’s Restaurant and Saloon from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

So why should you care?

As the grandfather of reality television, “The Real World” has survived 25 seasons (and will for at least three more). There are several reasons why this is.

One is the show’s characters.

A lot of people probably write this show off because of the drunken escapades the roommates find themselves taking part in. In that sense, “The Real World” isn’t much different from a lot of reality trash. But the reason the roommates are cast isn’t their alcohol tolerance, it’s their stories.

One of the most famous roommates on the show was Pedro Zamora, who appeared on the third season of the show in San Francisco in 1994. Zamora was openly gay and HIV-positive, something rarely seen in such a public matter during an era when HIV and AIDS were still somewhat taboo in American culture. Zamora died five months after moving out of the “Real World” house and a day after the season finale aired.

Frankie Abernathy, a roommate during the 14th season in San Diego, battled cystic fibrosis. Abernathy exhibited several symptoms of the disease while on the show, and died three years after her season aired.

The personalities on the show are also why “The Real World” is successful.

Granted, for any reality show to be successful, it needs to have some incredibly outgoing personalities. But it was “The Real World” that set this trend in motion. David “Puck” Rainey, also from the third season in San Francisco, is one of the most famous cast members to this day, mostly because of eccentric behavior that eventually led to him being kicked out of the house.

“The Real World” also shines because young people can relate to it.

All cast members are college-aged, or at least close to it, and act as such. Would I like to party and live in a decked-out house or apartment? Of course I would. Will I when I’m 40? Probably not, but then again, at the age of 40, you’re probably not the target demographic for reality programming.

But for the most part, these kids don’t live glamorous lives. In the current season, the show’s 25th set in Las Vegas, one roommate is a garbage collector, and four roommates had parents with drug problems.

So what sets “The Real World” apart from other reality shows?

Unlike “Jersey Shore” or any given season of “Real Housewives,” the casts of “The Real World” aren’t as one-dimensional. The roommates are cast for the show not because they’re guidos or married a rich man, but because they bring an interesting story to the table.

But, as previously mentioned, those stories can get lost behind instances of drunken stupidity. But what do you expect from college kids?

So if you’re considering heading out to the casting call Saturday, do so knowing you’re trying out for one of the few reality shows that’s not as shallow as the rest. “The Real World” might not be the deepest or classiest show on the tube, but it’s been around for 25 seasons for a reason.

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