In addition to the big twist, there are smaller changes running throughout this season, even right within the title. Every previous iteration includes the house’s location, but this one forgoes that in favor of the title Real World: Ex-Plosion. It’s no longer of any interest where these cast members are; all that matters is that they are all primed to explode at point or another. There are even stylistic differences: gone is the original black-and-white Real World logo, replaced by gaudy, bright-green type constantly flashing on the screen while hearts explode in the background (subtle!). The roommates’ names are plastered in the corner of the screen practically every time they’re shown — maybe because there are so many of them, maybe because MTV finally realized that they are all so blandly similar that viewers can’t differentiate.
There are other jarring differences for longtime viewers, such as the producers’ increased involvement. We’ve rarely seen the crew in previous seasons, save for a sound guy in the shot once in a while. Now they are openly guiding the interviews in the confessionals, blatantly grilling the roommates on past relationships or whether they used a condom. They call the house to ask where the roommates are going that night; later, they watch Ashley tear apart her home in search of a purse and call to inform her of where she threw it the night before. It’s well known that producers coach The Real World roommates to do and say what the editors need, but now MTV no longer has any intention of being secretive about it.
It’s hard to say if these changes make the show better or worse. I continue to long for the earlier, smarter seasons of the show, but I also still look forward to new episodes every Wednesday because there is a silly part of me that secretly loves to watch people act like idiots on television. I hate that they changed the format. I love that it’s going to be a crazy season. It’s also a make-or-break season for the show. If this succeeds (and all signs point to yes), there is no telling what MTV will do to screw with the formula next. If they fail, we might finally see the end of The Real World — and I still can’t imagine that happening.