April 12, 2005

C.U. in the Real World

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On Saturday, would-be Pucks and Trichells donned tight leather pants and garish make-up for The Real World auditions at Stella’s Bar & Restaurant in Collegetown. Although the interviews lasted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., students sat patiently for upwards of two hours to get a chance to display their eccentricities in front of two MTV producers. At noon, a DJ was playing James Brown and Chingy while nervous applicants stood in a line that stretched across two city blocks. Most of the students calmly filled out their application and guest release forms, but others screamed at passersby or did impromptu rap songs for a bored MTV cameraman.

The Real World is arguably the most successful reality show in the history of television and is often cited by media critics as one of the most influential predecessors of current network programming. Conceived in 1992, the show purported to combine documentary-style veracity with soap-opera melodrama. The show’s familiar opening montage explains, “This is the true story of seven strangers, picked to live in a house and have their lives taped, and find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real!”

Although the show began in New York City, it eventually spread to other “houses” in San Francisco, London, Las Vegas and Paris, among many others. Traditionally, Real World stars secretly fall in love with their roommates or drunkenly irritate the entire house.

The Cornell auditions were for the show’s 17th season. Applicants had to fill out a one-page form with questions like “Do you currently have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Where does the relationship stand now?” and “How do you approach a relationship? Are you the pursuer or the pursued?” Once they handed in these forms, students waited to meet with the producers in groups of ten. During these direct interviews, one or two questions were asked. For example, one producer wondered whether a woman “felt it was okay to steal in some circumstances.” Students are called back for a filmed interview if the producers are suitably impressed with their responses and physical attributes.

One applicant, Brian London ’07, had been waiting in line for nearly 40 minutes. “I heard that there was a real-world audition for the show The Real World. So I came over. Wow! It’s really here,” he said.

However, he admitted that “it’s hard to tell who they’ll pick. There are a lot of cool people at Cornell. I just think they have to pick me because I’m so determined. Like, when The Real World auditions came, I just knew I needed to go. I knew that if I didn’t go my family would be so embarrassed. I think the producers just want people who tell it like it is.”

After his interview, London said he felt exhilarated and fortunate. “I think they were all jealous of me,” he added. “Everybody in the room. They were all obsessing over me. I’m definitely getting a call-back. I hope it’s in Pittsburgh.”

Although Cornellians felt privileged to be chosen for MTV’s auditions, other Real World searches will be held in eight other cities, including Chicago and Santa Barbara. In addition, international contestants can apply to the show by sending five to ten minute videotapes to Bunim/Murray, the show’s production company. The producers have not announced the location for the upcoming season.

Archived article by Alex Linhardt
Sun Senior Writer