The concept: As the longest-running reality show on TV (it premiered in 1992), The Real World has fallen behind the times, so starting with the 29th season in 2014, producers reinvented the series as an imitation of its many imitators, adding twists and gimmicks to the straightforward format of seven diverse roommates living together. This season, subtitled Go Big or Go Home, cast members must complete challenges in each episode or risk being eliminated and replaced with new housemates (in the opener, they bungee jump out of a hot air balloon). The format changes emphasize just how far the show has strayed from its origins as an intelligent, original sociological experiment.
The cast: Typical for later Real World seasons, the seven cast members on Go Big are all attractive, outgoing young people eager to party and hook up. At least in the first episode, they’re marginally less annoying than the cast of the last Vegas Real World season (in 2011). Appropriately for Vegas, there are two former/current Mormons (one a Utah native who left the church and now identifies as pansexual, the other a sheltered Southerner whose casual racial insensitivity is a subplot in the first episode). There’s an actual Las Vegan, UNR alum Dean, who moved to Vegas as a kid. And there’s a dude who calls himself Jungle Boy and wears a man bun.
The locations: Although the season is headquartered in Downtown Las Vegas (the cast lives in the requisite tricked-out suite at the Gold Spike), almost every establishing shot still features the Strip. But Downtown gets plenty of attention: The first episode has the cast members dining and drinking at Therapy, attending a pool party at the Golden Nugget and extolling the virtues of the Gold Spike in an almost comically exaggerated fashion. The episode’s climax takes place at the Rise Lantern Festival at the Moapa River Reservation, where the cast members launch lanterns inscribed with their hopes and dreams in what sort of qualifies as a nice moment.
Real World: Go Big or Go Home Thursdays (premieres March 17), 10 p.m., MTV.