‘The Real World’ revisits 1992’s first season in Paramount+ reunion

“The Return of the Real World: New York” proves you can go home again, although a lot has changed in three decades for one of the first reality franchises on television.

“It was surreal,” says Heather B. Gardner, one of the roommates from the 1992 inaugural season of MTV’s groundbreaking reality series. Gardner met for a week in the same Manhattan loft for the six-episode series “Homecoming,” which premiered Thursday Paramount + subscription Streaming service.

“To go back to the place where we did this thing 29 years ago, you can’t even imagine it. It was just absolutely insane,” says Gardner, 50, now a SiriusXM radio host named Heather B.

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Executive producer Jonathan Murray, who created the scriptless melodrama with the late Mary-Ellis Bunim, didn’t know what to expect when the seven roommates reunited – Gardner, Becky Blasband, Andre Comeau, Julie Gentry, Norman Korpi, Eric Nies and Kevin Powell – who were cast because of their personalities and backgrounds. (Their ages were between 19 and 26 when the show premiered.)

More:How to Stream The Real World: Homecoming Reunion Series

“What surprised me the most was how quickly the same relationship existed. It was like those nearly 30 years went away when this group got back together,” says Murray. “The essence of who these people were is still there. They are just a little more experienced.”

The first season of MTV's 'The Real World' in 1992.

That’s for sure. Gardner explains that she and Comeau did not share a bedroom as the self-proclaimed revelers did in 1992 because they both now have spouses. (The roommates were greeted by Comeau’s 4-year-old daughter, Sophie, almost every day.)

“His daughter was literally like our alarm clock. We had to hear her sweet voice and excitement every morning waking her father on Zoom,” says Gardner. “It was great. It melted my heart. It was just great to see that side of him.”

The original series, which aired on MTV for 32 seasons in 2019 and on Facebook Watch in 2019, featured open and sometimes tense conversations on sensitive topics like racing.

And the reunion also has its moments. “We really enjoyed seeing them all, and just like the first run through the show, there was some pretty serious conversation. Some tough issues were covered and not everything was pleasant,” says Comeau, 50, still a working musician. “In real life, everything isn’t perfect and our show is no different.”

Murray says he thought for a while about reuniting the cast, which hadn’t been televised as a group since 1993. He said Paramount + presented a good opportunity due to the high profile launch and the likelihood that the target audience included many of them in Remember the series’ story.

Heather B. Gardner joins six other flatmates from the first season

The homecoming was “super lucky” in securing the original loft, Murray says, but super unhappy to have to record the January gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the roommates, this meant quarantining a hotel before entering the loft. They were talking over group text, a communication tool that didn’t exist on the original when the younger self saw them talking on the loft phone.

Andre Comeau, a season 1

Despite the differences, an event they wrote about during quarantine, the January 6th Uprising in the U.S. Capitol, immediately brought them back to 1992, when the police were acquitted into days of unrest after the Rodney King beatings in Los Angeles.

“The most uncomfortable moment on the (original) show was the Rodney King moment. We lived in this loft and the verdict (came in) and LA was literally on fire,” says Gardner. “And if you fast forward 29 years later, imagine we come back and hang out as friends and catch up with our adult lives and there’s a riot. Those conversations can’t help but come back up. It’s like, wow, How much has really changed? “

Murray has a special affinity for the beginning of “The Real World”.

“I love this New York season because there weren’t any rules about how to tell a story. We didn’t even have the term reality television,” he says. “‘The Real World’ was one of the early shows that stated that people’s lives were entertaining and that reality could be more interesting than fiction.”

Comeau is “thrilled” to have been part of this inaugural season. “I probably wouldn’t have been part of what reality TV became. We were aspiring artists (who) put in creative endeavors, and I don’t know that they are looking for it so much now. They are looking for sparks. They are looking for Bright sex. Maybe they wanted some of this with us. They certainly didn’t understand, but what they got was something special. ”


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