When The Real World launched on MTV in 1992, the tagline was simple: “This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped — to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.”
Now, 33 seasons later, that’s still happening and breaking barriers along the way. “We believed that if we bring different kinds of people together, after all the drama and the shouting, they will find they have more in common than not,” cocreator Jonathan Murray told the Los Angeles Times in 2017 — and that’s exactly what happened, as conversations of race, sexuality, culture, religion and politics naturally unfolded in front of the cameras.
The hit reality show also resulted in multiple spinoffs. In 1995, Road Rules debuted, in the same vein of The Real World but instead of living in a house, the cast traveled around the country in an RV. In 2002, MTV released a made-for-TV movie, The Real World Movie: The Lost Season. In 2008, the Real World Awards Bash aired.
The production company also went on to produce Pedro, a 2008 film that dramatized the life of Pedro Zamora, a gay, HIV-positive contestant on The Real World: San Francisco in 1994. Pedro died on November 11, 1994, hours after the finale of his season aired.
The season “did one of those things that you rarely get to do,” Murray told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012. “We got to deliver to our viewers entertaining television but also television that would actually change their lives. There were so many people who were affected by getting to know Pedro in a way that reality TV allows you to do. It’s so intimate when those cameras are there 24/7, and when he finally passed away, they felt like they had known someone who had AIDS. As a gay man and someone who has lost friends to AIDS, I’m particularly proud of putting him on the show.”
Former president Bill Clinton, who did an intro for the film, told Murray that “Pedro being on MTV made more of a difference than anything he could do from the Oval Office.”
It’s safe to say, the impact of The Real World — and the conversations it began — was heard around the world. Scroll through our gallery below for some of its most memorable stars.