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Paramount+ May Have Killed Real World: Homecoming Before Its Apex Season Could Be Filmed

The Real World: Seattle is begging to be revisited.
  • The Real World: Seattle (Photo: Jimmy Malecki/MTV/courtesy Everett Collection)
    The Real World: Seattle (Photo: Jimmy Malecki/MTV/courtesy Everett Collection)

    Today marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most memorable seasons of television that MTV ever produced. The Real World: Seattle debuted on June 16, 1998, with seven young people (not necessarily seven "strangers," as the opening voiceover has traditionally claimed, since two of them actually knew each other before being cast) moving into a converted pier on Seattle's Puget Sound. This was the seventh season of MTV's groundbreaking reality series, and for the Gen-Xers and elder millennials who watched the show as teens and aspired to be twentysomethings smoking cigarettes in the Seattle gloom, it was one of the show's best.

    It's also a season that is practically begging for reevaluation with 25 years of hindsight, which makes it all the more frustrating that Paramount+ seems to have canceled the reunion series The Real World: Homecoming after three uneven but deeply fascinating seasons. While no formal announcement has been made about the future of the series, all three seasons were removed from the Paramount+ service back in February, which followed talk on the Real World alumni grapevine that a rumored Homecoming reunion for The Real World: Hawaii was no longer happening. We reached out to Paramount+ about the future of Homecoming, but at the time of this writing hadn't yet received an answer.

    In its three seasons — which reunited the New York City, Los Angeles, and New Orleans casts — The Real World: Homecoming proved to be a fascinating way to process nostalgia for the classic installments of the show. Homecoming celebrated the groundbreaking nature of The Real World while also interrogating the ways in which interactions on the original series might play out differently today, and also the ways in which the show often failed its cast members.

    Centering on the NYC cast, the first season of Homecoming got quite uncomfortable when cast members Becky and Kevin revisited an old argument about race, only for present-day Becky to have a complete white-lady breakdown rather than own up to her racial blindspots. Season 2 reunited the Los Angeles cast for what turned out to be an even more volatile season that re-litigated the infamous David-Tami altercation in a way that ripped open all sorts of old wounds. The New Orleans Homecoming season was complicated by the fact that Julie returned to the show seemingly with an agenda to create a storyline and manipulate her way into re-igniting her reality TV career. But that season still had many illuminating moments in which the events of the original season were revisited and given the proper context of late '90s queer and racial politics.

    Simply put, everything that made The Real World: Seattle one of the best seasons of the show ever also makes it incredibly fertile ground for a Homecoming season, should that series ever get revived. The signature moment of the original Seattle season came when cast member Irene took a parting shot at Stephen, calling him a closet "homosexual," followed by Stephen running down to catch up to her before she drove away and slapping her in the face. The incident was subsequently handled with grave seriousness in the next episode, though Irene never spoke again to MTV cameras, and Stephen was allowed to remain on the show, provided he attend anger management counseling.

    If — and it would be a huge "if" — a revived Homecoming were ever able to reunite the Seattle cast with Stephen (who many years later did come out as gay) and Irene, it would be the biggest blockbuster season of reality TV in years. Elder millennials would need to take sabbaticals from work to properly process the episodes as they aired. The entire city of Seattle would shut down. And that's not even the only moment from Seattle prime for revisiting. David's volatile relationship with his girlfriend Kira, who had been a producer on the show, featured a screaming match between the two in a car, filmed from afar. There are oceans of sexual politics to be traversed in a 2023 re-examination of that storyline.

    There's also the less-harrowing reasons to reunite the Seattle cast, including chance to see if besties Janet and Lindsay remained close (do either of them still smoke??) or revisiting Rebecca's brief time spent recording music with Sir Mix-A-Lot. Did collaborating at a local Seattle radio station prepare them for the podcast-laden future that was to come?

    The Real World Homecoming remains absent from Paramount+, and for the moment, The Real World: Seattle is also unavailable on the service. However, you can currently stream the Seattle season on YouTube and take a trip back to 1998. In the meantime, we can dream of a future where Homecoming returns and gives us the illuminating Seattle season we deserve.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: The Real World, MTV, Paramount+, The Real World Homecoming