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The Real World: San Francisco turns 25

  • One of the most memorable seasons of reality TV premiered on June 30, 1994. "The landmark third season, which took place in San Francisco, is best known for its sensitive and thorough depiction of the HIV-positive Pedro Zamora’s life, as well as the havoc that impish local bike messenger Puck wreaked," says Rich Juzwiak of the season EW ranked as No. 1 among all Real World seasons. "The former remains of the most nuanced representations of a gay man in the annals of American pop culture—on camera, Pedro Zamora fought AIDS, fell in love with Sean Sasser, married him on camera, took preppy cues from Gap, and exuded an unabashed gayness at a time when that was uncommon and risky in mainstream pop culture....The Real World: San Francisco’s other indelible trademark—the Puck stuff—is tedious from today’s reality-watching perspective. For one thing, reality TV is full of the kind of camera-stunting Puck practically revolutionized; he was the outlier in his given group, but today’s casts are boiling over with sh*t-stirrers. Further, the squabbles he inspired and exacerbated with his laissez-faire approach to hygiene are small potatoes in today’s market and watching him from the remove of a quarter century makes clear that he was attempting to position himself as an alpha while employing the tactics of a sniveling child." Juzwiak adds that while The Real World: San Francisco looks like a relic of its time, "it’s also slick, well-paced documentary footage of a bunch of ambitious early twenty-somethings who were so intent on making something out of their lives and so earnest about it, it was as though they’re attempting to articulate their success into existence. In an era of supposed slackers, The Real World: San Francisco house was full of doers. One of the most uplifting things about watching this show even today is there’s never a trace of the sense of youth being wasted. While predicting the sort of drama for drama’s sake that reality TV would come to offer in spades, the season also sketched certain ideals for diversity on TV with a multicultural cast that included two Latinx people (Pedro and Rachel), a black man (Mohammed), and an Asian American woman (Pam). Just a few channels over during The Real World: San Francisco’s run, a show about six white friends debuted and would go on to run for 10 seasons, becoming one of the most popular sitcoms of all time with very little apparent scrutiny in the mainstream (and certainly by the powers that be) over the monochrome nature of its cast." ALSO: Check out a mega playlist of Real World: San Francisco.

    TOPICS: MTV, The Real World, David "Puck" Rainey, Pedro Zamora, Rachel Campos-Duffy, LGBTQ, Reality TV