Review: Original 'Real World' cast — most of them, at least — back for 'Homecoming'

The model for reality TV is back, three decades later, to find out what happens when people stop being polite...

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

In 1992, there were five words that changed television, and the world, forever. 

"This is the true story..." 

Of seven strangers, picked to live in a house and have their lives taped, and you know the rest. From there, MTV's "The Real World" kicked off the reality TV genre, which in essence paved the way for social media, social media influencers, the Kardashians and yes, Donald Trump. Hey, no one said it changed the world for the better. But without a doubt, things have never been the same since. 

The original cast of MTV's "The Real World" returns in "The Real World Homecoming: New York."

Now, just shy of 30 years later — "why not just wait the full 30?" is a very good question, and we'll get back to the ways that bit producers in just a second — the original cast of "The Real World" is back together to have their lives taped once again for "The Real World Homecoming: New York," part trip down memory lane and part rallying cry for Gen X to sign up for Paramount+, Viacom's new streaming service on which the series is debuting Thursday.  

There is an undeniable appeal in seeing this group of reality TV OGs come back together to see who's changed, how everyone's hair looks (Royal Oak native Andre Comeau is amazing, by the way) and whether or not Julie still thinks beepers are only for drug dealers. 

There's just one glaring issue: the six-day shoot in January 2021 shoot hit an unexpected snag when Eric Nies tested positive for COVID, forcing him to sit out the reunion and weigh in only via video chat from his Manhattan hotel room. (Anything can happen, of course, but the odds of this being an issue in 2022, on the show's 30th anniversary, appear to be significantly smaller than they are now. So... maybe wait?)

The first "Homecoming" episode — just one episode was made available for review — gathers the group back together in the same spacious New York loft they taped inside in 1992. Among the roomies: activist and journalist Kevin Powell, radio personality Heather B., Alabaman Julie Gentry and native Yooper Norman Korpi.

They chat, they drink, they marvel at the time gone by — most of them have not seen each other since the '90s — and they look back at the ways the world has changed and the ways it has stayed the same. Back in 1992, citizens took to the streets of Los Angeles to protest the beating of Rodney King. Today, well, you get the picture. 

The first "Real World" was such a novel concept that producers didn't even have anything to compare it to, although the words "East Coast 90210" did get thrown about. It was before reality TV, so it was before reality TV became all hot tubs and hook ups. It was about young people discussing issues that matter to them in a frank manner, and "Homecoming" is positioned as the same people — now not-so-young — discussing those same issues and how they matter to them today. The idealism of the project then is what makes this concept, and this cast, worth revisiting today. And even though Eric can't participate, that's part of what makes it real.  

'The Real World Homecoming: New York'

GRADE: B

Not rated: some language

On Paramount+

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama