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Then and Now: The Real World of San Francisco 

By Alyssa Jaffer

If the phrase "the reality could not be further from the truth" is not exclusively referring to reality television, it should be. Twenty years ago, San Francisco was featured in the third season of MTV's The Real World reality TV series. The original series aired in 1994, featuring eight cast members living together at a house on Lombard Street for five months.

Beyond the tell-tale signs of S.F. in the '90s, like corset crop-tops and high-water jeans, highlights of the series include the reveal that Pedro is HIV-positive, the eviction of bike messenger Puck from the house, and the first-ever same-sex commitment ceremony aired on TV, between Pedro and his partner (they really wanted you to know he was gay). After the season boosted MTV ratings, the show completed more than 25 additional seasons in cities around the nation, but decided to come back to the City by the Bay for its 29th season: Real World Ex-Plosion.

In an effort to spice things up — it's been like 30 years of attractive strangers-turned-roommates at this point — MTV housed not only the group of casted roommates, but also introduced ex-partners of the original cast, supposedly unbeknown to all. We had some fun this year posting about Real World sightings, loving to hate the cast members' behavior both in front of the camera and in the flesh. The gang was up in a house on Sutter Street, formerly the Avalon Ballroom, and anytime a recognizable part of S.F. makes a cameo, it's worth watching. The show even attempted to incorporate elements true to our city — Ashley worked for a start-up throughout the season, and Arielle is a local filmmaker.

While "reality television" is usually pretty far from actual reality, seeing two seasons of the Real World in S.F. 20 years apart shows how far we've come. While some things like cable cars and views of the Golden Gate Bridge will never change, it's interesting to observe our progress as a society of young people (texting definitely wasn't a thing in 1994) and how S.F. has transformed as a city.

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)


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