They want their MTV

Megan Angelo

Over its past 14 seasons, “The Real World” has been set against the stars and skyscrapers of 13 different cities, utilizing New York as the setting twice. The series has already hit most of the United States’ urban sites, as well as several major European cities. Most of the show’s fans in this area have known for the past few years that “The Real World” would have to make a stop in Philly soon. They were right – but they never guessed how much controversy that stop would cause.

Young fans of the show from the area are now rejoicing, as “The Real World” has agreed to resume shooting in Philadelphia after a week of conflicts, protests and negotiations.

The drama began last Tuesday. Just two weeks before they were set to begin filming in the City of Brotherly Love, Bunim/Murray Productions, the company responsible for The Real World, pulled out of preparations for the 15th season of the program. The crew’s exit followed a dispute with the city’s union members. Union construction workers were angered when Bunim/Murray employed private labor to renovate the chosen cast house, the former Seamen’s Church Institute at 3rd and Arch streets.

Details of the initial altercations between the production company and the union members are still hazy, and Bunim/Murray alleged that the workers claimed that they would follow the cast members of “The Real World” during filming to protest the production company’s actions on camera. The union refuted this claim.

An online petition, as well as an impromptu rally at the deserted renovation site last Wednesday, provided a forum for angry fans to fight to reclaim “The Real World.” Through a website set up by several local organizations, over 3,400 people sent e-mails to the production company. Mayor John Street and Governor Ed Rendell were also involved in talks with the production company.

Now, those who participated in the battle are celebrating the fact that production is back on track. Bunim/Murray plans to return to Philadelphia immediately, and their filming schedule appears to be unaffected by the setback.

Many who were upset by the temporary abandonment of the project had some serious concerns about what opportunities the city would be missing if “The Real World” were lost for good.

Young Involved Philadelphia, one of the organizations responsible for the protest website, is a grass-roots committee that accommodates young people who want to be involved in the city’s future. The organization has high expectations for the filming, hoping that the exposure of the city’s scenery and social scene will strengthen the city’s reputation as a fresh, pleasant place to live and work.

“A show like this can really lead to population and economic growth,” explains Josh Sevin, a board member of YIP, which has been functioning for three years.

Sevin, a Wynnewood native and graduate of Yale University, has had plenty of experience in the Philadelphia area and says that most 20-somethings who move to the city after college fall in love with it.

He is certainly proud of the young people who live there now. Sevin maintains that the saga of the last several days represents a triumph for Philadelphia’s young people. “People were just heartened to see a young organization [responding] like this,” he says. “It’s been a great experience.”

As for the girls and guys who will lead cameras throughout the streets of Philly for the 15th “Real World,” Sevin believes that they’re lucky to be here, and he has an idea of what they’ll find in the city. “We know what Philly is about,” Sevin says. “Real neighborhoods, real people – no BS.”

It doesn’t get any realer than that.