By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, June 22, 2010; C05
MTV, having suffered "The Real World's" worst ratings on record when it set the show in Washington in the mistaken belief that "millennial" viewers thought Barack Obama's new neighborhood was hot and craved socially conscious programming, has decided to take the show back to what works:
Sluts and nuts.
"The Real World: New Orleans" will debut June 30 -- the first edition of the long-running reality series to air since the 23rd, set in our fair city, crashed and burned this past December through April.
Monday's announcement of the new installment was all "24-hour party" this and "she enjoys casual sex" that. In contrast, when the network rolled out "The Real World: Washington, D.C.," it was all "With young people so engaged in the country's future" this and "as record numbers of young people look to Washington, D.C., for change" that -- with nary a mention of binge drinking and hot tubs.
"What our audience wants is. . . . stories that relate to them. They don't want esoteric discussions," franchise creator and executive producer Jon Murray told The TV Column on Monday, with 20/20 hindsight.
Though MTV has insisted that its viewers want "aspirational" programming, there were rumblings that the D.C. version would be "too much about politics and religion in the abstract -- that may have had some impact on why the ratings weren't as strong," he added.
"In that first Washington, D.C., episode, there was a discussion of religion, and what we heard back was, 'If I wanted to hear a discussion about religion, I'd tune in to CNN,' " Murray said ruefully.
The Washington edition of the show wound up being the least-watched in the franchise's long history.
"What we decided to do with New Orleans was, essentially, do what we always do -- find great cast members who are relatable to the audience and bring interesting stories with them. We have this guy, Knight, who was a hockey player and was addicted to painkillers. That's a very relatable story to our audience -- misuse of prescription medicine is a big thing out there. . . . This is a story they can relate to more so than a story about politics."
Murray's being modest: Knight isn't just a recovering pain-killer addict, he's also "known for his promiscuity" while also "teaching hockey clinics to children" and "pursuing a marketing degree," according to MTV's news release.
Sad back story, sleeps around, loves children: The "Real World" trifecta!
Joining Knight: Jemmye, who comes from a conservative Mississippi town, "enjoys casual sex with no commitment," loves discussing intimate details of her sex life with her mom, who is -- you know it's coming -- her "best friend," and has a preference, MTV says, for black men -- that is, until she meets her new roomie, white Knight!
When not traveling the globe briefing foreign service personnel on American policy for the State Department, dreamy-eyed Eric, from Arlington, Va., works on his real passions: stand-up comedy and "perfect[ing] the art of juggling various girls at one time."
Housemate Sahar, MTV says, is a "strong-willed liberal Muslim who is not easily intimidated," though "there are still things that she was forced to hide from her community, like her virginity . . . or lack thereof."
Ashley, on the other hand, is an athletic girl who wants to be a sideline sports reporter and yet "can transform into a girly girl at the drop of a hat" and whose lips, MTV felt compelled to explain, "ARE natural."
Of course, they're natural -- the question is what was shot into them.
Housemate Preston's mom scored crack when he was an infant, and he is now "a proud, young, gay black man" who, because it's TV and this is inevitable, "has a bitchy side, which he's not afraid to show," the network said.
McKenzie, on the other hand, is a sorority girl and "no stranger to philanthropy" -- by which MTV means "Hurricane Relief by day and pounding hurricane cocktails by night."
And, finally, Ryan, the "legit hairstylist" -- as opposed to an illegitimate one, we guess -- who is "one part unpredictable, two parts ADHD and OCD."
"The Real World" -- it's back!