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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Real World: Season 1 (New York)
Real World: Season 1 (New York)
Paramount // Unrated // September 24, 2002
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted September 20, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:



It's tough to believe that it's now been ten years since MTV debuted the concept of seven strangers living in one amazing house with one another. The cameras roll and conflicts, flirtation, discussion, happiness and even anger ensues. The series has been an influence for "Survivor" and many of the other reality TV shows, but it still continues on its own way, although it's been considerably changed in tone and appearance since the original 1992 season in New York City.



Given the popularity of TV programming on DVD, Paramount has released the first season of the reality series to DVD. The comparisons versus the newer series are interesting to view. Although it's obvious that these folks have the idea of making a name for themselves with their appearances on this show (some, such as Eric, eventually got consistent hosting work on MTV), they all at least seem moderately interesting, intelligent and most of the episodes of this season at least have them attempting to discuss issues.



There's also a lot of differences in tone to this show that aren't apparent in future seasons. As time has passed, it's apparent that the seasons need to be more controversial and often, the constant arguements seem forced (especially in some of the later seasons where the entire group must do a "task" together and try - often unsuccessfully - to work as a team). The budget also has increased visibly since the first edition - the decidedly unslick appearance of the first season makes for a considerably more down-to-earth feel. While I've never really consider the Real World "realistic", the show often seemed to walk the boundaries between trying to document the lives and interaction of seven strangers and a soap opera with seven leads. The first few seasons were more interesting because they leaned more towards the former than the latter.



I don't want to entirely dismiss other seasons of the show; all of them that I've watched (especially the rather goofy "Hawaii" set) have had their moments. Still (and I'm sure there are fans of the series that will not agree with me, and I respect their opinions), I think that when "Real World" is all over and done, Julie, Eric, Heather, Andre, Norman, Becky and Eric will be considered one of - if not the best - of the "Real World" casts. While they weren't the most lively or the most loud, the first show really captured the concept in the strongest, least seemingly manipulated fashion.




The DVD



VIDEO: All of the episodes across both discs are presented in the show's original 1.33:1 broadcast aspect ratio. To get an idea of the image quality, I watched a couple of episodes from each of the two discs. I was pleased - and even a little surprised - by the results. Although not as visually polished as future seasons, the low-budget look of the first season worked well for it. While not much better than broadcast quality, non of the usual flaws - shimmer, pixelation, edge enhancement - intrude very much here. While there are some grainy moments during some of the scenes on the street, the scenes appeared that way originally. Sharpness and detail remain very pleasant, as the picture looked consistently crisp, even during some of the darker moments.



SOUND: All of the episodes are presented in Dolby 2.0 and, as with the video quality, sound better than I'd expected. Although mainly dialogue-driven, the sound mix achieves a nice mixture of dialogue, ambient sounds and music. Dialogue remains clear, while the music often has a nice, punchy quality and respectable clarity.



MENUS: The main menus are animated, but the sub-menus are not.



EXTRAS: The box notes a commentary by the creators. While I'd think this would mean that the creators would provide a commentary on an episode (or more than one), this is actually a 22-minute audio interview with series co-creator Jon Murray. Broken up into chapters, this audio commentary does an excellent job not only giving a good overview into the pros and problems of the first season, but also the series in general. The "problems" chapter is especially interesting, as Murray gives his thoughts on trying to create issues for the cast during the first season, then trusting them to be interesting on their own.



Next up, there's the long-lost "Real World" pilot episode, where some rather goofy actors awkwardly act-out some "scenes" from what the creators believed the show would be like. The result looks and sounds terrible and isn't very interesting or entertaining (quite frankly, I found it tough to sit through). While it's fascinating to see this material after all these years, it's difficult to believe that MTV bought into the concept from this tape alone.



Rounding out the set are character profiles and the "acceptance letter" for the show. While the former isn't particularly interesting, the latter is a fascinating little piece, going on for a few pages about the rules that the cast of the first season were expected to follow.



All of the supplements are on the second disc.



Final Thoughts: Although many of the "Real World" seasons have had their highlights, I continue to feel that the first season seemed the most involving and the least melodramatic. The first DVD set from Paramount is certainly a fine one, as the DVD provides an enjoyable (if rather minimal) set of supplements and solid audio/video quality. Recommended.


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