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MTV Shakes Things Up for One of Its Most Iconic Shows EW

A pioneering MTV series is undergoing the first real format change in its history. Writing on EW.com, James Hibberd reports that the upcoming edition of "The Real World" will have a new title and a major plot twist.

"Arguably TV’s second-longest-running reality show (the first would be 'COPS,' which launched in 1989), 'The Real World' will be re-titled 'Real World: Ex-Plosion' when it airs next year," Hibberd reports. "The season begins like any other: Seven young, attractive and single diverse cast-mates from around the country move into a house (first cast photo above). They’ll start to form bonds, with each other and with San Francisco locals. Then, one month into the three-month shoot, they’ll go away for a day trip. When they return, they’re in for a huge shock: Their exes have moved in too."

Created by Jonathan Murray and Mary Ellis-Bunim, the show has been on for 21 years and 28 seasons, Hibberd notes.

Murray indicated the shakeup has to do with other shows -- such as Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" and CBS's "Big Brother" -- finding success by following some of the ideas pioneered by "The Real World."

Said Murray: “When 'The Real World' went on the air in ’92 you put seven diverse people together and you get conflict, and out of that conflict would come change, and then you have a story. Now that it’s 21 years or so later, maybe we’re a bit of a victim of our own success. Diversity is a fact of life today. A lot of young people date people of different races, or have friends who are gay. The world has changed. We’ve had conversations [with the network] throughout 28 seasons of the show, but we’ve never made this big of a commitment to change.”

The show's ratings have slipped, Hibberd notes, with the latest season averaging 1.5 million viewers. MTV, meanwhile, has reduced its order from two cycles a year to just one.

"The Exes twist has been done in reality TV before ('Big Brother‘s' ‘X Factor’ twist in 2003), but Murray suggests the idea came about in a more organic way," Hibberd notes.

Said Murray: “When we cast people we usually always try to cast single people. And they’d say they were single during the casting process. Then the moment they arrived at the house suddenly their ex was back in their life. I don’t know if it’s a safety blanket or that we’re never really done with our exes. When you talk about the age of our cast, their ex is often their first love -- they play a huge role in their life.”

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