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‘Real World’ Backlot Talk

Dec 13, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Melissa Grego: Hi. I’m Melissa Grego, managing editor of TelevisionWeek. I’d like to welcome back Jon Murray, creator and executive producer of “The Real World,” to TVWeek.com’s Producer Shop Talk.
We have lots to talk about after last night’s explosive episode of “Real World: Denver.” Jon, it would be tough to accuse “Real World” this season of not dealing with some real issues. Pretty incredible stuff.
Mr. Murray: Yeah, and timely stuff too, with everything that’s been going on with The Laugh Factory and Michael Richards’ outburst there.
Ms. Grego: Absolutely. Last week, you said the events in this episode were fueled in large part by alcohol, and we watched and saw that you wound up having to send a member of the production staff to step in. Can you talk about how you monitor these situations, particularly when alcohol is involved? Do you step up and mobilize? Are you kind of at the ready when you see things escalating? How does that all go down?
Mr. Murray: It’s always a judgment call on the part of the producer or director that’s right there on the floor. In fact, most of the time the producer or director is in a control room and when something like this starts to get volatile, they’ll actually move out onto the floor so that they’re ready to step in if need be.
Again, our goal is to let these seven young people work out their own issues, to not be “Mom” and “Dad” and step in all the time, because the whole idea of the show is that this age group does make mistakes, and we have sort of a faith in them that they will learn from it and ultimately do the right thing. So it would destroy our show if we were always to step in and resolve things for them. Yet at the same time we have a responsibility to make sure no one gets hurt.
Ms. Grego: I do realize in this situation there were several mistakes in terms of behavior on a number of people’s parts, and alcohol in a certain respect did sort of serve as a catalyst to the opportunity for this personal growth and this connection and communication, but you also did end up having somebody who said he didn’t feel safe and needed to leave the house. Have you guys ever thought or considered ideas about regulating alcohol or making any sort of rules about alcohol use?
Mr. Murray: You know, we have, off and on, tried to deal with it, and the difficulty again is everyone has a different capacity. It’s very hard to know when someone has reached what could be their limit. And again, this is sort of part of this whole thing of being this age, and what I found most interesting about it is that when it seems people have too much alcohol, I think we saw clearly last night that they lost judgment.
We saw that Davis said some things which he normally wouldn’t say and that he was very upset about and embarrassed about. And I think part of it is that you’re so inarticulate when you’re drunk, and when you’re looking for ways to get back at someone, you choose something that might be an easy thing, but you would never choose to go to that level if you were not drunk.
And Tyrie, who was trying to stick up for his friend Stephen, really wasn’t listening to what Davis was saying and was on his own whole trip, and never has there been a clearer example of how miscommunication happens when people are inebriated, because this did not have to happen. If the people hadn’t been so drunk, if they’d been listening to each other. If they’d been communicating better, it would’ve all been resolved very easily.
Ms. Grego: Davis really did show up with quite an apology, but I didn’t really see much from Tyrie in that regard. Are we going to see him dealing with his behavior? I know he had mentioned he has an alter ego that sometimes comes out when he’s drinking that he’s not particularly proud of. Is he going to address that at all in future episodes?
Mr. Murray: Yeah, there is a future episode where he actually gets arrested, and it’s a big wake-up call for him. So yeah, we will see him deal with that.
But I thought what was really outstanding, and something I think all of us felt good about, was how open Tyrie and Davis were to rebuilding their relationships … It was really wonderful because a lot of people could’ve just said, “That’s it, I’m never .…” you know, and the thing we haven’t discussed is the fact that Davis used the N-word. He was using it to someone on the phone; he wasn’t directly using it towards either of his black roommates. But one of his black roommates overheard it and obviously was offended, and rightly so. And it sort of blew up.
Ms. Grego: It was impressively forgiving too, I really thought. I was impressed by that forgiveness. It was just such a rich episode.
Mr. Murray: Yeah, and if you saw the preview for next week, they’re in a bar, the roommates, and someone goes after Davis because he’s gay and starts calling him names; and Tyrie is actually the one who steps up and defends his roommate. So it was pretty exciting to see that they were able to try to put this behind them and try to move forward. It would be nice if the rest of the world could be so quick to try and forgive.
Ms. Grego: Well, thank you once again for taking the time and sharing your insight on “The Real World,” Jon. And we look forward to speaking with you next week about episode four.
Mr. Murray: Great. This has been fun. Thanks a lot.

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