This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives taped — and then ruined on television.
Reality show pioneer The Real World is in its 30th season, and the series has definitely evolved from its original form in 1992. Season One, The Real World: New York, would be considered tame and probably boring by today’s standards as more and more “unscripted series” pop up with increasing shamelessness and over-the-top drama.
Last season, TRW flipped the script. Filmed in San Francisco, there was much more acknowledgement of the ever-present cameras and the producers consistently watching the roommates — which actually made the experience even more “real.” It was also the first season to take a non-geographical subtitle: Ex-Plosion.
Unbeknownst to the seven roommates, their respective exes would be moving in halfway through the season. The result was a mixed bag of fights and rekindled romance, but the shtick must have proven successful, because MTV’s sticking with it.
Real World: Skeletons (Season Premiere, 10 p.m. Tuesday, MTV) brings seven new strangers to Chicago, returning to the city where the show’s 11th season was filmed. This time around, the roommates will each have to unexpectedly confront someone from their past — an estranged family member, a former coworker or classmate, an ex with bad blood. Each week brings a different “skeleton” for one of the roommates; unlike Ex-Plosion, the guests will arrive one at a time and leave after a week.
Sure, it’s a gimmick, but the surprise houseguests and new self-aware format push the long-running show into a new era. At this rate, we may expect another 30 seasons of The Real World. But the question remains: who would want to be a part of this mess?
WEDNESDAY DEC. 10
Modern Family (9 p.m., ABC) – It’s Haley’s 21st birthday, and the grownups take her to a bar while the younger crew hangs back. Claire tries to get Haley to see her as more of a peer than a parent; Cam and Mitch end up feeling old and out of touch; and Phil and Jay have trouble picking up the birthday girl’s gift — a car. Back home, Alex, Luke and Manny freak out when Lily asks where babies come from.
The Getaway (Season Finale, 9 p.m., Esquire) – Writing partners (on The Way, Way Back and The Descendants) Nat Faxon (Married) and Jim Rash (Community) travel to Tokyo for foot baths, ping pong and more.
Black-ish (9:30 p.m., ABC) – Convinced the office needs a black Santa, Dre tries to take over the Saint Nick duties from the head of HR. Back home, Rainbow is so over her annual battle with Ruby when it comes to Christmas Eve dinner.
American Horror Story: Freak Show (10 p.m., FX) – As the freak show body count rises, Jimmy drowns his sorrows in booze. Without anyone to stop him, Dandy lets his evil urges run wild. Elsewhere, Elsa and Stanley try to track down Bette and Dot.
South Park (Season Finale, 10 p.m., Comedy Central) – It’s Christmas in South Park, and the whole town is tuning in to Kyle’s Washington Redskins Go Fuck Yourself Holiday Special with live commentary by Cartman. Michael Jackson’s hologram stars as Peter Pan.
Key & Peele (Season Finale, 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central) – Terrorists lament TSA guidelines; Carlito tries to prove he’s the craziest gangster around; Meegan struggles to find her seat in a movie theater.
SATURDAY DEC. 13
Saturday Night Live (11:30 p.m., NBC) – Bilbo Baggins/John Watson incarnate Martin Freeman hosts; Charli XCX performs.
SUNDAY DEC. 14
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (8:30 p.m., Fox) – Jake and Boyle share close quarters on a week-long stakeout. Shit gets weird.
The Newsroom (Series Finale, 9 p.m., HBO) – In the wake of Charlie’s passing, Will and Mac reminisce about ACN’s history. Flashbacks, romance, tears. Good night and good luck, Newsroom.
Homeland (9 p.m., Showtime) – Carrie tries to locate a missing Quinn before the Pakistan Intelligence Agency gets to him. Elsewhere, Max confronts Carrie about Fara.