106: “…And Start Getting Real” – MTV’s The Real World Part 2

In Part 1 of our look back at MTV’s The Real World, we were impressed with how quickly the show defined the tone, format, and style that reality television would use for the next thirty years (and counting). But it was the show’s third season, with the infamous slob Puck facing off against courageous AIDS activist Pedro, that made The Real World a real sensation, ushering in a wave of reality shows at the turn of the millennium that hasn’t died down since. (Listen to Part 1 here if you haven’t caught up:

For Part 2, we look back at that groundbreaking (and heartbreaking) San Francisco-set season, which aired in 1994. Then we fast forward to one of the show’s other major scandals and reveal who we side with regarding the infamous Seattle Slap. Finally, we revisit personal favorite Real World seasons from our teen years and talk about the cast members who made the biggest impressions on us.

As The Real World turns 30 this May – and is therefore way too old to be a cast member on The Real World – it’s time to celebrate the series that just might have had a greater influence on the TV landscape than any other show of the 90s.

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105: “Stop Being Polite” – MTV’s The Real World Part 1

What do RuPaul, Guy Fieri, Jennifer Hudson, Ozzy Osbourne, Honey Boo Boo, and the Kardashians have in common? They all owe a debt of gratitude to MTV’s THE REAL WORLD, which popularized the tone, format, and style most reality shows still adhere to today.

In 1992, a show that followed regular people in their ordinary lives was groundbreaking. So extraordinary, in fact, that many contemporary critics thought reality television was a laughable fad aimed exclusively at brainless teens. The Real World’s first season, set in a New York City loft, got the formula down surprisingly quick, featuring all the partying, pranks, and heated debates we came to expect from the series in later years.

For this podcast, Chris, Seth, and Becky reminisce about their own experiences “being taped,” discuss their memories of the reality TV boom that blew up right around the millennium, then check out The Real World’s most memorable – AKA most notorious – episodes in honor of the show’s 30th anniversary. This era of the series covered topical social issues ranging from AIDS to abortion to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” so there’s a lot to cover here!

Pack your bags for a whirlwind trip through one decade in America, with stops in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, and Hawaii. Controversial opinions are mandatory, but clothing is optional!

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75: “Sal’s Famous Pizzeria is Here to Stay” – Do The Right Thing

Riots. Fires. Police violence. Ruinous bigotry. A cacophony of voices calling for justice for Black Americans. These are all very present in today’s newspaper headlines and social media feeds, and also set the scene for Spike Lee’s seminal modern classic DO THE RIGHT THING, which is no less urgent in 2020 than it was upon its 1989 release.

Lee’s film was praised by most critics but received a backlash from some, who wrongly believed the film itself would incite riots upon its summer release. Instead, When We Were Young happily joins in the thoughtful conversation on racial tensions Do The Right Thing has prompted for thirty years and counting, finding the film not only rightfully angry but also vibrant, loving, insightful, and incredibly funny.

As the world mourns the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others by those meant to serve and protect, our cohosts discuss just how difficult it is to “Fight the Power” when that power is armed with a license to kill citizens without cause, and debate what “doing the right thing” even means anymore. Black Lives Matter — and that’s the truth, Ruth.

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When We Were Young is a podcast devoted to the most beloved pop culture of our formative years (roughly 1980-2000). Join us for a look back to the past with a critical eye on how these movies, songs, TV shows and more hold up now. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @WWWYshow, on Facebook at and email your episode suggestions to Don’t forget to subscribe and review us on the iTunes and Google Play Stores so more folks check out the show.

The Voting Rights Act and DOMA are Dead, and John Lewis is Alive

At the end of a resounding and thunderous two days for this country, I am reminded of a speech given in 1996 by civil rights hero and Congressman John Lewis. He helped form the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and was one of the Freedom Riders who publicly and peacefully defied segregation, and he was nearly beaten to death by racist assholes trying to keep Jim Crow in US law now and forever in the 1950s and 60s (

But he didn’t stop fighting for basic freedom after the Voting Rights Act (which he lived to see the US Supreme Court murder) and Civil Rights Act were signed, or after he became a Congressman in the 80s. In the 1990s when Democrats nationwide were running to the right (most have never run back), John Lewis saw exactly what the “Defense of Marriage Act” was and nailed it to the fucking wall before it ever got voted out of Congress, before it was ever signed into American law by that self-serving corporate toady masquerading as an elder statesman Bill Clinton.

In case you ever need help divining or recalibrating your moral orientation, John Lewis’s compass tends to point true north.*

“Why do you not want your fellow men and women, your fellow Americans to be happy? Why do you attack them? Why do you want to destroy the love they hold in their hearts? Why do you want to crush their hopes, their dreams, their longings, their aspirations? We are talking about human beings, people like you, people who want to get married, buy a house, and spend their lives with the one they love. They have done no wrong.

I will not turn my back on another American. I will not oppress my fellow human being. I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Mr. Chairman, I have known racism. I have known bigotry. This bill stinks of the same fear, hatred and intolerance. It should not be called the Defense of Marriage Act. It should be called the defense of mean-spirited bigots act.”

Two end notes and that asterisk:

*Except, unfortunately, he did the 09/2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that launched America’s Forever War against a tactic… only one Congressman, California’s Barbara Lee, was brave enough to vote against the AUMF.

1) Watch this video clip of most of John Lewis’s 1996 DOMA soliloquy here and remain completely unmoved. I dare ya.

2) From his Wikipedia page: “John Lewis opposed the U.S. waging of the 1991 Gulf War, NAFTA, and the 2000 trade agreement with China that passed the House. Lewis opposed the Clinton administration on NAFTA and welfare reform. After welfare reform passed, Lewis was described as outraged; he said, ‘Where is the sense of decency? What does it profit a great nation to conquer the world, only to lose its soul?'”