In 2002 MTV was on top of the world with Real World Las Vegas. The season was a massive success, creating buzz around the decade-old series. MTV rebounded their success in 2011 when they returned to Vegas, not quite hitting the heights of the original 2002 season but certainly renewing interest in the series. When MTV went to Vegas for a third time in 2016, no one cared.
In all fairness, The Real World was in a frail state going into season 31. Ex-Plosion performed well, especially once the twist was revealed. Skeleton also did pretty well, though it never met the success of Ex-Plosion. Still, The Real World was barely recovering from declining ratings from the San Diego, St. Thomas, and Portland seasons. It seemed natural to included a twist in season 31, but the “Go Big or Go Home” twist produced nothing of value. For a series in the same franchise as The Challenge, Go Big or Go Home’s missions seemed weak. Going for a hike or having a spider crawl on your stomach pales in comparison to most of the competitions on The Challenge.
The casting on Go Big or Go Home didn’t help the season either. The basis of the season was to take some super liberal roommates and force a super conservative into the mix. Naturally, Jenna clashed with people like CeeJai and Amo. This was sad because Jenna was cast to slow the progress and development of other cast members. As Amo is leaving the Mormon Church, he deals with Jenna who remains a Mormon. As CeeJai pursues a degree in law hoping to contribute to social progress, she is forced to live with a sheltered southern.
It’s not uncommon for production to make casting decisions that may result in drama, but the Go Big or Go Home twist allowed them to play puppet master. They would force Amo to apologize to Jenna for leaking spoilers about her to the internet, force the boys to perform in drag, and force Sabrina to contact her biological mother. While The Real World has always focused on social growth, Go Big or Go Home make this feel especially inorganic. At their best, the missions were a boring side plot. At their worst, the forced cringe-worthy drama. Production was able to guide the direction of the season, and when they felt things needed to be spiced up they just added in an eighth roommate.
Go Big or Go Home was the season that killed The Real World. It proved that production’s interference could not save ratings. The highest rated episode of Go Big or Go Home received half the viewers of the highest rated episode of Skeletons. Meanwhile, the standard drama of living with strangers had run very stale by this point. No one cared about Kailah and Dione’s relationship and the social commentary became very repetitive and grating. Even returning to Las Vegas couldn’t make this season feel important, and the twists overshadowed the location.
Bad Blood would be the last Real World season to air on MTV, confirming that twists were not sustainable for the show. Really, Go Big or Go Home was the season that sent The Real World to the grave. Production realized there wasn’t a good reason to keep making a show if they cant make people care. Perhaps this is why we don’t see many people from Go Big or Bad Blood on The Challenge. Very few people cared about the cast, even when there was drama. Why would they care if these people were on The Challenge? While I’d like to see some of these people appear on a Challenge, I agree they’re not essential for the continuation of the franchise. The Challenge has maintained popularity, even once The Real World perished.