The first time I heard about plans for “The Real World” back in 1992, it sounded insane.
Regular people? On TV? How could MTV possibly have found seven people who would agree to live in a house full of cameras and be filmed around the clock?
These days, it’s harder to find seven people who wouldn’t.
But as the franchise enters its 31st season with the made-in-Vegas “Real World: Go Big or Go Home” (10 p.m. Thursday, MTV), it’s still hard to figure out why — other than the potential for a lifetime of employment on the MTV spinoff, “The Challenge.”
Things usually do not turn out well. Especially if you happen to be 22-year-old Jenna, from Easley, S.C.
“I’m from the South, and I definitely have Southern pride,” she says by way of introduction in the season premiere. “I own a gun or two. I can fix a car. I shoot my bow and arrow in my bikini. I’m hot. I’m Southern. Woo hoo, ya know?”
Woo hoo, indeed.
Early seasons played out like a sociological experiment, cramming a diverse group of people into a relatively small space in order, as the opening says, “to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.”
Then, in 2002, “The Real World” came to the Palms, the roommates drank and partied their way through the season, and ratings went through the roof. The show was never the same.
When “The Real World” returned to Las Vegas for a season filmed in 2010 at the Hard Rock Hotel, cast member Adam Royer was evicted as a result of his drunken antics and damages he caused to the suite.
But “Go Big or Go Home,” in which cast members must perform a series of challenges to avoid being replaced in their tricked-out suite at the Gold Spike, is a bit of a hybrid as it weaves a sobering amount of teachable moments among the usual drunken inanities.
Joining Jenna this season, along with their introductory quotes, are:
■ Dean, 25, Los Angeles. “I’m going through so much bullcrap with my ex. That’s why I’m here: to escape from that world for a second.”
■ CeeJai, 23, Atlanta. “I cannot believe that I decided to come here. I’m about to become a lawyer. I don’t do things like this.”
■ Kailah, 22, Fort Myers, Fla. “I am Puerto Rican, and I don’t have a filter when I definitely should.”
■ Dione, 24, Cape Cod, Mass. “Living off the land is a big part of my life. I hate working.”
■ Chris, 23, Brooklyn. “I’m incredibly curious. Not just about men. Not just about women. But, being pansexual, I’ll say yes to everything.”
■ and Sabrina, 21, Topsfield, Mass. “If I wanna go have sex with someone, I’m gonna go have sex. I believe every girl deserves an orgasm, and if you’re not giving me an orgasm, I will stop someone midway and be, like, ‘I’m done.’ Like, ‘Get out.’ ”
It doesn’t matter who you are; if you’re filmed nonstop for three months, you’re going to say plenty of stupid things. Some of the roommates, though, can’t even make it through the first 48 hours.
“Dione is crazy. He’s wild,” Sabrina says of the roommate who shows up wearing spandex pants and furry slippers and generally dresses like the lost-and-found bin at EDC. “He’s attractive in the sense that he looks like Jesus.”
Later, while everyone’s checking out the amenities in the suite, and Dean, Dione and Kailah are busy oohing and aahing over their new hoverboards, Sabrina is blown away by something decidedly less high-tech. “Oh my God, we got whipped cream! We have whipped cream!”
Still, no one comes off worse than poor, sheltered Jenna.
“All you guys have been here before?” she asks during the stretch Humvee ride to the Gold Spike. When they all say they have and ask where she’s been, her response is telling: “Nowhere.”
Before slathering herself with olive oil and heading to the pool, Jenna proclaims, “I wanna get as tan as possible as fast as possible. And that’s, like, life goals.”
Nothing, though, can compare to her views on race.
“Y’all, I’m not used to black people who act like y’all,” she tells her African-American roommates, Dean and CeeJai, by way of a compliment. Things only get worse from there.
“Every colored person I wish was like you,” Jenna adds, before launching into an explanation of how black people should behave while extolling the virtues of the Confederate flag.
As Jenna’s mouth grows larger to accommodate more and more of her foot, Kailah has the good sense to leave the room because, she says, “I don’t wanna be that person who says something really stupid on camera.” And this from the woman who, moments earlier in the episode, said the following: “Honestly, I know this is gonna sound really cocky, but I have a golden (vagina). Any guy I’ve ever had sex with, they always come back.”
When that person is embarrassed for you? Wow. Just wow.
It’s all so uncomfortable, the episode ends with an onscreen graphic: “For more on racial bias visit race.lookdifferent.org.”
After its long, debauched detour, maybe this season of “Real World” will actually be about something meaningful after all.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @life_onthecouch