Philadelphia is a city that is used to having a bad reputation. Suburbanites hate us with a passion; we’re the butt of jokes from Salinas to Albany. Despite being the home of a thriving cultural community and attracting many young people priced out of New York and Boston, Philadelphia is still the city of cheesesteaks and Da Iggles to many.
When MTV announced they would be filming The Real World in Philadelphia, many hoped it would play a crucial part in rehabilitating our city’s image. Like it or not, Real World houses in Miami and San Francisco became genuine tourist sites, and Honolulu’s tourism bureau reports hundreds of requests for directions to that city’s Real World house weekly.
That is why so many Philadelphians were disgusted when the show cancelled plans to film in the city due to union difficulties. But there was plenty of blame to go around here; the city government’s liason, for one, who did not offer show creators Bunim/Murray Productions any help for working in a union town. Bunim/Murray were stubborn enough to ignore Philadelphia’s long history as a union stronghold. And finally, the unions’ aggressive tactics has contributed to scaring businesses and new construction away to the suburbs for decades.
But The Real World will be filming here after all. Yes, the streets of Old City will be even more crowded with tourists, and Stephen Starr will be gaining even more self-promotion, thanks to cast members “working” at his restaurants. But Philadelphia will be prominently featured on one of cable TV’s longest running and most popular shows. No one in the city can complain about that.