London is hippest, says MTV show
Cole Moreton talks to two Britons who star in a trendy fly-on- the-wall series
Sunday 16 July 1995
The satellite channel - a barometer of youth style across the world - chose London as the location for a European version of its scrupulously trendy American series The Real World.
MTV has achieved some of its best US ratings with the programme, a cross between documentary and teenage soap opera. It throws groups of glamorous young people together in designer flats in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco and films them, fly-on-wall style, 24 hours a day.
For the past six months the format has been repeated in secrecy at a flat at Notting Hill Gate, the cosmopolitan West London area that is not only the stamping ground of older celebrities such as Martin Amis and John Cleese, but also home to members of the new rock music aristocracy such as Damon Albarn of Blur and Justine Frischmann of Elastica.
The flat was shared by seven carefully auditioned young people aged between 18 and 24, from England, Germany, the US and Australia. In typical MTV style, they included a model, a racing-car driver, students, a playwright and a singer.
They lived in an old warehouse decorated by MTV set designers, with hidden cameras and microphones in every room and two camera crews recording every row, confession and courtship. Only the bathroom was out of bounds to the production crew, who worked in a room hidden from the "cast".
The seven participants could do whatever they wanted but had absolutely no control over what was filmed or edited out of the series, which distills more than 3,600 hours of footage into 12 half-hour editions.
"It was a huge invasion of privacy," said Neil Forrester, an Oxford University student who plays in a rock band. "There's no way you can prepare yourself for that. The first few weeks I was almost insane with paranoia. You feel everything you do is imbued with significance because there is a camera crew there pointing a lens in your face."
Mr Forrester returned to studying for a PhD in experimental psychology when the flat was dismantled.
The other English participant was Sharon Gitau, a 20-year-old professional singer from Collier Row in Essex, who had to cope with an operation on her vocal cords during the filming. She also broke the rules by keeping secret a month-long affair with someone outside the flat.
"You could not have conducted a relationship under those conditions, with a crew standing there waving a lens under your face," she said. "They would have stood there for five hours if that was what it took to get a kiss on film."
She has now gone home to live with her mother again and misses the flat, which has been gutted and the contents given to charity. Like Mr Forrester she says she did it as "a social experiment" rather than for the publicity or the money, which was nominal.
"We were kept completely in the dark and only became aware of how little control we had over the programme as it went on," she said. "We get the tapes of the show the week before it goes out. That's all the warning we have. I have seen things that were not as I remembered them at all."
- 1 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 3 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
Lana Del Rey: 'I have slept with a lot of guys in the industry'
Peaches Geldof cause of death: 'Heroin addict' socialite had taken fatal dose of drug, inquest concludes
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
Peaches Geldof inquest: Tragic final moments of socialite's life reveal she lied to husband about failed heroin tests
Israel-Gaza conflict: The myth of Hamas’s human shields
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Functional ...