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."
Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent
"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery rumours: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
FCKH8: YouTube reinstates provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing
This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...