MTV’s reality show “The Real World” is coming to Brooklyn this summer — and its seven housemates may be inhabiting the luxurious BellTel Lofts in not-quite-hip Downtown, sources familiar with the discussions said.
Construction is going on throughout the unfinished Willoughby Street building (right) — and a source told The Brooklyn Paper that MTV has scouted the penthouse units as a home base for its cast.
Filming could start as early as July, and MTV producers typically spend two months retrofitting the house before beginning the four-month shoot.
Executive Producer Jim Johnston confirmed that he has looked at the building, though he would not say if a lease has been signed.
“We [do] want to be close to Manhattan,” he said, but rattled off other areas he has explored, including Greenpoint, Williamsburg, DUMBO, Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, Red Hook, and Coney Island (so much for “close to Manhattan”).
Phone messages left with the Bell Tel sales office were not returned.
The show’s 21st season will air in early 2009 and Johnston said he picked Brooklyn for its “cachet” and “vibrancy.”
“We try to time our visits to when the city itself is a place that people are talking a lot about, and it seems like everybody is talking about Brooklyn right now,” he said.
“Lately, Brooklyn has appeared to me as this vibrant, diverse place,” added Johnston. “It’s just got a cache right now. It’s exciting.”
The music television network’s announcement on Tuesday that it was coming to Brooklyn set off rampant speculation — even within the MTV newsroom itself, where reporters predicted a Williamsburg shoot.
“We’re not part of the exalted team that actually decides high-power things like ‘programming,’ but we’d place a $200-million bet that this show’s specifically hitting the hipster haven that is Williamsburg,” its authors wrote.
Brooklyn’s biggest cheerleader, Borough President Markowitz, raved about the announcement, no matter where the crew ends up.
“What took them so long?” he asked. “Let’s face it, what could be more real than Brooklyn? They finally made the big time!”
Then again, others worried that MTV, whose heyday was in the 1980s, was actually signalling that Brooklyn had jumped the shark.
“We’re the new Manhattan,” Southpaw’s Matthew Roff said, though not without some irony.
MTV launched the first modern reality television genre in 1992 by filming seven twentysomethings in Manhattan, and allowing viewers to watch as their personal and professional lives unfolded on screen.
Earlier this year, producers changed the format of the show to follows its habitants’ personal lives instead of working together on one project. Housemates in the Brooklyn version will also follow their own career paths in diverse industries, Johnston said.
Each of the 30 finalists is “very excited with the idea of living [in Brooklyn],” he said.
Perhaps that’s a hint that the show isn’t coming to Willoughby Street after all.