When MTV announced The Real World would return to San Francisco for its 29th season, rumors swirled that it could be the last outing for the once-groundbreaking reality show. Dwindling ratings in the face of competitive reality TV spinoffs like "The Challenge" meant the show's producers would be looking for a new hook to draw viewers in. The show will be renamed "Real World: Ex-Plosion" and features former lovers of the cast members.

The show's co-creator Jonathan Murray points out to Entertainment Weekly that strangers-in-a-house format the show pioneered isn't so new anymore. After years of trying to rejuvenate the show by bringing in a diverse cast from various walks of life (or, failing that, just getting everyone really liquored up), the show is adding the unexpected twist midway through the season. EW explains:

The season begins like any other: Seven young, attractive and single diverse cast-mates from around the country move into a house. [...] They’ll start to form bonds, with each other and with San Francisco locals. Then, one month into the three-month shoot, they’ll go away for a day trip. When they return, they’re in for a huge shock: Their exes have moved in too.

Sounds like a nightmare. The idea came about, Murray says, when producers realized potential cast members would always claim they were single, but their exes always somehow turn up on day one. So this season, they just went for it and picked singles who had weird ex hangups to begin with:

When casting season 29, producers sought singles who had particularly interesting relationships with their exes — there’s the person who’s really close friends with the ex, the one that’s always getting texts from his ex, etc. After filming began, producers had to scramble to convince the exes to drop everything and join the cast too — five of the seven agreed.

As far as we can tell, filming wrapped sometime around the end of October. The unofficial @RealWorldSF Twitter account, which retweeted sightings of the cast around town, claimed there was a garage sale at the Polk Street Party pad last month and one happy passerby apparently snatched up the map of San Francisco we spotted for his own apartment:

In another twist, the producers say the cast members were also given smartphones for the first time ever. During filming, they were allowed to text and post messages to a private system that only their housemates, friends, family and former lovers could access. The messages will be made public when the show airs next year. One thing that won't be changing though? There's still a hot tub.

Previously: Is This Polk Street Pad The Next 'Real World' House?
'The Real World' Will Return To San Francisco For Possible Final Season
[Entertainment Weekly]