×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Untold Truth Of Road Rules

Road Rules started from modest beginnings and a simple idea: put five strangers in an RV, take away their cash, and have them drive around completing missions and working odd jobs for pocket money. At the time, no one had seen programming like this—non-actors doing silly stunts and getting on each other's nerves. Adventure shows like The Amazing Race and Survivor owe a lot of their success to Road Rules, and these are the behind-the-scenes stories you never knew.

Series concept spawned from a road trip on Real World

The Real World hooked viewers immediately after its 1992 debut, and its producers Jonathan Murray and Mary-Ellis Bunim wanted to shake up the format for their next series. They got the idea for Road Rules after Tami Akbar, Jon Brennan, and Dominic Griffin traveled together in an RV to their new house in Los Angeles for The Real World's second season. Bunim/Murray Productions started working on the spinoff soon after the third season of The Real World. Mark Long, who ended up in the first season of Road Rules, was actually one of the three roommates interviewed to replace the problematic Puck during Real World's San Francisco season.

After one of the show creators passed away, the show went on a three-year hiatus

Mary-Ellis Bunim is widely credited as one of the creators of the modern reality television genre. After The Real World and Road Rules, she went on to produce many other popular shows, including Fox's The Simple Life with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. Sadly, she died in early 2004 at the age of 57, following a long battle with breast cancer. Road Rules' production team put the show on hiatus and resumed again in 2007 for the 14th and final season, Viewer's Revenge.

Road Rules planted the seeds for its own demise

In 1998, MTV combined five fan-favorite cast members from previous seasons of The Real World to produce Road Rules: All Stars. Instead of watching a bunch of unknowns, viewers rooted for contestants they'd already invested in emotionally. This is now considered the first season of MTV's immensely popular reality game show The Challenge, but unlike its eventual successor, All Stars featured a non-competitive format where contestants lived together in a Winnebago, didn't face elimination, and worked together to complete assignments like sheep shearing and working at Hot Dog on a Stick.

A year later, MTV released Real World/Road Rules Challenge, in which six former Real World cast members competed against six Road Rules veterans. Producers continued tweaking the format until it barely resembled Road Rules: All Stars. By 2008, Road Rules had already experienced its success, tragedy, and hiatus. The Challenge, then in its 15th season, had continued gaining popularity. MTV didn't feel like it had enough room in its schedule for two similar reality game shows, and the older one got the axe.

Former cast members admit the show became more "toxic and unhealthy"

Even the greatest television idea can start to feel outdated after a couple of seasons, and Road Rules was no exception. After a few caravanning adventures, producers felt they needed to mix things up. The early shows rewarded cunning strength, athleticism, and competitive spirit, but as the seasons progressed, the challenges changed, and environments were chosen to encourage outlandish behavior to increase ratings. This shift was felt by contestants.

Susie Meister, a cast member from the sixth and 14th seasons of Road Rules, said, "The early seasons of our shows were truly documentary-style. Now every aspect of the environment is designed to encourage and incentivize bad behavior." She went on to admit that the environment on these shows is "toxic and unhealthy." She should know: in addition to her Road Rules seasons, she participated in five seasons of The Challenge.

Some cast members knew "the part" they were supposed to play

Watch enough reality TV and you'll notice the shows tend to gather around a handful of "character" archetypes: the 'good girl,' the 'bad boy,' the 'wild card,' et cetera. It rarely enters viewers' minds that these cast members actually know how producers want them to act, and follow along to get more screen time in the final edit.

Meister wrote an article called "Confessions of a Serial Reality TV Star." In it, she recalls being cast in Road Rules: Down Under and admits, "I had watched the show enough to know that I was cast to play the "character" of the stereotypical naive, virginal Christian, but I took it as a compliment given the less desirable, alternative prototypes." While filming, she could tell when the producers needed more action from the cast. "[They] would encourage us to 'make the most of this opportunity.' Only later did I realize this wasn't for our benefit, but to help make better television."

Three former cast members have gone on to be successful comedians

You wouldn't think a show like Road Rules could be a breeding ground for comedians, but you'd be wrong: Theo Von, Christina Pazsitzky, and Angela Trimbur got their TV starts on the series. If you're not a huge comedy fan, these aren't household names to you...at least not yet. Theo Von appeared on Real World: Maximum Velocity Tour (a.k.a. season 9) and went on to have a strong showing on season four of Last Comic Standing. He hosted a TBS hidden-camera show called Deal With It, starred in his own episode of The Hour Hour on Comedy Central, and Netflix recently released his one-hour standup special, No Offense. Christina Pazsitzky was a contestant on Real World: Down Under. Afterward, she became a standup comic in Los Angeles, got a job as a writer and Round Table regular on Chelsea Lately, and hosts a popular podcast with her comedian husband, Tom Segura, called Your Mom's House. Angela Trimbur appeared on season 13 of Road Rules. Her Dance Like Nobody's Watching videos went viral for the website HelloGiggles. Lately, she's a regular on CSI: Cyber, which isn't funny, but her Upright Citizen's Brigade acting background means she'll likely end up back in the comedic side of things soon.