It's not a matter of how real your world can be when you live free in a tony waterfront home with six people you've never met while television cameras record every detail of your life.

It's how entertaining you are that matters.With MTV's "The Real World" entering its fifth season, the show's producers seem comfortable that what they bill as a reality-based soap opera is first and foremost entertainment.

"We admit that - it's a television show," says executive producer Jonathan Murray. "It's not a pristine social experiment. First and foremost, it has to be entertaining for its audience."

For this season, which premieres at 8 p.m. MDT tonight, MTV decided to weave its version of the real world in Miami Beach, where reality rarely visits. Seven people, who probably wouldn't have met otherwise, share a three-bedroom home on Rivo Alto Island, one of the small spits of high-priced real estate that make up Miami Beach.

As in years past, cast members are set up to clash.

Dan, 21, is just glad to be out of Kansas and is adamant about the others accepting the fact he's gay. Cynthia, 22, has never been this far from Oakland, Calif., before, and brings her poster collection of naked men to keep her company. Flora, 24, who was born in Russia, doesn't hold back in expressing herself. Joe, 25, who owns his own business in New York City, turns out to be a major peacemaker.

Helping to mix it up is Mike, 24, who finds Miami too other-worldly compared to the manicured lawns and country clubs of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Melissa, 22, tries to act as an ambassador for her hometown of Miami. And Sarah, 25, is a comic book editor more at home on skateboards than on her own feet.

The personalities begin to chafe from the outset. And that's the way MTV wants it.

After noticing some cast members had become adept at interacting as little as possible with those they didn't like, producers decided it would make better TV to give them something to argue about. So they decided to tinker with the concept a bit.

This year's cast has $50,000 with which to start a business.

In a first for the show, the cast includes an "adult" business adviser who tries to guide their decision-making. First, they have to agree on what type of business, which takes care of a couple of episodes, and then they have to work together to get the business going. And that makes for a major source of the friction in the house.

"We needed to shake it up," Murray says. "We needed to make it fresh. The show works best when the cast deal with each other."

The hour-long episode that kicks off the fifth season shows the cast settling in to their dream digs. The first major tiff occurs when Flora suggests the group invest the money in a pretentious cafe to attract the hippest on the beach. Everyone hates the idea and Flora storms off.

The changes make for more problems that the cast members have to deal with. But then, the $50,000 isn't really theirs anyway, and they readily admit it's never more than Monopoly money to them.

So will viewers care enough to see what happens this time "when people stop being polite and start being real?" Probably more than they cared for the often dull and uninspired cast from the show's fourth season, filmed in London. But not much more.

The show's formula is no secret now, and it's hard to imagine a season like the first in 1992 or the tempestuous 1994 season in San Francisco.

The first season, filmed in a Manhattan loft apartment, was delicious low-brow television, with seven people flirting and insulting their way through episodes spiced with arguments often centered on race and sex.

In the seasons that have followed, the concept has seemed more and more contrived, and even scripted, as cast members became more like caricatures of real people, bent more on arguing than getting along.

Cast members from previous seasons have complained that they were made simplified characters, such as Julie, the innocent one in the first season, Puck, the insufferable one in the third.

That San Francisco season, with a cast that included Pedro Zamora, who was living with AIDS and has since died, offered some of the series' most dramatic moments.

Many members of the Miami cast say they are anxious about how they will be portrayed, once the boring hours are on the cutting room floor and the obligatory MTV soundtrack is added.

And at least one doesn't want to see the edited version of her life.

"This was the worst experience of my life," says Flora, who notes she never watched an episode before coming to Miami and doesn't plan to start now. "The less I see, the less I'll think about it."

Others don't see anything but themselves coming out in the final cut.

"I had fun," says Sarah. "Are you kidding? It was free."