Jonathan Murray

Producer / Co-Creator


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Jonathan Murray discusses his career in reality television. He describes his childhood growing up in Syracuse, NY, and recounts studying journalism and broadcast news in college. He talks of producing TV news in Green Bay, Wisconsin and Rochester, NY, getting into station programming, and starting to produce documentaries. He describes the first time he met Mary-Ellis Bunim and forming Bunim-Murray productions and details the creation of MTV's The Real World -- explaining how casting, shooting, and production of over 25 seasons of the reality program come together. Murray also recalls the creation of several other Bunim-Murray productions, including The Simple Life (starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie), The Bad Girls Club, Starting Over and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. He explains how Bunim-Murray became involved with Project Runway in the show's sixth season, talks of creating Making the Band, and comments on the death of Mary-Ellis Bunim. He shares his thoughts on the current state of reality television and discusses what he believes lies ahead for the genre. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on December 14, 2011 in Van Nuys, CA.

"I always say that reality cast members are perishable like fruits and vegetables and they only have a certain shelf life.  You've got to get them at the right moment."

Highlights
Jonathan Murray on the creation of The Real World and the show changing from scripted to unscripted
04:18
Jonathan Murray on how "real" The Real World is
01:26
Jonathan Murray on Mary-Ellis Bunim's death and her legacy
02:40
Jonathan Murray on casting Puck for the San Francisco cast of The Real World
02:04
Jonathan Murray on why people love Keeping Up with the Kardashians
00:52
Jonathan Murray on the future of reality TV
00:53
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on his early interest in television; on the impact An American Family had on him; on enjoying documentaries; on becoming News Director of his campus TV station at SUNY Geneseo; on transferring to the University of Missouri to learn journalism and broadcast news
09:15
On producing TV news in Green Bay, Wisconsin and Rochester, NY; on getting into programming and starting to produce documentaries; on what he learned from working in local news
06:54
On creating Crime Diaries, meeting production partner Mary-Ellis Bunim and forming a production company, Bunim-Murray Productions; on creating the show American Families
12:51
On the creation of The Real World and the show changing from scripted to unscripted; on the title of The Real World; on comparisons between An American Family, Survivor, and The Real World; on production on the pilot and using multiple cameras
11:29
On casting the pilot and the first cast of The Real World; on the show giving MTV a lot of publicity and reinforcing MTV's brand; on Bunim-Murray's great working relationship with MTV; on the second season and legal troubles with the show; on Kevin and Julie's fight on the first season of The Real World; on hiring more staff for the following seasons
12:17
On outlining episodes and editing The Real World; on the two unsuccessful attempts to steer the direction of the show
05:06

Chapter 2

On editing The Real World; on how "real" The Real World is and the show being a "docu-soap"; on casting the show; on the diverse casts of The Real World and casting Pedro Zamora, who was HIV Positive, in the San Francisco cast (Season Three)
14:29
On casting Puck for the San Francisco cast of The Real World; on Pedro's death; on having seven cast members; on the opening to The Real World: "this is the story of seven strangers..."; on Mary-Elis Bunim's soap opera background and his documentary background coming together on The Real World
09:56
On the difficulty of casting the show and keeping it real now, after years of success; on The Real World confessional; on the term "reality television"; on rules for Real World cast members; on liability issues on the show; on repeating locations for the show and censorship
15:37
On the question he gets ask most about The Real World; on what cast members get out of the experience; on the show's audience; on The Real World Challenges and reunions and keeping in touch with cast members; on the biggest challenges to producing The Real World
09:30
On his favorite season of The Real World; on being in production on The Real World during 9/11; on the legacy of The Real World; on the creation of Road Rules
10:03

Chapter 3

On the syndicated show Starting Over; on Mary-Ellis Bunim's death and her legacy
14:45
On creating and casting The Simple Life; on drama between Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie; on what Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie took away from their experience on The Simple Life 
10:20
On the documentary Autism: The Musical and other documentary projects; on the creation of The Bad Girls Club; on spinoffs and the creation of Keeping Up with the Kardashians; on why people love the Kardashians; on shooting Keeping Up with the Kardashians and what's off-limits on the show; on Kim Kardashian's marriage to Kris Humphries and how it affected Keeping Up with the Kardashians
18:35
On his involvement with Project Runway; on changes he brought to Project Runway; on casting and shooting the show; on Tim Gunn and the Project Runway judges; on the show's influence on the fashion industry
14:58

Chapter 4

On controversial wins on Project Runway (Gretchen over Mondo); on Mondo sharing that he is HIV positive; on the show's popularity; on the overall popularity of reality programming in recent years
08:02
On the premise behind Making the Band; on the state of reality TV today (2011); on shows he watches and enjoys; on cable networks and reality programming; on critics of reality television; on the future of reality TV; on what he's learned about human nature from his work in reality TV; on hiring staff for reality shows
18:25
On whether or not he would go on a reality show; on being referred to as a "pioneer of reality television"; on being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame; on current projects; on his proudest career achievement; on career regrets; on his mentor; on advice to someone wanting to get into reality television; on how he'd like to be remembered
11:53
Shows

American Family, An

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Jonathan Murray on the impact An American Family had on him
00:43
Jonathan Murray on comparisons between An American Family, Survivor, and The Real World
02:06

Bad Girls Club, The

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Jonathan Murray on the creation of The Bad Girls Club
04:30

Green Acres

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Jonathan Murray on The Simple Life as a real life Green Acres
01:09

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

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Jonathan Murray on the creation and shooting of Keeping Up with the Kardashians
08:08

Leave it to Beaver

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Jonathan Murray on loving Leave it to Beaver when he was a child
00:31

Loving

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Jonathan Murray on Mary-Ellis Bunim taking a job on Loving in order to get by while waiting for one of their series to get picked up
00:20

Making the Band

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Jonathan Murray on the premise behind Making the Band
02:21

Project Runway

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Jonathan Murray on his involvement with Project Runway
14:58
Jonathan Murray on controversial wins on Project Runway (Gretchen over Mondo); on Mondo sharing that he is HIV positive; on the show's popularity
05:41

Real World, The

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Jonathan Murray on the creation of The Real World, the show changing from scripted to unscripted, and production on the first season of the show
23:46
Jonathan Murray on outlining episodes and editing The Real World
05:06
Jonathan Murray on editing, the realness, casting and confessional on The Real World
43:56
Jonathan Murray on the audience of The Real World, keeping in touch with cast members, 9/11, and the show's legacy
11:06
Jonathan Murray on keeping reality TV fresh and creating spinoffs and new concepts from successful shows
01:43

Road Rules

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Jonathan Murray on the creation of Road Rules
04:33

Simple Life, The

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Jonathan Murray on the creation, casting, and cancellation of The Simple Life
10:20

Starting Over

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Jonathan Murray on the syndicated show Starting Over
09:19

Survivor

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Jonathan Murray on comparisons between An American Family, Survivor, and The Real World
00:56
Topics

9/11

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Jonathan Murray on being in production on The Real World during 9/11
02:51

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Jonathan Murray on censorship on The Real World
02:06

Criticism of TV

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Jonathan Murray on critics of reality television
01:49

Diversity in Television

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Jonathan Murray on the diverse cast of The Real World
01:38

Emmy Awards

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Jonathan Murray on winning his first Emmy for Starting Over
00:36

Historic Events and Social Change

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Jonathan Murray on being in production on The Real World during 9/11
02:51

Memorable Moments on Television

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Jonathan Murray on Kevin and Julie's fight on the first season of The Real World
00:42

Television Industry

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Jonathan Murray on censorship on The Real World
02:06
Professions

Producers

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Jonathan Murray on starting to produce documentaries
02:28
Jonathan Murray on his involvement in editing The Real World
04:45
Jonathan Murray on the biggest challenges to producing The Real World
01:28
Jonathan Murray on hiring staff for reality shows
03:19
Jonathan Murray on being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame
01:13
Genres

News and Documentary

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Jonathan Murray on the documentary Autism: The Musical
03:39

Reality TV

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Jonathan Murray on the impact An American Family had on him
00:43
Jonathan Murray on the creation of The Real World 
00:42
Jonathan Murray on outlining episodes and editing The Real World
05:06
Jonathan Murray on The Real World
55:02
Jonathan Murray on the style of reality television influencing scripted TV and commercials
00:22
Jonathan Murray on the term "reality television"
02:16
Jonathan Murray on the creation of Road Rules
04:33
Jonathan Murray on the creation, casting, and cancellation of The Simple Life
10:20
Jonathan Murray on the creation and shooting of Keeping Up with the Kardashians
08:08
Jonathan Murray on the creation of The Bad Girls Club
04:30
Jonathan Murray on his involvement with Project Runway
14:58
Jonathan Murray on controversial wins on Project Runway (Gretchen over Mondo); on Mondo sharing that he is HIV positive; on the show's popularity
05:41
Jonathan Murray on the overall popularity of reality programming in recent years
02:21
Jonathan Murray on the premise behind Making the Band
02:21
Jonathan Murray on the state of reality TV today (2011)
01:50
Jonathan Murray on critics of reality television, the future of reality TV, and cast members on shows
04:59
Jonathan Murray on what he's learned about human nature from his work in reality TV
01:57
People

Mary-Ellis Bunim

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Jonathan Murray on meeting production partner Mary-Ellis Bunim and his first impressions of her
06:17
Jonathan Murray on the creation of The Real World and the show changing from scripted to unscripted
04:18
Jonathan Murray on Mary-Elis Bunim's soap background contributing to The Real World
02:46
Jonathan Murray on Mary-Ellis Bunim's experience in soap operas being vital to Starting Over and on Mary-Elis' breast cancer reoccurring
01:33
Jonathan Murray on Mary-Ellis Bunim's death and her legacy
05:26
Jonathan Murray on being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame
01:13

Mike Darnell

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Jonathan Murray on the creation of The Simple Life
02:45

Barry Diller

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Jonathan Murray on Barry Diller liking his documentary series American Families
01:20

Paris Hilton

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Jonathan Murray on casting The Simple Life
04:36
Jonathan Murray on what Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie took away from their experience on The Simple Life
01:04

Heidi Klum

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Jonathan Murray on Project Runway and host Heidi Klum
01:31
Jonathan Murray on host Heidi Klum's contributions to casting and challenges on Project Runway
02:06

Nicole Richie

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Jonathan Murray on casting The Simple Life
04:36
Jonathan Murray on what Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie took away from their experience on The Simple Life
01:04

Ryan Seacrest

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Jonathan Murray on the creation of Keeping Up with the Kardashians
03:06

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