“I take neither the credit nor the blame,” executive producer Jonathan Murray smiles when asked about being billed as a pioneering leader and innovator in the reality TV genre. Thanks in large part to him and his producing partner, the late Mary-Ellis Bunim, the genre has spawned hundreds of formats, series and specials, becoming a juggernaut across the television landscape. So after decades of producing some of TV’s most recognizable reality franchises, it seems fitting that this season Murray was finally able to revisit his first foray in the genre with the latest iteration of MTV’s groundbreaking observational “Real World” reality TV series, “The Real World Homecoming: New York.”
Watch our exclusive video interview with Murray above in which he shares anecdotes about the trials, tribulations and joys of working on the show while also looking back on past highlights from his celebrated career to date.
Murray is the co-founder of Bunim/Murray Productions, often credited as having spearheaded the reality television genre. Since the launch of the original “Real World” in the early nineties, Murray has executive produced acclaimed reality stalwarts like the Emmy-winning “Project Runway” and MTV flagship series “Road Rules” and “The Challenge,” pop culture phenomenon “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” A&E’s Emmy-winning “Born This Way,” which documents the lives of young adults with Down Syndrome and their families, plus numerous documentaries such as the Emmy-winning “Autism: The Musical.”
Murray also serves as the Vice Chair of the Television Academy Foundation, the nonprofit charitable arm of the TV academy, was a former member of the academy’s board of governors and in 2012 was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame with producing partner Bunim.
Among the productions shepherded by Murray this past season was the nostalgic “The Real World Homecoming: New York,” which reunites the cast of the first season of “The Real World,” which launched in 1992 as the first true reality series to air on television. The original cast was invited back to live in the same New York loft they lived in for the original series, nearly 30 years after filming ended. The show contemplates how our culture has changed over the years, and also how reality TV itself has morphed and evolved over the years.
Murray is proud of what a show like “The Real World” represents, both on a personal level and also in how it contemplates socia issues in an authentic and honest way. “It’s a commercial form of the documentary, where you’re going out and you’re casting the seven people to live together, you’re art directing the loft they’re going to live in together. But still, by believing that by putting those people together, you could still get at some of the big truths, you know that when they come together those conversations will take us into places that maybe wouldn’t normally go to. I’m proud of what we’ve done as a company, and this opportunity to do Real World Homecoming was a big full full circle moment for all of us and really made us have a better sense of the impact of the show.”
“Part of the excitement of doing this, this particular season, is that there really was a genuine connection and love between those cast members,” Murray adds about his desire to reunite the cast of the original season of the show. “They really are a family, and even though they disagree, even though they squabble, at the center of that is a lot of love.”
Looking forward, Murray hopes that lightning can strike again by revisiting the format in the near future. “The response to ‘Real World Homecoming’ was so great both critically and in terms of viewership that I think we’re headed towards doing another one,” he reveals. “It proved that there’s some there’s a value in going back and looking at it and that this format we came up with, bringing the cast back together to live together and not just to sit on a stage with a host, that there’s something powerful in it.”
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