In Depth

The Cable Guys: Jon Murray

Co-founder, Bunim-Murray Productions

A former local TV news producer, Jon Murray—and his late partner, Mary-Ellis Bunim—invented the docusoap with the 1992 premiere of “The Real World.” An entire generation suddenly was hooked on the idea of watching ordinary people lead their lives on camera, all accompanied by a hip soundtrack.

TVWeek’s Real Power

The show introduced what would become a staple of reality TV: diary-room confessionals in which participants commented on the action. It also launched a successful spinoff, “Road Rules,” that would later morph into what MTV now calls “The Challenge.”

While Mr. Murray has never launched another show with quite as much pop-culture impact as “Real World”—though the Paris Hilton-led “The Simple Life” came close—the fact that his first big hit is still going strong nearly two decades later testifies to his importance and relevance to the genre. His company maintains a healthy roster of cable series, including E!’s “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and “Living Lohan,” as well as Oxygen’s “Bad Girls Club.” What’s more, Lifetime recently tapped Mr. Murray to take over as executive producer of “Project Runway,” the Bravo smash that will switch networks next winter.

Dream collaboration: “Simon Cowell. I think he really understands how to get the most out of every moment of possible drama in a story.”