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Jan 30, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Mary-Ellis Bunim Dead at 57

Mary-Ellis Bunim, considered the matriarch of reality television, has died. She and partner Jonathan Murray were the heads of Bunin-Murray Productions.

Among the credits Ms. Bunin has created over the years are “The Real World,” “Road Rules,” “The Love Cruise,” “Making the Band,” “The Real World Road Rules Challenge,” the reality feature film “The Real Cancun,” the real-life daytime syndicated hour “Starting Over,” and most recently Fox’s smash “The Simple Life,” starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.

Ms. Bunim’s career in television began with soap operas, before agent Mark Itkin of the William Morris Agency put her together with Mr. Murray, whose background was in TV news. Merging the documentary nature of news and the dramatic intrigue of soap operas, Bunim-Murray hatched an innovative idea for a dramatic series featuring real people rather than actors. That series became MTV’s “The Real World,” which effectively marked the beginning of the reality television genre.

“Mary-Ellis was a one-in-a-million partner and friend, and I will always treasure our incredible years of collaboration. Even as the family at Bunim-Murray Productions mourns her loss, we will honor her memory by remaining committed to her ideals of creativity, adventure and excellence, both on the screen and in our lives,” Mr. Murray said.

Ms. Bunim died of cancer Thursday in Los Angeles. She was 57. She is survived by her daughter, Juliana.

The company also suffered the loss this week of veteran television production executive Bonnie Bogard, VP of creative affairs for Bunim-Murray Productions. She was 47.

“Bonnie’s intelligence, enthusiasm and humor made her an absolute pleasure to be around. She made everything she touched better, including all of us at Bunim-Murray who had the good fortune to work with her. She will be warmly remembered and sorely missed,” Mr. Murray said.

UPN Orders Two More Seasons of ‘Top Model’: UPN has ordered a third and fourth season of its reality hit “America’s Next Top Model,” the network announced Friday. Last Tuesday’s episode of “Top Model” gave UPN 7.11 million viewers and delivered the network’s best ratings ever in its time period among women 18-34. The executive producers are Ken Mok (“Making the Band”) and Tyra Banks, who also hosts the show.