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‘Real World’ Backlot Talk

Jan 5, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Hi. I’m Melissa Grego, managing editor of TelevisionWeek. I’d like to welcome back Jon Murray, creator-executive producer of “The Real World,” to TVWeek.com’s Producer Shop Talk for our final chat about “Real World: Denver.”
Ms. Grego: Considering the experience the cast had with alcohol and sex and fighting with each other, I found the rules that Outward Bound laid out for them pretty interesting. Did you and/or any of the other producers have any input or is that just the Outward Bound rule: no sex, no alcohol, no making other people feel bad?
Mr. Murray: That’s just the Outward Bound rules. As the leaders that they’re going to be of young people on these Outward Bound trips, they have to set a good example and they have to be in full command of their faculties as they’re leading these teenagers.
Ms. Grego: Did those rules and Outward Bound’s philosophy come into play when you were planning what kind of job they would have this season? Did that sound like a good match to you?
Mr. Murray: Outward Bound is a job we’ve wanted to do for awhile and when we decided we wanted to take the show to Colorado and to Denver, we thought it was the perfect time to do it and we thought the contrast between their typical young wild and crazy life in Denver and what they would be doing in Outward Bound would be good for the show.
Ms. Grego: Do you purposefully wait a little while to let them establish their dynamic before you set them off into their job like that?
Mr. Murray: [laughs] I wish it was that premeditated. Usually what ends up happening is we’re in the process of finalizing the job, working out the contract and all the details and it always seems to me it always drags out a little longer, so the job always ends up starting a little later into the season than we’d hoped. I think this job started around the third week of the season.
Ms. Grego: So it was just the logistics? It wasn’t so much planned …
Mr. Murray: No, it wasn’t. Our goal is to try and get them involved in the job, or at least have the job told to them and have them take the first steps in the job about two weeks into taping. But usually out of the first week in the show, you’ll get two or three shows. The way it works is that when they first move into the house, over those first two weeks, you’ll make a lot of television, then you’ll get a lull period and then you’ll make a lot of television and then you’ll get another lull period.
Ms. Grego: Now Jenn anticipated it would be a “purifying experience” as she said. Does that end up holding true? She kept saying that on the episode last night.
Mr. Murray: I think Outward Bound was hardest on Brooke. I think it was the most challenging for her because she’s sort of a Southern Belle. And I think it was hard on Stephen because he wasn’t as into it. But for both of them it was more the psychological impact of something they weren’t comfortable [with] and the other people were a little more up to the challenge but at times found it very challenging.
Ms. Grego: But we can assume Jenn manages to survive without partying for a few days?
Mr. Murray: Yeah, actually they do really well. I don’t want to give away the story, but I think if you talk to them, they would feel pretty good about the whole experience.
Ms. Grego: I noticed the Jeeps that they took out there appeared to be product placement. There were a couple of Jeep spots in commercial breaks. Can you talk a little bit about how in particular that deal came together or in general how product placements come together on your show and what sort of interaction you have with that?
Mr. Murray: We don’t have a lot of opportunity for product placement on “The Real World.” But each season usually we try with MTV to work out a deal with a car company that will provide not only the cast vehicle, but also some production vehicles for us. And this time we were very happy to work with Jeep and having the opportunity to showcase the Compass, their new vehicle.
Ms. Grego: So cars are the primary source of product placement then?
Mr. Murray: Yeah, sometimes we’ll get some kind of a phone partner, but there’s more opportunity for product integration on our “Real World-Road Rules” challenges. But with “Real World” there’s quite a bit of trade-out stuff where we’ll get a company that makes appliances and it’s very simple: they’ll provide the appliances and you’ll see them, but there’s no commercials tied to it.
Ms. Grego: And what’s your take on them? You feel pretty okay with doing that?
Mr. Murray: My feeling is always that it has to be organic to the show. The fact that we use appliances that we get as a trade-out doesn’t affect your viewing of the show. And even the Jeeps I think worked out fine because they did need some kind of a vehicle to get to their job. Particularly if they’re going up into the mountains, a Jeep seemed to be a natural vehicle to use.
Ms. Grego: Have you ever had to say, “No, I don’t want that?”
Mr. Murray: MTV has been really great. They’ve been really cognizant of the importance of trade-outs or any kind of relationship with a sponsor not getting in the way of telling a story. So we have a great relationship with MTV on picking and choosing the right things to work into the show.
Ms. Grego: As far as the ratings are going, we’re several episodes in now. How are you feeling about the performance of the show on MTV?
Mr. Murray: “Real World: Denver” has been a big success. I think we had a major challenge in that we moved to a new night, from Tuesday to Wednesday. But it’s been very successful for them and I think is pretty consistently one of their top couple shows. So it’s been very successful. We’ve seen a lot of strength in the 12-24 demo[graphic], which is one of their primary areas of selling. I think it’s tracking higher than “Key West,” which was the previous season.
Ms. Grego: How many seasons are you renewed now on this show? How many more can we look forward to?
Mr. Murray: We’re renewed through Season 20. This is Season 18, so we’re in pre-production on Season 19 and Season 20 is not very far away.
Ms. Grego: Now there was something I read somewhere about Sydney. Is that where you’re doing 19? Have you determined that yet?
Mr. Murray: We haven’t announced where we’re going for Season 19.
Ms. Grego: Okay. Is it Sydney?
Mr. Murray: We haven’t announced where we’re going for Season 19.
Ms. Grego: [laughs] Okay. Well thank you so much Jon. I really all appreciate your time talking about “Real World: Denver” and I look forward to talking to you more in the future.
Mr. Murray: Very good.

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