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Mary-Ellis Bunim

Mary-Ellis Bunim

For well over a decade, cable and broadcast networks, syndicators and viewers around the world have looked to Jonathan Murray and Mary-Ellis Bunim and their production company for reality television that is ground-breaking and unforgettable. Known primarily for their hit series The Real World (MTV), Road Rules (MTV), Making the Band (ABC/MTV) and Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage (FOX), Bunim and Murray have emerged as an industry leader that uses time-honored skills in dramatic story structure to turn the tales of ordinary real people into extraordinary television. Whether their around-the-clock cameras are documenting the lives and loves of the MTV generation, and beyond, or writing scripted dramas that are grounded in life experiences that everyone can relate to Bunim and Murray and their talented team at Bunim-Murray Productions (BMP) continue to create a body of work that is, to quote their own company motto, as real as it gets.

The Real World: Las Vegas (season 12) recently completed it's season, becoming the highest-rated Real World installment to date. Production is underway on The Real World: Paris and Road Rules: South Seas. Currently airing on MTV is The Real World/Road Rules Battle of the Sexes, an exciting competition series between alumni from both The Real World and Road Rules. Upcoming is Born to Diva on VH1.

2002 saw the airing of Road Rules: Campus Crawl and The Real World: Chicago on MTV; The Real World Movie: The Lost Season a scripted MTV television movie; the MTV series "Battle of the Seasons: The Real World vs. Road Rules and the FOX 2-hour special Girl Next Door: The Search for a Playboy Centerfold." They followed a very busy 2001 that included airings of Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage on FOX; The Real World 10: Back to New York, Road Rules 10: The Quest, The Real World/Road Rules Casting Special and The Real World 10th Anniversary Special all on MTV.

BMP is also working on a myriad of both reality-based and scripted projects including: Simple Life (working title) a real life version of Green Acres for FOX; Altered Egos - a reality/scripted hybrid - and another scripted series, Interns, for MTV; the syndicated series Starting Over, which is in pre-production for NBC Enterprises; and other projects being pitched to (and in development for) network, cable, syndication and feature films.

Bunim (with an extensive background in producing soap operas) and Murray (who came from the world of news and documentaries) first teamed on a dramatic detective series called Crime Diaries for Quintex and a six-part reality series, American Families, for FOX. Aware that MTV was interested in launching their own soap opera, Bunim and Murray pitched an alternate way to achieve drama by combining the elements of soap opera and documentary to create a new format for television: The Real World, a reality serial that follows seven young people picked to live together as housemates. Launched in June of 1992, The Real World quickly became an icon of the 18-34 demographic. Initially set in a New York City loft, subsequent seasons have been taped in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Miami, Boston, Seattle, Hawaii, New Orleans - back to New York for the 10th season - Chicago, Las Vegas and, next, Paris, France for the upcoming season 13. The Real World has won many awards and honors including a TV Guide Award, a New York Festival medal and recent nominations for an Emmy and multiple People's Choice and Teen Choice awards. The first four seasons were recently in national syndication for 2 years.

A Real World spin-off titled Road Rules premiered on MTV in July of 1995 and features 5-6 young people who travel together in extremely close quarters and are given a series of missions to accomplish. For eleven seasons, Road Rules has traversed across the United States, Latin America, Canada, Europe, Australia, around the world with the Semester-at-Sea program, Morocco and Spain - and the recently aired U.S. college campus tour (Campus Crawl). The South Seas edition is currently in production. Two specials - Road Rules Ultimate Missions and Road Rules: Unflushed - were produced as part of the ninth season. A making of home video and three best-selling books based on Road Rules have been released. Road Rules 9: Maximum Velocity Tour was nominated as Outstanding Non-Fiction Program (Special Class) for the 2001 Emmys. The first eight seasons went into syndication in the fall of 2002.

BMP has produced five specials inspired by The Real World: A Tribute to Pedro Zamora (a cast member of The Real World: San Francisco who died of AIDS in 1994 at the age of 22); The Real World Reunion featuring the casts from the first four seasons; The Real World Reunion 2000 with the casts from Miami, Boston, Seattle and Hawaii; and The Real World: Unmasked, a talk with the New Orleans cast following their season finale; and The Real World 10th Anniversary Special. Realizing that the show's fans always ask how seven people are chosen from over 35,000 annual applications, BMP created casting specials about the process as a prelude to five seasons of The Real World and Road Rules. Eight home videos and seven books based on the series have been released - most recently a new video and book in connection with The Real World: Las Vegas.

"Battle of the Seasons: The Real World vs. Road Rules," with 32 alumni from both shows in a head-to-head competition, followed the success of three previous Challenges and Road Rules All Stars. A new Battle of the Sexes is currently airing.

Bunim-Murray Productions' thirteen-plus years as a Los Angeles-based production entity have been very prolific. Among their past projects are: Personally Yours, a CBS television movie starring Valerie Bertinelli (produced in association with Grossbart-Barnett Productions); Friends & Lovers, a one hour NBC special; The Crusaders, a news magazine pilot for Buena Vista Television which was successfully launched into syndication; Class Reunion, a two hour reality MOW for NBC; an ABC prime-time drama pilot called Jam Bay; Catch Me If You Can, a game/reality pilot for ABC (based on the U.K. show Wanted); Real Families for Lifetime; the reality strip/pilots Real Medical and About Last Night for Buena Vista; and Love Hurts for Columbia Tri-Star Television .

Bunim/Murray Productions is currently expanding the size and scope of its website at www.bunim-murray.com to build an online community around the type of reality programming it helped to pioneer.

Before her partnership with Murray, Mary-Ellis Bunim executive network produced more than 2,500 hours of daytime television on Search for Tomorrow, As the World Turns, Santa Barbara, and Loving. Later, as Vice-President - Tape Programs for New World Entertainment, Bunim developed a variety of programming for Children, Network Daytime, Late-night and First-Run. After graduating from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Jonathan Murray spent six years in local television news (WLUX-TV, WXIA-TV and WKYC-TV), programming and station management (WOKR-TV). From there he went to the national television sales rep firm, HRP, Inc., where he helped local stations buy and schedule their syndicated programming.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2004.

Mary-Ellis Bunim Facts

Birth Name Mary-Ellis Paxton
BirthdayJuly 9, 1946
BirthplaceNorthampton, Massachusetts, USA
Date of deathJanuary 29, 2004 (age 57)

Selected Filmography

Howdy, Welcome to Austin
Welcome To Key West
The Real World Movie
Real World Reunion: Inside Out
The Real Cancun
Wilderness Love
Praying For A Miracle
Real World You Never Saw: Boston & Seattle
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