It’s been a tough week at Bunim-Murray, the production company that created MTV: Music Television’s Real World and Road Rules and Fox’s The Simple Life.
Company co-founder, Mary-Ellis Bunim, 57, succumbed to cancer Thursday, preceded by two days by one of her top lieutenants, Bonnie Bogard, 47, who also died of cancer. Bogard was Bunim-Murray’s vice president of creative affairs.
Bunim founded Bunim-Murray with partner Jonathan Murray. Agent Mark Itkin of the William Morris Agency put the two together to develop a scripted soap opera for MTV. When that was too expensive, they decided to try an unscripted soap and the Real World was born.
"We knew within 20 minutes of shooting that we had a show," Bunim told B&C in an interview last fall.
Since then, Bunim and Murray went on to create The Love Cruise, Making theBand and feature film, The Real Cancun. This season, the team did syndication’s first reality drama, NBC Enterprises’ Starting Over, and saw their first reality success in prime time, The Simple Life, starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.
"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," Murray said in a statement.
Bunim got her start producing soap operas, working on such daytime dramas as Search for Tomorrow, As the World Turns, Santa Barbara and Loving. Later, she was the vice president of tape programs for New World Entertainment.
She died in Los Angeles and is survived by a daughter, Juliana.
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Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.