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And then each season, the cast members come into it having experienced other seasons, but in order to keep them on their toes we have to come up with a new game or a new theme.” and other competition shows.”While Bunim/Murray pride themselves on adaptability, their core techniques are more or less unchanging: recruit an interesting, diverse cast, and get out of their way.
According to Murray, “We were always going to cast for diversity, and we were going to reach out to marginalized communities who hadn’t been featured on television.” This was partly an issue of corrective representation, since “in 1992 television was still pretty white, there weren’t gay people on it.” But it was also a matter of making good television; according to Murray, “If you cast diverse, interesting people, they will bring interesting stories with them.” One of famously featured Pedro Zamora, an openly gay, HIV-positive contestant.
“And they later went on to get married and I think they’ve got six or seven kids and he’s a congressman now from Wisconsin.
Over the years, people have followed these cast members’ lives as they’ve fallen in love, fallen out of love, got married, got divorced…It’s sort of fascinating because the viewers come to each season with so much knowledge about these people and they’re already so invested in them.
We put up little signs in laundromats where you could tear off a number and call it if you’re interested in this experiment of living with some people that you didn’t know…and we set up down on Broadway and Spring street I think—or Broadway and Prince, I can’t remember which.
“And quite honestly we weren’t always completely sure what we were doing either.” “After it went on the air and was an immediate success, Mary-Ellis and I would be at Warner Bros.
But while the rest of the world was still catching up, Bunim and Murray were already working to ensure that would be a fresh cast and we’d move to a new location.
And again that broke the rules of television, because normally you keep the same cast, you keep the same location.
We were out trying to sell reality shows before—well, I don’t think people understood what reality was.” In fact, when Bunim and Murray first met with MTV, it was with the intention of creating a scripted soap opera called , focusing on the lives of a group of young Lower East Siders.
“But then you realize how much a scripted drama will cost,” Murray laughs.