Bunim/Murray's 'Starting Over' wins 2004/05 'Special Class Series' Daytime Emmy
By Wade Paulsen, 05/18/2005
For the first time, a reality series has won a 'Best Series' Daytime Emmy Award. This Daytime Emmy also happens to be the first Emmy ever won by the widely acknowledged creators of the modern reality TV genre, Bunim/Murray Productions.
On Saturday, May 14, the syndicated show Starting Over, which has been referred to as a "docusoap" and a "soaprah" for its blend of reality, soap and talk-show elements, was named 'Best Special Class Series' in the 2004/05 Daytime Emmys "creative arts" presentations. It defeated two other syndicated series, Animal Rescue and Judge Judy, as well as TLC's A Baby Story and A&E's Breakfast with the Arts. However, Starting Over lost its other Daytime Emmy nomination, for the technical award for 'Best Multiple Camera Editing,' to The Oprah Winfrey Show.
With its win, Starting Over becomes just the fifth reality show ever to win a 'Best Series' Emmy, joining prime-time winners Survivor (CBS) (2000/01 Outstanding Special Class Program), The Osbournes (MTV) (2001/02 Outstanding Nonfiction (Reality) Program), The Amazing Race (CBS) (2002/03 and 2003/04 Outstanding Reality-Competition Program) and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Bravo/NBC) (2003/04 Outstanding Reality Program).
Bunim/Murray Productions is generally credited with having pioneered the reality TV genre with its MTV smash The Real World, which debuted back in 1992. Since then, BMP has created and produced reality shows as diverse as Road Rules, Love Cruise, Making the Band and The Simple Life -- but never before in its 18-year history has BMP won an Emmy.
This Emmy might be especially meaningful for Jonathan Murray, because his production partner (and Starting Over co-creator) Mary-Ellis Bunim died from cancer in January 2004, during Starting Over's first season. Despite the loss, the Emmy-winning second season of the show included both continuity -- such as the return of Season 1 "life coach"/host Rhonda Britten and pregnant first season cast member Josie (now accompanied by her baby Chloe) -- and change -- such as a new co-executive producer: Millee Taggard-Ratcliffe, a move to Los Angeles from Chicago, and the addition of two new on-air personalities: "life coach" Iyanla Vanzant and consulting psychologist Dr. Stan J. Katz.
"When Mary-Ellis and I created this hybrid of soap, talk and reality formats, we saw it as a chance to change lives for the better while trying something different in daytime TV," said Murray after the win. "On behalf of the more than 100 people involved in producing this show, and my whole team at Bunim-Murray Productions, I want to thank NBC Universal and our affiliates all over the U.S. for continuing to believe in Starting Over, and the members of the Academy for choosing to reward innovation."
The show, which had already been renewed for its third season, is syndicated by NBC Universal Television Distribution, and most of the stations that air it are NBC affiliates. Frederick Huntsberry, Executive Vice President, NBC Universal Television Distribution, saw the Emmy win as a reason for Starting Over to get better time slots in Season 3: "This award confirms our commitment to this daytime franchise and to Bunim-Murray. Furthermore, it affirms station commitments to upgrade the series in more than 35 local markets for the 2005/2006 season."
One other reality series had been nominated for a 'Best Series' Daytime Emmy this year, but Endurance: Hawaii, the teenaged blend of Survivor and Bug Juice that aired on NBC and Discovery Kids, lost the 2004/05 'Best Children's Series' Daytime Emmy to the preschool-oriented PBS show Reading Rainbow. Since there is a separate Daytime Emmy category for 'Best Pre-school Children's Show', the placement of Reading Rainbow in this older-skewing category is difficult to understand ... but then again, so are a lot of Emmy nominations.
One of Starting Over's Emmy-winning production team was the subject of his own feature story in the Nashua Telegraph. Coordinating producer Roger C. Memos' life sounds similar, in many ways, to the lives of the women that appear on Starting Over. Memos' mother was mentally ill and could not take care of him. He lived with a foster family from the ages of 3 to 12, when the family could no longer afford to keep him. He then went back to an orphanage until adulthood, while making up a "fantasy family" so that he didn't have to tell his school friends about his real situation.
In describing his work for the show, Roger said "Itís a daunting but rewarding job. As a former educator, I feel compelled to use the power of television to educate as well as to entertain. I knew about getting to a place of forgiveness like the women on the show. And like them, I had also had to work on healing relationships. I understood what it means to get past shame, love yourself and move on to a better place. Itís funny Iím proud of the work on this show, but I couldnít have done it with out my own baggage. Thatís the truth. I guess itís no accident I chose the job."
And maybe that versimilitude is also what enabled Bunim-Murray Productions to break its 18-year Emmy-less drought.
Members of the Bunim-Murray Productions team that were credited with production participation in Starting Over for purposes of the Daytime Emmys are listed below -- and somewhat surprisingly include Season 1 co-host/"life coach" Rana Walker, who did not participate in Season 2:
JONATHAN MURRAY, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
MARY-ELLIS BUNIM, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
MILLEE TAGGART-RATCLIFFE, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
JIM JOHNSTON, CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
LINDA MIDGETT, CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
JOAN O'CONNOR, CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
FRANCESCA JAMES, PRODUCER
JEANNINE DENHOLM, PRODUCER
ERIN PAULLUS, PRODUCER
BEN GREENBERG, PRODUCER
PETER STEEN, PRODUCER
TRACY WHITTAKER, PRODUCER
ADRIANE HOPPER, PRODUCER
JEANINE CORNILLOT, PRODUCER
LISA WEISS, PRODUCER
SUSAN BARONOFF, PRODUCER
JOE ALONSO, PRODUCER
PEGGY MURPHY, PRODUCER
JAMES GAVIN BEDFORD, PRODUCER
BRANDON WILSON, PRODUCER
ANDREA BAILEY, PRODUCER
RUBYE WILSON, PRODUCER
KATHY WUSSLER, PRODUCER
STEPHANIE TOMASKY, PRODUCER
PAM LEWIS, PRODUCER
SYLVIA MALDONADO, PRODUCER
JONATHAN REINER, PRODUCER
JENIENE PHILLIPS BIRKS, PRODUCER
DAVID WALLACH, PRODUCER
MARK NIEDELSON, PRODUCER
ALEX MILTSCH, PRODUCER
GUIDO VERWEYEN, PRODUCER
SARAH PILLSBURY, PRODUCER
ROGER C. MEMOS, COORDINATING PRODUCER
PAT LOFTHOUSE, COORDINATING PRODUCER
CLIFF GRANT, LINE PRODUCER
RANA WALKER, CO-HOST
RHONDA BRITTEN, CO-HOST
IYANLA VANZANT, CO-HOST
DR. STAN J. KATZ, CO-HOST