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Bunim/Murray Developing ‘Flavor Of Love’ Reboot


EXCLUSIVE: What do Sylvester Stallone, Lisa Vanderpump and Flavor Flav have in common? They all front reality shows produced by a Julie Pizzi-run company.

Pizzi was named President of Bunim/Murray Productions in February 2021 and two and a half years later took over Banijay sibling company 51 Minds Entertainment.

She has spent the last six months overseeing both companies, figuring out their strategies and how best to make it in the world of non-fiction.

51 Minds is behind Below Deck and its slate of oceanic spinoffs and is plotting a comeback for Public Enemy star Flav (more below), while Bunim/Murray is behind series such as Paramount+’s The Family Stallone, The Challenge universe and CBS’ Buddy Games.

The latter also opened the doors to Vanderpump Villa, a series fronted by its namesake that is set at her luxury French villa. The series launched on Hulu yesterday (April 1), marking Vanderpump’s first series outside of the NBCUniversal system and Bunim/Murray’s first show with Hulu.

Pizzi told Deadline that the series was being developed for a couple of years, before Vanderpump Rules got a second wind with the Scandoval ratings bonanza.

“We started thinking about a big new show in the Upstairs Downstairs world, which ever since The White Lotus has been such a rich area,” she said. “Lisa is already a brand. We started developing this project a year before Scandoval happened so I think Lisa was kind of looking at what was next for her.”

The show follows Vanderpump’s hand-picked staff as they live and work together to navigate every extravagant desire of their well-to-do guests. Pizzi called the former Housewive a “master of hospitality” who is “very involved creatively” with the show, which she called a “massive undertaking”.

“Lisa is an incredible producer, she really has a keen eye for what works in unscripted. We certainly had the benefit of her name in terms of trying to sell this,” Pizzi added.

Vanderpump Villa (Photo by: Gilles Mingasson /Hulu)

Pizzi has worked with Bunim/Murray for many years, long before she took the top job. In fact, she worked with Cris Abrego, who now runs Hyphenate Media with Eva Longoria, at Bunim/Murray before he co-founded 51 Minds Entertainment, which she is now in charge of. She has spent the last six months focusing on specific lanes for the two companies, which she said share a DNA.

“There’s a lot of similarity,” she admits. “I feel like Bunim/Murray could have created Below Deck and 51 Minds could have created Vanderpump Villa. But part of my goal has been to look at what both of the brands are doing right now, and really lean into what can make them distinct.”

51 Minds Entertainment has been moving into the renovation space in recent years with series such as HGTV’s Married To Real Estate and Netflix’s Hack My Home. The company makes Hulu’s Drive with Swizz Beatz and Pizzi says it will lean into this male-skewing element more. “We’re launching a lot of our new sports shows through 51,” she added.

The Surreal Life producer also revels in nostalgia, having been behind The Flavor of Love.

Pizzi reveals that the company is now in the process of rebooting this dating show, which ran on VH1 for three seasons between 2006 and 2008.

“We’re in the process of working with Flavor Flav to reimagine what Flavor of Love can feel like in this in this decade, which is very different. The project is really fun, a comedy in the dating space,” she added.

Flav will not, however, be doing the dating this time around but will be part of the process.

51 Minds Entertainment owns The Flavor of Love brand. “We have such a deep relationship with Paramount so we will absolutely take it to them first, but we will also shop it around,” she said.

The labels of 51 Minds and Bunim/Murray but the two companies will share services and the development teams will work closely together.

51 Minds’ “crown jewel” is undoubtedly Below Deck.

The main show, which airs on Bravo, is currently airing Season 11, Below Deck: Mediterranean just aired in eighth season, Below Deck: Sailing Yacht is getting ready for its fifth season and Below Deck: Down Under is going in to its third season.

“The franchise is alive and well,” said Pizzi. “51 Minds is really lucky to have that level of success and it just keeps going. People really do love the show. Bravo’s done a really good job of keeping it relevant and continuing.”

Below Deck: Down Under became one of the poster children for NBCUniversal rolling out a new set of workplace conduct guidlelines last year. This came after the show faced an alcohol-related issue with some of its stars.

“We worked pretty much over the last six months with NBC to rewrite protocols and to create a safe work environment for both the cast and crew. With all shows, we always have to continue to evolve, to stay on top of how we put care and custody at the forefront of anything that we do,” she said.

On the Bunim/Murray side, The Challenge is that company’s major franchise. The Challenge: Battle For A New Champion recently aired its 39th season on MTV and is heading into its 40th season. Paramount+’s The Challenge: All Stars is returning for its fourth season, set in Cape Town, South Africa, on April 10 and the second season of The Challenge: USA aired on CBS last summer.

The Challenge universe has grown a lot in the last couple of years. It’s a great format that has worked for 30 years,” she said.

Josh Duhamel in Buddy Games (CBS)

Pizzi hopes that it can grow its other CBS show – Buddy Games – into a similar franchise.

The show, which is based on the 2019 comedy movie directed by and starring Josh Duhamel, launched in September as a competition format. “It was so much fun. Josh has been an incredible partner and CBS did a great job marketing it and it was a success. We’re really hoping to do another cycle. It’s the kind of show that’s super family friendly and I have never worked with a host that is more enthusiastic and excited about a project,” she added.

Bunim/Murray is arguably best known for The Real World and Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Outside of the Housewives universe, there have been fewer and fewer of these classic, reality docusoaps. Bucking that trend, however, was The Family Stallone, Paramount+’s series starring Sylvester Stallone and his family.

Stallone was evidently encouraged to do the show by his daughters Sophia, Sistine and Scarlet. “What was unexpected is how much fun [Stallone] was going to have doing it. Initially, we laughed because when we shot the presentation, we were thinking Sly will be involved somehow. But he couldn’t get out of the cameras way. He was directing our crew. He was directing his daughters. He was like getting in there. I think he ended up having a good time,” she said.

The second season aired in February and Pizzi hopes for a third season.

Stallone is one of a number of hugely successful actors who have become involved in the unscripted world alongside the likes of Rob Lowe, who is hosting Fox game show The Floor, and Jamie Foxx, who is involved in Beat Shazam and We Are Family.

“Every single day, we have inquiries from really big, big talent open to doing unscripted. What I find fascinating is that they love the genre. They watch it, and now they really see it as an economic possibility for them,” added Pizzi.

In spite of all of this, there have been some challenges in the unscripted industry.

Pizzi says IP and franchises matter in the non-fiction space. She said that her companies have sold “quite a few new formats and show in the last couple of months, which was a little unexpected based on the climate”.

“With the right packaging, big ideas are still selling right now. Networks aren’t as quick to buy something, so sometimes there’s some development steps, but we are selling. I just don’t think that we’re doing a lot of filler television anymore, they’re very precise buys,” she said.

She highlights genres including true-crime, cooking and social experiments with a “sweet spot” of just under $1M an episode.  “Looking at what has been noisy and successful this year, it’s doubling down on size, money, the competition, the stakes, everything has to feel epic and like a spectacle.

It has a couple of big bets in the formats space including adventure format No Way Back, a partnership with John De Mol’s Talpa Studios starring Bear Grylls, which is being taken out to the market in the next couple of weeks.

Pizzi is generally optimistic. “I do feel like it’s turning up,” she said. “It really does feel like there’s a lot of momentum in the industry right now.”



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