It was three years ago this month when nobody knew that a houseful of rambunctious women put together in a house would create such a ratings bonanza for the Oxygen network. "The Bad Girls Club" has been breaking ratings records for the network since its 2006 premiere and, based on the strong performance of the season four premiere last week, this reality series will continue to entertain for a long time to come. Executive Producer/Creator Jon Murray talked with our Jim Halterman last week about how the bad girls are chosen, why there won't be a 'Bad Boys Club' and why Murray loves working in the world of cable.
Jim Halterman: Congratulations on the performance of the season premiere of "The Bad Girls Club."
Jon Murray: Oxygen was very happy. It was our highest premiere in a lot of the key demos.
JH: What do you think is the appeal of the show?
JM: I think it's fun watching people who aren't afraid to live their lives sort of loudly. I think most of us constrain ourselves to follow what society dictates but these women are unapologetically themselves.
JH: When you are casting each season, what's the criteria that makes for a good bad girl?
JM: First of all, it's not easy to find them. This is one of the toughest shows to cast. You don't want a sad girl. You want someone who is confident in who they are, who is opinionated, who knows what they want and goes after it. You want someone who doesn't believe in following rules that they think are stupid. You want this girl who is just out there.
JH: The girls are not allowed to hit each other while living in the house but what are some of the other house rules?
JM: There really aren't a lot of rules. The main rule is that we don't want anybody to get hurt. We want everybody to have fun. That's the main thing we worry about but other than that it's their house; they're running it.
JH: Because the tensions sometimes become very heated, are the camera crew and the producers always on alert in case they have to jump in?
JM: There are times when you might not see a producer step in and suggest that a girl takes some time and get away from each other and cool down. And then there are times when suddenly something that seemed like it was a lot of fun suddenly turns in a way that causes us concern so the crew steps in.
JH: From start to finish on a season of 'The Bad Girls Club' do the girls change?
JM: I think if you look at the first three seasons and the trajectory of each cast, I think for the first time some of these women form trusting friendships with other women as opposed to ones that are the dysfunctional relationships they've had in the past. I think in looking at the other girls' behavior they can sometimes see themselves and they realize 'I need to find a way to control all this energy that I have.' And then during the weekly interviews when they're asked about their actions and what prompted them. It seems most of the women come out of the experience a little more functional in terms of knowing their own strengths and knowing how to control those in ways that helps them be more successful in friendships and relationships but still not sacrificing that wonderful attitude that makes them so much fun.
JH: Between this show and all the reality series you've done, are you desensitized from being surprised when you see what goes on with these casts once the cameras go on?
JM: No, I think we spend a lot of time in the casting process really getting to know these girls - or any people who are on one of our shows - that's really the job in the casting. You really want to understand the person and really make sure that you know who they are so we do multiple interviews, background checks, reference checks... we're fine with flawed people. We don't want perfect people. But we just want to make sure that we understand who they are so the person who walks into the house is the same person we saw in casting.
JH: Some of the girls might have early departures for various reasons such as violence but do you have back-ups ready to take their place?
JM: Yeah, when we come out of our casting, we usually have 10-12 women that we really like and then it's just a matter of which seven are going to end up in the house so there's always somebody ready to show up at the house if for some reason one of the girls leave.
JH: Any chance we'll see a 'Bad Boys Club?'
JM: [Laughs.] I don't know. One of the reasons we did 'The Bad Girls Club' is that women are a little more open about their lives than guys. They're a little more honest [and] guys tend to bottle things up more. I also think there's a power and an excitement in women being powerful. Guys being powerful is something you expect but seven powerful women in a house, I think, is more interesting.
JH: Jon, you've had such a hand in where reality television has gone since you created 'The Real World' in 1992. Has the envelope been pushed as far as it can be pushed?
JM: That's a good question. You know, ultimately, it comes down to great characters, great storytelling and an interesting premise. It's always hard to say in terms of the premise that it's what you would be pushing but as a part of that premise you have to have people that you want to watch, care about and maybe can relate to and maybe wish that you were and you have to tell that story in an interesting way. You do want some kind of relatable quality to your show so I'm not sure what there is left to push but the nature of this medium is that someone will push the envelope and it will either work or it won't and if it works than others will push a little more.
JH: You won an Emmy for the NBC daytime show 'Starting Over,' which was so different in tone than 'The Bad Girls Club.' Are you going to develop more 'Starting Over'-type shows in the future?
JM: Yes, I hope so. We also are doing some documentaries now. We did 'Autism: The Musical' which won an Emmy for HBO. We have something in development that we're working on that I think has definitely a very different tone than 'The Bad Girls Club.' It's for a different network and that's what I love about cable is that each network sort of has its own tone and approach. It's great whether it's the Kardashians for E, 'The Real World' for MTV, '[Project] Runway' for Lifetime or 'Bad Girls Club' for Oxygen. Each of those shows very much fits in with the tone and the definition of that network that it's on.
"The Bad Girls Club" airs every Tuesday night on Oxygen at 10:00/9:00c.