We Sat Down with Mark Cronin, the Father of Celeb-Reality TV

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

In 2003, The Surreal Life—a reality show that cast has-been celebrities in traditional sitcom roles, forcing them to live in a house together—premiered on VH1. The show ran for six seasons and included names like MC Hammer, Corey Feldman, and Tammy Faye Messner. It also begat seemingly endless spin-offs: An unlikely romance between Danish actress Brigitte Nielsen and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy resulted in a series called Strange Love, which led to Bachelor-esque dating shows, Flavor of Love, Rock of Love (starring Poison’s Bret Michaels), I Love New York (starring rejected Flavor of Love cast member Tiffany “New York” Pollard), and many more.

The creator of these shows is Mark Cronin (alongside Cris Abrego) who, with his latest project Below Deck for Bravo, has produced—by his estimation—25 reality shows. Also by his side is Lisa Lopez, his Supervising Talent Producer and wife, whose seemingly impossible task is corralling and mollifying some of the most volatile reality TV casts of all time.

Since the beginning of DirtCast, we have wanted Cronin to come on the show, which is why it was such a pleasant surprise when he AND Lopez readily agreed to stop by our studio for this week’s episode. In the interview (which we’ve divided into two parts because there was much to be discussed), the pair were affable and candid, giving us incredible behind-the-scenes glimpses into how these shows were made, their worst onset injuries (be warned: Lopez’s is harrowing), and try and convince us on the supposed charisma of Flavor Flav. Don’t threaten us with a good time...

DirtCast can be found on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, and iHeart Media. Tune in next Wednesday for Part II of our interview in which we delve into the more disturbing parts of the celeb-reality era, which came to a close with the death of Jasmine Fiore, who was murdered by reality TV contestant Ryan Jenkins, as well as Cronin’s subsequent fallout with Vh1 and Viacom.


Our show is produced by Levi Sharpe. Mandana Mofidi is our Executive Director of Audio. Our theme music is by Stuart Wood. This episode was mixed by Dan Powell. Listen to our politics podcast, Big Time Dicks, here.

Managing Editor, Jezebel

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I hope in the next episode they talk about the contestant on Megan wants a millionaire that killed his girlfriend. Heartbreaking.