Cris Abrego and Mark Cronin are “absolutely crucial to [VH1’s] success”

It’s rare that two producers define a network’s personality, but that’s basically what Cris Abrego and Mark Cronin have done with VH1. The producing pair, who created The Surreal Life for The WB, are now responsible for shows from Flavor of Love (and all of its spin-offs) to the new series America’s Most Smartest Model.

VH1’s Michael Hirschorn told the AP that the two are “absolutely crucial to our success. … Their shows definitely have a younger feel, a hipper feel than what you see on the networks. They also have a unique ability to capture the imagination of young adults.” He says they create “TV that’s aware it’s TV. … We’re for viewers who are hip to the artifice of a lot of television. The only sin is to be boring.”

Responding to criticism about the way their shows revel in stereotypes, exploit people, or otherwise horrify non-watchers, Cronin said, “Cris and I don’t have a political agenda. We don’t have an exploitation agenda. We take on a subject matter and make the best show we can about that. So the show’s about Flavor Flav and the women attracted to him and the lunacy that ensues from that.”

Abrego, who started at Bunim-Murray Productions, joined with Howard Stern sketch creator Cronin to create 51 Minds Entertainment, and “merged their experience, Abrego in reality and Cronin in comedy,” the AP reports. Their first show was The Surreal Life, which later took them to VH1 and led to ideas for spin-offs with Flavor Flav.

Cronin says the shows they continue to churn out “are more real than a lot of the reality shows. In the case of ‘The Bachelor,’ they present a very gauzy halo of romance, the prince and the princess, which doesn’t seem very modern or connected to the real world,” he said. “We don’t produce our shows in a large context. We produce shows to be entertaining, moment to moment and episode to episode. We produce them for great characters and great storytelling.”

Reality TV rules — and draws ratings — at VH1 [AP]