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Former ABC 7 producer and reality TV pioneer Howard Schultz dies

Reality TV pioneer and Chicago native Howard Schultz died Monday while vacationing with his family in Hawaii. The married father of three sons was 61 years old.

Mr. Schultz, who created the groundbreaking “Extreme Makeover” and other unscripted hits, got his start in television at ABC’s WLS-Channel 7 as a producer.

He won two Emmys during his time in Chicago: one for his work on a live morning talk show and the second for a late-night program called “Friday Night,” according to his profile on Lighthearted Entertainment, the production company he founded in 1992.

Capitalizing on his hometown success, Schultz moved to California, where he developed the primetime hit “Real People,” which aired on NBC from 1979 to 1983.

He followed that up at Fox with the early ’90s relationship game show “Studs,” a bawdy late-night series hosted by Downers Grove native Mark DeCarlo.

He hit pay dirt with the innovative series “Extreme Makeover,” a show that promised regular people new lives and faces, courtesy of plastic surgery. It debuted on ABC in 2002.

“The show was a game-changer for me,’’ he told Coloradan Magazine, a publication from his alma mater. He graduated with a communications degree from University of Colorado at Boulder in 1975. “I think it established me for the long haul. Once you’ve had hits, you’re forever associated with those hits.’’

At Lighthearted Entertainment, where he served as CEO, Schultz created and produced a long list of shows, such as “Bedroom Buddies,” “Goodnight America,” “Jones & Jury,” “The Smarter Sex” and “The Big Date,” among others. More recent projects include VH1’s “Dating Naked” and MTV’s “Are You the One?”

Deadline reported that Schultz sold another reality series to VH1 last month, this one about twins. The 10-episode season is slated to premiere in the summer.

“Reality shows will be part of TV forever,’’ he once told Coloradan Magazine. “Nothing’s more entertaining than reality.”