Thursday, May 09, 2013

Taking a dip in the SHARK TANK

As opposed to the one I've been swimming in the last two days.

The only reality show I’m hooked on is SHARK TANK, Friday nights on ABC. No one sings, no one has to ride a bike through Siberia, Salsa dance, prepare a 5-star meal on a George Foreman grill, share a house with Melissa Rivers, not shower for a month, or whore themselves for a date. No one’s self worth is determined by Sharon, Mariah Carey, or worse -- people we've never heard of.

Folks pitch new products they’ve created to a panel of millionaires and billionaires who invest their own money if they like the product. It’s that large exhibition hall in every state and county fair where hucksters try to sell you a dizzying array of magic car waxes, self-cleaning woks, vacuum cleaners that double as dehumidifiers, and nuclear-powered nose hair trimmers. Only, instead of Suzie Homemaker being the target customer, it’s the woman who started QVC.

You’d think it would be a snooze. Infomercials and boring business-related discussions on distribution, cost margins, profit projections, etc.  Ugghh!  And yet, for me, it’s appointment television.

Some of the amateur entrepreneurs come in with better mousetraps and you feel glad for them. One or more “sharks” (millionaires/billionaires) invest and with their infusion of cash and contacts you suspect the product will become a big hit.  It’s the American Dream, carefully staged.  And who doesn't love those little guy makes good stories?  (Especially this week.)

Then for amusement they have idiots pitching such must-have-items as electric zappers to shock squirrels who try to eat from a bird feeder and a full body spandex suit. And invariably, the nimrod who has the squirrel taser wants $200,000 for 5% of his company.

The sharks themselves are somewhat entertaining.
Every panel has to have a villain and in this case it’s Kevin O’Leary, a bald arrogant shyster who calls himself, Mr. Wonderful. He’s caustic at times, disruptive, but always amusing and often he parcels out excellent advice. Whenever he makes an offer though it’s always ludicrous. “I’ll give you $30,000 for 70% of your company and I want a dollar for every cookie you sell in perpetuity.” I’d say no one is that stupid but hey, Rupert Murdoch bought My Space for a billion-and-a-half, so from time to time a yokel takes Kevin up on his offer.

Robert Herjavec is the smooth, handsome, personable shark who never buys anything. Why he’s there I don’t know. He samples the cupcakes in a jar and frozen gumbo and loves everything and everyone then says the business model doesn’t work for him so he’s out. We’re going to find out that he isn’t as rich as he says he is when he also shows up as a contestant on CASH CAB.

Lori Grenier launched QVC and is the real deal. Happily, she doesn’t come off as a Prada-wearing devil. Whereas Mr. Wonderful is all bluster, Lori just whines. She’s Garry Marshall if he looked kinda like Streisand. But Lori is a sharp cookie who knows what she wants. Sometimes there’s a bidding war between the sharks and if I were the young capitalist I would probably go with Lori.

Sometimes Barbara Corcoran is on instead of Lori. She’s a real estate billionaire, a little older, essentially Jane Hathaway on the BEVERLY HILLBILLIES.

Daymon John is the cultured mogul with a diamond stud in his ear. He sits back and plays Yoda. But from time to time he will invest. And he’s another of the sharks I’d go with if there were options. You know with Mr. Wonderful that if he partnered with you you’d never get him on the phone. One of his flunkies might return your call in a year. But Daymon would probably call you back. So would Robert, but that might be to ask you for a loan. Again, why is he even there?

Finally, you have billionaire (Dallas) maverick, Mark Cuban. Charming, boyish, and whip smart. This is not “Arthur” after rehab. He asks great questions and will invest if he likes the package. When he passes it’s usually with a good explanation. Robert’s is always, “I just don’t see it” and Daymon rarely bothers at all. “I’m out” is all he offers. Lori will let the guy down easy, Barbara will blame Mr. Drysdale, and Kevin will just say the person should kill himself because he’s too stupid to live. If I were lucky enough that Mark wanted to go in with me, I would take him over all the others. Mark would take my phone call. Mark would send me a Mavericks jersey.

One feature of the show I love is the updates. Each week they follow-up on a former contestant. They’re always the success stories of course. But sometimes they feature contestants who the sharks didn’t back, and we see that they thrived anyway. Of course, getting exposure on a national television show (even on a Friday night) didn’t hurt.

Like I said, it’s the kind of show you think would get repetitious, and for the most part it does, but for some reason I love it. Week after week. And I probably will continue to love it as long as Zach Braff doesn’t show up pitching his freakin’ movie.

33 comments:

RockGolf said...

You may already know this but both Kevin and Robert are actually Canadian and have for the past 4 to 6 years been doing the same thing on the Canadian series Dragon's Den, which predated Shark Tank. I'd call Dragon's Den the original Shark Tank, except the Canadian show is just a version of the original UK Dragon's Den. If you need a Shark Tank fix while it's in reruns, check the CBC website for a dose of Mr Wonderful.

RockGolf said...

Linked above: http://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/episodes.html - not sure this will work in the US (Hey, we don't get Hulu so kwitcherbitchin.

Mark B said...

Actually, the UK show was not the original. The original was "Money Tigers" in Japan. And if you go to Wikipedia, you'll find that Dragon's Den exists in many other countries in some form.

But thank you Ken for this post, my sister and I have become big fans of Shark Tank as well. It is surprisingly captivating.

Brian H said...

Not that it changes your point, but MySpace was a little more than half a billion... $580M.

Ane said...

British "Dragon's den" can be very entertaining, except you have to try and not listen to what the narrator says. Whatever he suggests is the opposite of what will happen. "Will Deborah Meaden be more interested than the other dragons?" No, she definitely won't. "Will Theo Paphitis make them an offer?" No, he will insult them for suggesting he gives them a piece of his children's inheritance. "Will James Caan be the one to discover a flaw in this plan?" No, he won't, he'll think it's the best invention since fire.

Other than that it's good. I haven't seen "Shark Tank"

Mike Barer said...

I really like the Shark Tank. I cringe though when Barbara is on. It's just that Lorrie is much more charming. I also like some of the reality shows you hate, sometimes bad TV is the most entertaining.

Brian O. said...

Robert is there to recap offers to the rubes after their phone call.
Don't forget, squirrel rehabilitation exists in lieu of the squirrel zapper.

forg/jecoup said...

This show is so compelling and the production cost to make this show is probably cheap and it's grown considerably in the ratings and even matching Dancing with the Stars ratings now! The show is repeat friendly as well just like a procedural, you can watch it anytime and in any order.

RCP said...

I was with you until the last sentence, Ken. Now I'm going to make a point of donating to Zach Braff just to teach you a lesson you won't soon forget.

John said...

O c'mon -- You know you'd love to see a reality show featuring Zach Braff trying to make a movie with Mr. Wonderful as his financial backer (hell, it would be fun to see a movie based on that premise...)

Cap'n Bob said...

Not must-see for me but I have watched and enjoyed it. The part I home in on, and that you didn't discuss much, was the pitches from the would-be entrepreneurs. Always amped up and frothy with positive vibes, you want to hose them down. My favorite invention was the little tent you could slip into so you could urinate in a crowd.

Igor said...

"Barbara will blame Mr. Drysdale"

Classic.

YEKIMI said...

I'd watch more often and it would be more entertaining if they'd actually put the millionaires/billionaires and the contestants in an actual shark tank loaded with sharks. If any contestant or rich guy/girl survives they HAVE to invest in his product or it's back into the tank next week! If they all get eaten, I'm sure there's more lunch meat.....errr, contestants & rich people waiting in the wings to give it a shot.

Mitchell Hundred said...

Yeah, the Canadian version is way better than the American. Much tighter editing means that you get to see more pitches. Plus Shark Tank has those annoying profiles before the pitch starts to humanize the entrepreneurs. If I'm going to like these people it'll be because they did a good job selling their product, not because they're just like me. Not to gloat or anything, but this is one area where we've got you beat.

MikeBo said...

"Reality TV" really came into its own because of the Writers Guild strike a few years ago. A friend of mine pitched a show built around Firehouse cooking. The idea was to hang out at a fire station and watch the smokeeaters cooking gourmet meals in between fire calls. (You know, gourmet spaghetti and meatballs with gourmet tossed salad and lots of Kool-Aid of good vintage). Then, as the guys and gals would sit down to feast, the alarm would go off and the firefighters would roll ou their call. Sometimes they would leave the firehouse door open and their gourmet repast would be devoured by the neighbors and local homeless people. They almost sold, but, then the strike was settled. Personally, my favorite reality show is
"Pawn Stars."

Mike S said...

Now, Ken, don't be mean to "The Amazing Race" or "Top Chef" (both of which I watch religiously and believe they are superior examples of the reality genre). But I do agree with you on this one: "Shark Tank" is great TV. And it doesn't bite!

Lorimartian said...

Loved this post, Ken. I'm also a "Shark Tank" fan. I can't remember the last time Robert bought anything, and even then, I think he partnered with another shark. I am always impressed to hear that Barbara took a $10,000, I think that's correct, loan and built a real estate empire. She must be one helluva saleswoman or savvy investor, probably by targeting multi-million/billion dollar properties. I also like the sometimes surprising updates about people who succeeded without a deal. It's all very entertaining including the moments where the sharks get into it amongst themselves.

I also never miss "The Amazing Race" and "Undercover Boss".

Anonymous said...

Great post, Ken. I'm addicted to the Shark Tank. And I totally agree with the question of why Robert is there. He never invests anything! He is getting a fee for being on the show--if I were a producer, I'd tell him to jump on the next thing that came along he liked and use his show money if he had to. Otherwise find another player. He's just there right now to go on and on about why he doesn't like anything. So does Kevin, but at least he invests occasionally.

Jerry Smith

David L said...

FRIDAY QUESTION:
Ken, I was watching an interview with writer Michael Patrick King and he said a writer should never tell a series actor what stories might be coming up. The actors get attached to the idea and then are unhappy if that storyline falls by the wayside. Was that your experience on MASH as well?

Thanks very much...

Mac said...

"Rupert Murdoch bought My Space for a billion-and-a-half"

He also bought Hitler's diaries for an undisclosed but allegedly humongous sum. Rupert, If you're reading (and who doesn't read Ken's blog?) my late father deposited $700 million in the Bank Of Nigeria, and all I need are your bank details and pin number to shift it out of the country. Cut you in 40%? Hell, make it 50%, I like you!

marlonsjgreen said...

Really sig Shark Tank as well. reminds me of pitching movie ideas to execs even though these people are pitching their businesses. it reminds you how big money investors think and reason.

marlonsjgreen said...

Really sig Shark Tank as well. reminds me of pitching movie ideas to execs even though these people are pitching their businesses. it reminds you how big money investors think and reason.

Harold X said...

"Shark Tank" and "Survivor" (and maybe "The Voice") seem far less fixed than any of the other purported reality shows I've seen.

BBC-America used to carry the UK "Dragons Den," but stopped -- probably so they could show more reruns of Gordon Ramsey's U.S. shows and "Star Trek" spinoffs.

Bill said...

Hi Ken,

Potential Friday question... I've read stories about how Sammy Davis Jr.'s kiss of Archie Bunker resulted in one of the longest laughs by a studio audience ever. What is the longest audience laugh/reaction in a show you were working on at the time, and what was the setup/punchline?

Rob said...

"Whitney" and "Up All Night" are dead, along with "Guys With Kids" and "1600 Penn". Thoughts?

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/nbc-cancels-up-all-night-519586

Benjy said...

Shark Tank is definitely the best reality show out there. It goes even better with a the drinking game that goes with it! Take a shot whenever:

Mr. Wonderful calls himself "Mr. Wonderful."

Robert gets screwed out of a deal.

Barbara tries to convince a woman to invest with her because they're both women.

Damon says something absurdly mean for no apparent reason.

Mark Cuban invests in someone because he likes the way he dances.

Hopeful entrepreneurs are surprised when the Sharks ask them for sales figures to back their outlandish claims.

Helena said...

Never been a fan of Shark Tank. Love British Dragon's Den though. Although they can be mean too, the overall tone strikes me as more friendly than Shark Tank. Same with the Antiques Roadshow - the British version is nicer to watch. In the British version the venue is old castles and they're standing outside at nice tables. In the American version it's all indoors, in some blue-felted locale with office chairs.

Tommy said...

The British version of this show is unwatchable due to the pointless narrator, relentlessly telling us what we've just seen and heard 3 seconds ago:
Dragon: I'll give you £300000 for 40% of the company.
Narrator: The dragon has offered Nimrod £300000 for 40% of his company. Will he accept the dragon's offer?
Nimrod: No, I'll only give you 39%.
Narrator: Oh dear. Nimrod has rejected the dragon's offer and said he will only give the dragon 39% of his company...
As this is so condensed it's even more annoying than nearly every documentary, these days, that spend 5 minutes before every ad break telling you what is coming up after the break, and another 5 minutes after the ad break reminding you what you just watched before the ad break.

Chris in Cowtown said...

Mr. Wonderful--- he is not a Billionaire, he just plays one on TV.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/kevin-oleary-hes-not-a-billionaire-he-just-plays-one-on-tv/article4564334/?page=all

Allison Williams said...

I competed on Canadian Dragon's Den and it was a fantastic experience. Just the prep for the show - having to make a business plan, work on my answers, think about what questions they would be asking - was like a mini-MBA. And Kevin is about five times scarier in real life than he is on screen!

We won an investor, which a lot of people don't remember - but they do remember Kevin yelling until I cried! My weeping made it into the ads for the show, AND the CBC network promo for the season. I still get people who come up to me on the street and commiserate!

Anth said...

On the subject of reality shows, a potential Friday question here...a friend and I (both aspiring screenwriters) have thought about applying for Amazing Race. Seems like it'd be a great experience, but what's holding us back is that we're not sure whether it would help or hurt our chances at landing a sitcom writing job. He leans towards the former--you'd make connections with producers and network people--and I lean towards the latter--appearing on a reality show, even a classier one, carries a certain stigma, especially for scripted TV, and maybe NBC won't want someone who appeared on CBS. Personally, I'd love to believe it's a neutral factor that won't have any impact, positive or negative--and I do know that one Survivor contestant later wrote for Chuck--but even though both racing around the world for a million dollars and writing for a hit TV show are seemingly longshots, who wouldn't love to accomplish both?

For what it's worth, the guy who wrote School of Rock appeared on Amazing Race, although that was after his career was set.

Jeff said...

Ken, our family has also gotten into Shark Tank recently and a couple months back I discovered the Canadian Dragons' Den on CBC (which is on Comcast in Seattle) when they started showing repeats every afternoon. Robert invests somewhat more frequently on Dragons' Den (although he is no longer on the show) but I think his primary function on Shark Tank is to serve as the good guy to Kevin's villain and to serve as a sort of moderator once he drops out. BTW, Kevin is much meaner on the Canadian version, although during one early episode Robert told a story about his immigrant mother being fooled by a con artist that made Kevin tear up on camera, so he occasionally shows a softer side. Kevin also co-hosts a daily business show on CBC (The Lang & O'Leary Exchange).

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