Thursday, May 09, 2013
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.
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.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM