(NEW!) Show Spy: Shark Tank

Written by Tashi from the blog Show Spy on 24 Aug 2009
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Welcome to Show Spy: a new TVSA column that takes a look at the latest new shows on the international TV circuit. The column will keep you scooped on the hottest, newest international trends in TV (without any spoilers!) and will also give our take on whether or not we think one of our channels should buy it for us.

First up and spied: Shark Tank *The Jaws music*.

A quick bite of the show

A new type of reality quest by Survivor/Apprentice creator Mark Burnett.  It centres round five mega-wealthy entrepeneurs aka the Sharks, who are ready and willing to invest their cash in new businesses.

Each week hopeful entrepenuers pitch their ideas to them to see if they'll buy into the idea, give them millions and go into business with them.

The impact

It rocks! It's 100% relevant to our times and a refreshing re-invention of regular reality formats.

I've caught the first two episodes and was surprised by it. When I first heard the premise I was iffy because there's no competition aspect to it between the people who "enter" the show.

Each episode sees about four or five entrepeneurs pitching their businesses and once they know if the sharks want to buy in or not, that's it. The entertainment lies in each of their individual stories, the sharks themselves and the hardcore, emotional negotiations everyone gets into.

The five sharks are:
  • Barbara Corcoran, a real estate millionaire who started her company with a $1000 loan. She ended up selling it for $70 million.
  • Daymond John, founder of the clothing company FUBU - which stands for For Us, By Us.
  • Kevin Harrington, (cheesy-haired!) ad-exec who revolutionised the Infomercial Industry.
  • Kevin O'Leary, co-host of Business News Network's SqueezePlay, formerly president of The Learning Company, which he sold to Mattel for $3.7 billion.
  • Robert Herjavec, who sold his IT security company (which he started in his mothers basement) for over $100 million.
How the sharks hunt

They sit round a table filled with their cash, the hopeful entrepeneur walks into their tank as bait and spills their business idea to them.

In most cases their businesses have already started and they either need the cash to save it, or to expand it.

Each person who pitches their idea has to demonstrate their business and asks for a certain amount of cash for it eg. "I'd like $250 000 in return for a 10% stake in my business."

Once they've done this they wheel and deal with the sharks.

In some instances the sharks aren't interested at all and tell them to stuff off, in other instances they'll counter-offer e.g. one of the sharks might decide "I'll put in the $250 0000 but I want 50% of your business instead of 10%".

In the juiciest scenario's the sharks start trying to out-negotiate between themselves.

Besides some of the mind-boggling decisions that the entrepeneurs have to make on the spur of the moment - the sharks drive a ruthless deal - the other intriguing thing is the variety of business ideas.

Businesses in the first episode include: a pie-man who's invented unique sweet potato pies and wants to go national, a small town babysitter who's invented an elephant that gives medicine to children; and a clothing designer who makes crap T-shirts.
A porky pie-maker - testimony to their taste
A small-town Big idea

A clothing designer with boring T-shirts

You get to see their successes so far and the mistakes everyone's made until now i.e. why they haven't made millions yet.

The show also looks at the emotions surrounding money and makes commentary about it. For instance, one of the sharks constantly says "Money has no soul, it doesn't care." - richly relevant words for our recession-strapped times.

Another mega-bonus is that Donald Trump isn't anywhere to be seen. As far as I'm concerned The Apprentice has turned into one big marketing ploy for both him and the companies he promotes through each episode.

Also, you never see if the contestants have ever actually done anything worthwhile - they usually end up being so unbelievably bad you can't believe they aren't just actors.

With Shark Tank it's a completely different set-up - you can see that everyone on the show is genuinely involved with what they say they are.

Verdict: Thumbs up!

One of our channels should definitely get it for us - specifically seeings as South Africa has such a strong entrepeneurial spirit. It's inspirational, filled with tips and advice, funny (when whackjobs pitch their ideas) and juicy.

On first impressions you wouldn't think that it's filled with so much drama and tension but it is - it gets super-intense seeing everyone trying to sell their passion and then fight with the deal on offer.

Also some of them make BAD mistakes like one sloppy dude who got offered a million for his product in return for the sharks owning it 100% - he turned them down saying he was too emotional about giving it up. The trouble was you could see he'd never get it together in the same way they could.

Which channel should get it? My choice: SABC3, as the home of Mark Burnett.

But not on a Monday night in between The Amazing Race and Survivor - on a different night to give us a new highlight. Also, it's a different format so it  needs a slot all of its own.

Fast facts

The show's currently on in the US on the ABC network - it premiered on 9 August 2009.

The concept's based on a Japanese show called Dragon's Den that works the same way and has been syndicated in various countries.


24 Aug 2009 13:28

Daymond John, founder of the clothing company FUBU - which stands for For Us, By Us.  I used to love that label back in the day....SABC 3 is a good choice for any reality show...Mark Burnett, talk about a guy who changed TV, wonder where he gets his ideas from...some mothers are very proud tjo!!!

24 Aug 2009 14:19

Cool, I saw some of the UK Dragon's Den and it is really quite good. Some great ideas and some shockers. Some companies have gone on to great things after this. Reggae Reggae Sauce has apparently been a huge success in the UK after being picked up on the show.

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