If anyone is going to produce a business-driven competition show, Mark Burnett certainly is a man for the job.
With “Shark Tank” and “The Apprentice” among the multiple Emmy winner’s many projects — along with “Survivor” and “The Voice” — he’s taking that particular genre to another level by partnering with the tech company Intel for “America’s Greatest Makers.” Premiering Tuesday (April 5), the TBS program pits teams of amateur inventors against one another in a bid to win $1 million and the chance for their products to reach the consumer market.
“On ‘Shark Tank,’ each contestant essentially gets one act,” Burnett tells Zap2it, “but like ‘The Voice,’ [the ‘Makers’ entrants] go through various rounds and a progression. They give their first pitch to the judges, and those who go on to the next round go to Silicon Valley and work with the teams at Intel. It’s almost a boot camp where they’re helped in organizing the technology to make their ideas even better.
“Then they go off to the University of California, Berkeley for business advice, and then they come back before the judges again and there’s another elimination. We end up with five teams that get to the finale, and they get $100,000 each … and one will end up getting the million. And several of the finalists’ ideas could be brought to market, and I think that’s more valuable.”
The “America’s Greatest Makers” judging panel includes Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, business expert Carol Roth, and comedian and truTV “Hack My Life” co-host Kevin Pereira. They’re joined by guest judges, “The Big Bang Theory” co-star Mayim Bialik and sports figures Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith among them.
Burnett likes having such familiar faces help to steer viewers through the show’s technological aspects, but he also sees audience appeal in “how [the contestants’] ideas adjust once they’ve had this incredible opportunity of going to Intel and spending several weeks working with the engineers there. Here’s an astounding fact: Intel manufactures 10 billion — with a ‘b’ — resistors a second. If you think of almost everything we use now, I’ll bet it’s running on some kind of microchip. Imagine sitting down with, and explaining your idea to, the brilliant people at a company that can come up with that and manage that.”
Also now running the television division of the MGM studio along with his wife, actress-producer Roma Downey (“Touched by an Angel,” “The Bible”), Burnett is pleased to have been at the forefront of business-themed TV contests’ popularity.
The London-born mogul reflects, “I think the real root of business television in this country has to be ‘The Apprentice’ [which will have another NBC ‘Celebrity’ edition next season, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the new host]. People said, ‘Who’s going to care about watching a business show on primetime TV?’ Of course, it’s still going, and it shows that Americans have a real interest in business. So there’s been that and ‘Shark Tank,’ and now, ‘America’s Greatest Makers’ puts a different twist on it.”