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Paige Wiser
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Reality fans should junk this 'Shark'

TV REVIEW | But if you love telemarketers, ABC show is for you

August 9, 2009

The legendary Mark Burnett is the reality producer who brought us "Survivor," "The Apprentice," "The Restaurant," "The Casino," "Rock Star," "The Contender," "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" and "My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad."

He has officially run out of ideas.

There are so many things I hate about his new show, "Shark Tank," that I started numbering them just to calm down. Where to start?

1. It's humiliating

And not in a fun way. We watch struggling entrepreneurs nervously pitch their inventions or ideas to five intimidating captains of industry. This is apparently a show for people who don't get enough sales talk in their everyday lives -- people who enjoy engaging with telemarketers, for instance.

2. The rich get richer

I think the show was intended to be inspiring. Instead, we are essentially guests at the most self-congratulating boardroom meeting of all time, as the "sharks" decide whether to invest their own money or not. Will their attention truly help these small businesses? Or are we enabling and televising the sharks as they fleece the little guys?

3. There's no drama

The most exciting part of each segment is watching the aspiring businessperson walk into the room. Seriously. There's dramatic music, and the moment is stretched out. Not since "America's Next Top Model" have I wished for someone to trip just to break up the monotony.

The closest thing to action is watching the kajillionaires think. Occasionally we are treated to someone biting a lip (their own, unfortunately).

4. The sharks don't attack anyone

They just swim around and around in a nearby tank as everyone talks. Disappointing.

5. The judges are trying too hard

God bless Kevin O'Leary for wanting to be interesting, but he's so intent on offering up soundbites that he doesn't make sense. "I don't get emotional about money," he says at one point. "I just want to make more of it." But later, he calls an entrepreneur a "pig" for being greedy. Hypocritical much?

6. There is math involved

The big moment is when and if an offer is made -- an offer that involves percentages, profit margins, projected earnings and so on. "That's a great offer," one of the sharks reassures an entrepreneur. Is it? I couldn't begin to figure out what numbers to punch into the calculator.

7. The product placement is off the charts

The sharks are promoting their personal brands. The small businesses are building buzz, whether they get an offer or not. Even McDonald's gets a gratuitous shout-out. I see where this is going.

I wasn't far into the first episode before I started musing about all the other things I'd rather be watching:

•  •  A commercial, which mercifully only lasts 30 seconds.

•  •  The rich people dating each other. (Who picks up the check? Your penthouse or mine?)

•  •  A double bill of "Better Off Ted," which has much better inventions, and TV Land's "How'd You Get So Rich?," which truly is inspiring.

The irony is that Burnett also produced the Joan Rivers-hosted TV Land show, so after all this at least we know how he got so rich: by creating his own competition.