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Wrong Place, Wrong Time: ABC’s Shark Tank

August 16, 2009

Sometimes there exists on television an idea, a program so seemingly out of the realm of tact that you have to wonder at what point a lone television executive voiced the opinion that “it might not be the best idea to run this show right now,” only to be quickly rebuffed with a “too bad, it’s already in the can and on the schedule.”

Exhibit A for that argument is ABC’s new Mark Burnett-produced Shark Tank, in which all of America is able to watch as a panel of “self-made millionaires” evaluate the product ideas of regular joes and ultimately decide to (or refrain from) investing money in the contestants to advance their endeavors. I think you’ll agree that, on paper, that sounds like a mighty nice thing for ABC and these millionaires to do. After all, we are a nation going through some tough times right now. It’s nice to spread the wealth around, right?

Ah, if only it were that simple. If only we could tune in each Sunday to have our hearts warmed with the tales of dreamers seeing their goals fulfilled. It would be like watching a real-life version of  Touched by an Angel, a program which also once ran on these very same Sunday nights. Alas, with Burnett at the helm, very little good can come of this. But let’s watch:

First up is Mr. Todd, whose pie factory is not only struggling to keep up with demand (a good problem) but also a product in which McDonald’s is interested. Alas, Mr. Todd doesn’t have the money to front to keep things going until actual liftoff. Hence, he appears in front of the Shark Tank, and leaves with 50% of his business sold to two of the investors. Congratulations, Todd! All you hard work now means you owe these two people half your earnings.

Next into the Shark Tank is inventor Darrin Johnson, who proposes the Ionic Ear, a surgery-mandatory invention that basically acts as an internal blue-tooth transmitter. A little out there, sure, but creative. Johnson makes his presentation, then stands back as his idea (and his character) is derided as “crazy” by the panel. Following Johnson is a father of two who has mortgaged his house several times and invested thousands of his own money into his idea, which brings ads to doctors’ waiting rooms. The panel basically tells him he’s wasting his own and his family’s future with his ridiculous dreams, and deny him money as well. Check out the post right here and learn more.

The final two contestants fill out the model: a woman with an invention that helps children take medicine — she sells her idea for over 50% to one of the investors, effectively losing controlling interest in her prospect; and a couple of college students who refuse an offer to basically buy their whole company, and for which they’re treated as stupid and greedy.

I can understand why, in theory, Shark Tank would be an interesting premise. But in these times of economic downturn, where callous, fatcat businessmen in suits are making our decisions, refusing our loans, and changing the rules financially against us, do we need to watch a television program where these same types of suited businessmen play judge and jury — nay, God— to people just trying to find their own ways in this world? As we open letter after letter each day from credit card companies, banks, student loans and other institutions who seem to hold our monetary futures in their grip, do we really need to turn on the television to see caricatures those same people holding the brass ring over our heads?

Burnett’s a master of reality programming. His Survivor is in the pantheon, and The Apprentice presents the business world in such a cartoonish way that the Donald’s faux-scary threats are almost endearing. But despite the fact that you’re almost guaranteed to see someone get some money in each episode (they’ll surely edit it that way), it’s strangely masochistic to watch the dreams of others dashed. America’s Got Talent and Idol are one thing, but when this much money is on the line for these contestants, the futures of real people, and sometimes real families, are at stake.

Shark Tank might have been the type of program that brought a little levity to trying financial times; instead, it’s a macabre mirror image of a real world that’s scary enough as it is. In times where true-life money struggles are being experienced by millions, we surely can do better than turning into a competition for our entertainment. If you want to see real people in real situations being judged and evaluated, approved or disapproved for loans which will change their lives, drive down and sit in the lobby of your local bank. Too soon, ABC. Too soon. Furthermore, if you’ve been disapproved in loaning, try to consider cash crazy’s loan offers. Just click get redirected here, and you’ll be on their official website where you will fill out a straightforward application.

One Comment
  1. Brian permalink
    August 16, 2009 4:22 pm

    This is an excellent review of “District 9”. I saw it over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised. The film attracted a broad audience from what I could tell. And in my opinion it was by far the best of this summer’s action films. I am curious to find out whether this leads to a sequel.

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