Burnett made reality shows king


Now that uber-reality producer Mark Burnett has seen his executive produced "Apprentice" reach the rare 100-episode milestone, Michael Rechtshaffen for The Hollywood Reporter talked to him about reality shows, reruns and keeping it real.

The Hollywood Reporter: Given the challenges that have been encountered by reality programming in second-run syndication, how do you think a syndicated "Apprentice" might fare?
Mark Burnett: The good thing about me is, I wasn't doing this 20 years ago, so I have no clue about what the rules of syndication are, and obviously, my entire career has been about me changing rules and just doing what I thought was right. There's a syndication deal on (CBS') "Survivor," and I'm now in the process of analyzing my syndication deals on (Fox's) "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" -- which I think can be a huge syndication success. It will become the next "Jeopardy." And if somebody down the road wants to strip and syndicate "The Apprentice," I think that will be great.

THR: Didn't the American celebrity edition of "The Apprentice" take its cue from a British special?
Burnett: Last year they did a celebrity special over two nights, raising money for charity, and it just showed us what "The Apprentice" would look like if indeed it had a celebrity element, so we took their special and morphed it into an entire series. We will have raised over $1 million for charity through these tasks, which is unbelievable. Everybody's benefiting: NBC is benefiting, Donald (Trump) and I are benefiting, celebrities are benefiting, and of course, so is the public at large who are in need of this philanthropy.

THR: So from here on in you'll be sticking with the celebrity format?
Burnett: We're going to do another celebrity version, which will air in January 2009, and then we'll see. We're so inundated with requests to be on the show because now everybody's seen how
it works.

THR: Are you at all surprised by reality's longevity?
Burnett: I'm not surprised anymore, but, yeah, I was surprised initially. I didn't even think I was going to make any money. It was something I liked doing that just turned out to be successful. I'm very grateful to have been in the right place at the right time.