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This story first appeared in the July 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Mark Burnett can see Russia from his office.
The reality TV superproducer behind the TLC hit Sarah Palin’s Alaska — along with NBC stalwart The Voice, CBS’ Survivor and ABC’s Shark Tank, among others — has his eye on a series that would go inside the world of global government leaders. First on his wish list: Russia’s Vladimir Putin. If all goes as he hopes, others, including Cuba’s Fidel Castro, would follow.
“I want this to be a series of shows from the eyes of leaders of nations about their countries,” Burnett, 54, tells THR, “not through the lens of a news organization.”
Burnett, who with wife Roma Downey has become a top scripted TV producer in addition to his reality empire, cites Palin’s Alaska, which shattered TLC records when it premiered to 5 million viewers in late 2010, as an example of what he would like to do. Rather than focus on the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate’s political life, the docuseries showcased her personal experiences in Alaska: ice trekking, salmon fishing, baking for her children. In promoting the series, Burnett noted consistently how disinterested he is in politics. (He might need to begin caring because his host on NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump, declared June 16 that he is running for president, prompting a statement from the network that it is “reevaluating” his role on the long-running franchise.)
Seeing Russia through its controversial president’s eyes has Burnett so excited, he already has reached out to Putin, 62, a noted outdoorsman and former KGB officer. He says he emphasized his show would be devoid of armies and politics; rather, it would focus on “the humans, the nature, the animals of the nation.” When it is suggested the Russian leader probably would ignore such a request, Burnett, who recently wrapped filming a Ben-Hur remake in Rome, cracks a smile: “How do you know that? I would think I could probably get through to most people.”
So, if he did get through, what was the reaction? Responds Burnett coyly, “No comment.”
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