I like Robert Herjavec. I really do. But I always thought it was odd that the folks at Shark Tank had tapped not one, but two, stars of Canada’s Dragons’ Den to sit on the panel of the new program when it started 10 years ago.
If a new article in Vulture is to be believed — that is, if you want to assume Clay Newbill wasn’t kidding in this group interview (with all of the regular sharks except Herjavec) — Robert only got the gig because ABC wouldn’t cast Mark Cuban for season one.
If your memory goes back as far as mine, you’ll recall Kevin Harrington was at the table for Seasons 1 and 2. Mark wouldn’t show up until he was a guest in Season 2, Lori Greiner not until Season 3. In the Vulture piece, the producer said that Herjavec was given the slot in Season 1 after ABC wouldn’t budge on Cuban.
Mark, why were you rejected the first time you auditioned?
Mark Cuban: We won’t go there. [Laughs.]
Clay Newbill: I will say that me and Mark Burnett definitely wanted Mark.
Mark Cuban: Yeah, it wasn’t Mark and Clay. It was ABC.
Clay Newbill: When we found out that we couldn’t get Mark, that is when Robert was plugged in instead in the eleventh hour.
Mark Cuban: What?!
As for O’Leary, he said Mark Burnett called him and asked him to join the US version of the show, because they needed, “an asshole.” Why Herjavec was also considered, it’s tough to say — surveying the Canadian cast at the time, one could say Brett Wilson was just too Canadian, Jim Treliving too “Jim.”
And Arlene Dickinson? Probably my choice if I’d been asked, but as Barbara Corcoran said once, Shark Tank only had room for one woman in Season 1. She revealed in an interview last year (and perhaps before) that she was offered a slot in 2008, only to have the offer taken away because the “lone female seat” had been given to someone else. Corcoran fought for her spot and won.
In a way, the casting folks are to be forgiven, because it’s not easy finding the right mix of people on a show such as this, where it’s really all about the investors, and only tangentially about the entrepreneurs. Of course, it is a bit ridiculous to say there can only be one woman in a cast of five (the rotating group of six didn’t come together until Season 4). One might assume the powers at be looked at it this way: we need a group of potential investors, and we need repesentation. So one woman should suffice. Ten years is not that long ago, but back then plugging in one female was probably considered gender diverse.
On the other hand, casting the Shark Tank panel can’t be that easy — because it’s a big ask. The panelists have to agree not only to a couple of weeks of intense episode filming twice a year, but they basically have to agree to participate in business development off-screen. They have to spend their own money. They trust the show to cast interesting entrepreneurs, and they have to bet on at least a few businesses. There’s an expectation that the sharks won’t be entirely silent partners in those businesses, adding to the burden (or opportunity).
It’s the ultimate “reality” gig, in that way. The sharks even said as much in the interview, with O’Leary noting that they are footing the bill for those investments.
What do you think Shark Tank gets right about the reality-TV experience that other shows can’t always crack?
Barbara Corcoran: A lot of associations with reality television revolve around it not being so real. But not us. Nothing is prompted, nothing is scripted.
Lori Greiner: Genuine. That’s the biggest word.
Kevin O’Leary: And it is our real money. I think this is the only show on TV where the people on the show are actually putting out their own money.
Barbara Corcoran: You can lose more money than you may get paid.
Hopefully, all the sharks have ended up ahead in this deal. Although I wouldn’t feel too badly for them. Ten years in, they have much bigger profiles, even become famous — although at least Cuban was famous already. And as for Herjavec, well, he got a gig on Dancing With the Stars.