'Survivor' producer Mark Burnett launches new scripted show, based on himself
By Wade Paulsen, 10/30/2003
Without Mark Burnett, reality TV as we know it today might not exist. We may soon learn whether his own life is as interesting as his reality shows.
Burnett, who will always be linked with the breakthrough CBS reality show Survivor, has been trying to break through as a producer of scripted comedy programming for over a year now. His first developed show, entitled Are We There Yet?, ended up not making the grade for The WB; however, the WB signed him to a two-year development deal anyway. Now, Burnett is back with his second attempt -- and the story idea seems very familiar to us.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that Burnett's new show is based upon his own real-life experiences as an ex-commando turned Beverly Hills live-in nanny. Burnett, an Australian who grew up dirt-poor in a housing project in England and then served with a British commando unit in Northern Ireland and the Falklands War in the 1980s, left the military at 22 and headed for the "land of milk and honey," Los Angeles, with little more than his ambition. Eventually, after learning that milk and honey cost a lot of money, he wound up working for a "temp" agency and took a two-week job as a fill-in nanny for a young Beverly Hills couple -- which turned into a two-year job and started Burnett on the path to being a multi-millionaire. "Suddenly now I'm changing diapers, and I'm living in the lap of luxury in Beverly Hills," he said.
The concept for the TV show? Ex-British Army commando becomes "temp," then full-time, nanny in Beverly Hills. Hmmm, sounds familiar. In the show, the marriage of the couple for whom the nanny works is cracking due to job and baby stress, but the nanny makes everything all right through "unconventional methods." What, does he threaten to booby-trap the house unless everyone stops fighting?
Anyway, the untitled commando-nanny show is one of two scripted projects being developed by Burnett. The other is a drama based on the DC spy comic "Global Frequency," being done by Burnett and his development partner, writer-producer John Rodgers, which has also received script development approval from the WB. "Global Frequency" has a lot in common with Fox's X Files, except that its "heroes" are ordinary individuals working for an independent defense intelligence organization connected by a worldwide telecommunications web, solving unexplained problems that governments ignore (or even create). We can't help but wonder if one of those ordinary individuals turned agents might be a young ex-British commando.
After his nanny job, Burnett ended up as a T-shirt vendor on Venice Beach, where he came up with the idea for the innovative trekking-competition show Eco-Challenge (which, although Burnett doesn't claim it as such, was the pioneer of reality-competition TV, as the trekkers were put into unusual situations -- and the cameras captured the situational drama, not just the race among the leaders) ... which led him to develop a version of the Swedish show Expedition: Robinson for American TV that turned into Survivor ... which led to Combat Missions, American Fighter Pilots, Boarding House: North Shore, NBC's upcoming The Apprentice, and the huge NBC hit The Restaurant.
Based on that, we expect that Burnett's next series idea for The WB will involve T-shirt salesmen on a California beach, focusing on one such salesman who becomes interested in putting together a trekking show for cable television...