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ABC orders Mark Burnett's 'Shark Tank' adaptation of 'Dragons' Den'


By Christopher Rocchio, 03/30/2009 

ABC has apparently decided to sink its teeth into The Shark Tank.

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After ordering a pilot of the Mark Burnett-produced American adaptation of the overseas Dragons' Den reality series last September, ABC has decided to order seven episodes of the show, The Hollywood Reporter reported Monday.

Burnett had previously inked a deal with Sony Pictures Television to create the pilot of the stateside adaptation last February.

The original Japanese show, which has also been adapted in the U.K. and several other countries, gives ambitious entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their plans to already established moguls with the goal of landing enough venture capital investment to move their idea forward.

ABC initially attempted to make the American adaptation "bigger" since the show's original version lacked many of the bells and whistles of stateside reality shows -- including studio audiences, graphics and exterior footage.  However that creative approach has since "shifted," according to The Reporter.

"We've been excited about the Dragons' Den format for years, but we didn't go forward at first because we thought it felt too small," ABC reality programming executive Vicki Dummer told The Reporter.

ABC and Burnett initially tried to make The Shark Tank a "larger event" by filming the pilot in a huge auditorium and placing the investors behind an intimidating desk, however they evventually decided that most of the tweaks "distracted" from the show's original concept, according to The Reporter.

"The layers we added for a big huge show we've ended up peeling back to make the show more like the original," Dummer told The Reporter. "The core essence of the show works, and they've done a terrific job with it."

Despite the decision to abandon many of the tweaks, one aspect of The Shark Tank will be bigger than its predecessors -- the deals offered by the "sharks" during the pitch meetings.

"We have made bigger deals and more deals in our pilot than (other versions) make all season," Burnett told The Reporter. "What country on earth is more entrepreneurial and risk taking than the United States of America? Here we have businesses and jobs being created, and it's a great feeling."

In addition, ABC has reportedly already cast several of the investors who will serves as the "sharks" -- Internet securities mogul Robert Herjavec; infomercial expert Kevin Harrington; real estate tycoon Barbara Corcoran; Canadian investor Kevin O'Leary; and FUBU sportswear founder Daymond John.

"People are looking to be entrepreneurs to get ahead, yet there's no way anybody can go into a bank right now and get a loan," Burnett told The Reporter. "For these entrepreneurs, these sharks are their last stop."

While ABC has yet to set a premiere date for The Shark Tank it will likely premiere sometime next season, according to The Reporter.

On the surface, The Shark Tank is similar to American Inventor -- a Simon Cowell-produced reality competition that aired for two seasons on ABC in 2006 and 2007 and provided inventors a chance to win $1 million to launch a new business or product.

However American Inventor -- which was created by British businessman Peter Jones, who served as one of the five "dragons" on the U.K.'s Dragons' Den -- was an elimination competition that also focused the development of the entrepreneurs' ideas, while The Shark Tank will reportedly air as a series of self-contained episodes.

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