Shark Tank wins TCA’s third reality TV award; Central Park Five doc also wins

The ABC series Shark Tank has been awarded the Television Critics Association’s third award for outstanding achievement in reality television. The Ken Burns documentary Central Park Five won for outstanding achievement in news and information. There were also 10 other winners in various categories.

Five of six sharks–Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner, Barbara Corcoran, and Robert Herjavec–accepted the award on stage along with executive producers Mark Burnett and Clay Newbill. Burns accepted via a tape, because he was celebrating his 60th birthday.

Burnett spoke while accepting the award, noting that three of his broadcast network shows were on the list of five nominees; he also pointed out that three critics had congratulated him on his show The Amazing Race (he does not produce it). Burnett also gave credit to Newbill, Shark Tank‘s showrunner, and credited his teams with doing day-to-day work on the series he gets credit for.

Also nominated this year by the TCA, of which I’m a member, were The Amazing Race, The Glee Project, Survivor, and The Voice.

The non-televised TCA Awards were presented last night at the Beverly Hills Hilton, in the same ballroom as the Golden Globes, and also honored All in the Family. That lead to a surreal moment when Norman Lear danced on stage, imitating Amy Poehler, who had pirouetted, imitating Kaitlyn Jenkins, the star of Bunheads, who’d danced before accepting the award for her show. Meanwhile, Louis C.K., who won for individual achievement in comedy, mocked the actual award, calling it “a plastic piece of shit.”

I presented that trophy to Burnett, and here was my introduction:

Transforming real life into entertainment involves more than just dropping real people into a television aquarium and letting viewers feed on the results. Great nonfiction demands great dedication to craft.

This year’s winner of the TCA Award for outstanding achievement in reality television has turned complex business transactions–equity and valuations and royalties and, yes, even unadulterated greed–into engaging and often emotional television.

It’s become a successful platform for launching products. It’s also an arena for debate, about things like cheap overseas labor and immigration.

Its contestants pitch their products and services–ones we might not believe if they showed up in fiction. A sponge shaped like a smiley face. Tiny spatulas. A steering wheel that makes it impossible to text while driving. A golf club that can be discreetly used on the golf course as a urinal.

The ABC show has an insistent and ominous score. It enhances the negotiations between the contestants and a cast of six self-made million- and billionaires. They’re people who are quite literally invested in the process.

They eviscerate bad and unethical ideas. But they also compete with each other, trying to use their own cash to invest in businesses and in people.

All of that is presented in a tense, addictive package by those who craft Shark Tank into exceptional reality TV.

Accepting the TCA award for outstanding achievement in reality programming for Shark Tank are executive producers Mark Burnett and Clay Newbill, along with the show’s producers and sharks.

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