The Shark Tank knock-off that debuted earlier this month, Food Fortunes, is as weak as most Food Network reality shows are lately: an unoriginal idea that’s been weakly executed. I love food shows and I love Shark Tank, so I would have loved for this to be the best of both. Instead, you can see the lack of imagination all over the screen.
There is one thing, though, that almost makes the show worth watching. One. Almost.
It’s not the awkward pitches that remind us why having Shark Tank entrepreneurs script and practice cheesy pitches makes better television.
It’s not the dummy lights that go off behind the investors when they’re out of any possible deal.
It’s not the way the show splits up the pitch from the negotiations.
It’s not the way it attempts to create more suspense by having the investors write their offers and slide them across a table, which actually flushes whatever tension there was.
It is not Willie Degel, who’s the kind of character who should stay on stupid, fake, staged Food Network series.
It is not the other investors, who are less memorable than that guy whose name I can’t remember without looking it up who was on early Shark Tank.
It is not the set, which tries to copy the warmth of the ABC show but looks so flimsy the panels sway as they’re pulled open to reveal the product and entrepreneur.
The one good thing is the consumer panel that hears the initial pitch and tests the product, either tasting it or holding it in their hands. The studio audience doesn’t clap or anything, they just listen, test, and vote, and their feedback is quite useful.
Being able to ask a group of people questions and get feedback in real time allows for the investors’ own ideas and assumptions to be challenged or validated. The investors can ask if the audience liked the product, or if they’d pay a certain amount for it, or whatever. The yes or no answers are shown instantly, in a bar graph on a TV.
Sometimes, on Shark Tank, the sharks can get a little myopic, and they sometimes make claims about what they think people would like. As a viewer, I sometimes disagree with these conclusions. (No doubt this is part of the fun of the show: feeling smarter than the sharks when they make a bad call.) In those cases, it’d be useful to ask the audience.
That’s Food Fortunes‘ one decent addition to the format. The rest are ideas it took from Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank and knocked off badly.