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Shark Tank, please dump Kevin O’Leary

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome,” Kevin O’Leary said during last season’s Shark Tank season finale. He’s repeating a platitude, but when it comes to his presence on the show, he’s right.

It’s time for Kevin O’Leary to go, because he doesn’t make good television—and while it’s been a gift to have Shark Tank this season, he’s been making it worse.

That’s because Mr. Wonderful has become Mr. Boring Interrupter. He’s dead weight, a black hole at the center of the set who pulls everyone into his gravitational orbit and makes us age faster, since he’s taking up time and energy with the same nonsense.

On the April 23 episode, three guys came in to pitch their business: The Scrubbie, a sponge that attaches to faucet sprayers and garden hoses. I immediately thought about Scrub Daddy, which became Shark Tank’s most-successful product after Lori Greiner invested in it.

Once I saw their packaging, I thought, that’s like a blue Scrub Daddy! Compare Scrub Daddy‘s packages to The Scrubbie. They’re not exactly identical, but from the “Scrub” name to the angled, cursive-ish font, they look like they could be cousins.

So I was on the edge of my couch when Lori said to them, “So, I’m curious: Have you been watching Shark Tank a long time?” They said they had, and she asked, “Who did your packaging and your logo?” One of the entrepreneurs said, “a friend of mine.”

“So, I have a question,” Lori said. She was laying a trap and drama was ahead!

And then fucking Kevin O’Leary interrupted, again, like he always does. “I only have two questions,” Kevin said, as if Lori didn’t just say she had a question.

Lori said, “Kevin, why did you so rudely interrupt me?” Kevin replied, “Remember, Lori, I’m working on anger management this season.” He’s been making references to that all season. It’s not clear if this is a bit or real, but either way, it seems like he’s aware his persona is not working. Lori said as much: “I know, and your anger management classes aren’t working.”

Kevin didn’t give a shit. He just plowed ahead: “I just—I can’t take it any more: I have to ask a question,” he said, and then he barged in, succeeding in silencing Lori. It was only later, when Robert brought up the Scrub Daddy, that Lori returned to her question, and was able to confront the entrepreneurs about the similarities.

Shark Tank, episode 921
Mark Cuban wraps something around Kevin O’Leary’s face during episode 21 of Shark Tank season 9. (Photo by (Eddy Chen/ABC)

Kevin O’Leary is constantly talking over other people on Shark Tank, and frequently interrupting women. That’s a pattern that’s familiar to his Dragon’s Den co-star Arlene Dickinson, who wrote this in an op-ed when Kevin was running for office:

Perhaps more revealing is that Kevin went on to say my concerns aren’t legitimate because I’m an “emotional woman.” Specifically, I was so emotional, I “was never able to separate [my emotions] from [my] investment decisions,” which is why I “did so poorly.”

Denigrating women has become something of a trend for Kevin-the-candidate. When I defended our men and women in uniform, and called him out for saying there was nothing “honourable about being a warrior,” he called me “confused.” When his fellow Conservative candidate, Lisa Raitt, opposed his “greed is good” viewpoint, she too was “confused.” When I question Kevin’s suitability for office, it’s because I’m “emotional.”

That’s right, Kev, we’re just a bunch of confused, emotional women.

Kevin’s claim that I made poor investments on the show because I was emotional is just another example that Kevin-the-candidate will bend the truth when it’s convenient. The reality is, I would put my top investment aired on Dragons’ Den against his any day, and I challenge him to do it.

That kind of sexism is evident on screen in so many Shark Tank episodes, but refusing to let his co-stars speak is not the only kind of toxicity Kevin O’Leary brings to the show.

On the Feb. 19 episode, he told a swimsuit designer, “You have picked a sector that is almost impossible to make money in, for all the reasons you’ve heard here. Luckily, there’s a lot of barns in Iowa. Find a nice barn and just go shoot it.” That’s cruel—and it’s familiar, because Kevin’s insults are monotonous.

After subjecting us to that same metaphor yet again, Kevin started lashing himself with the bathing suit. “They’re just beating themselves up,” Kevin said of the entrepreneurs. Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran laughed, enabling his abusiveness. Sometimes the other sharks push back, especially when he tells people to give up or what they’ve done is worthless, but it’s clear all the sharks are friends by now, and no one is seriously stepping in to end his reign of pulling all of the oxygen out of the room.

ABC and/or the producers of Shark Tank should. They brought Kevin and Robert Herjavec in from Canada’s Dragon’s Den to give the American version anchors who were familiar with the format. But the other sharks—and often now, the guest sharks—bring so much more to the table.

The format is stronger than any individual, and doesn’t need Kevin in the center chair hurling the same insults over and over again. It’s a pattern we’ve seen before in reality TV:

  • Simon Cowell shocked viewers on American Idol by telling bad singers that they were actually bad, and then quickly got so bored that it made the show boring.
  • Tim Gunn gave thoughtful advice on Project Runway, until he turned into such a catchphrase-spewing robot that when he actually mentored, it surprised people.
  • Gordon Ramsay started on the UK’s Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares by giving direct, helpful, and profane feedback, but now just phones in the insults and anger, and is so mired in that persona he’s even a rude asshole in his new show.

Five years ago, I wrote that it was “time to drop Mr. Wonderful,” that he “needs to be swapped out sometimes” because “His shtick is the shtickiest, his insults the most predictable, and his offers (those royalties!) the most pointless. I don’t want him to be fired, but it’s absurd that he still has a permanent, center chair.” 

In season nine, he didn’t appear in a few episodes, and the show was better for it. American Idol does just fine without Simon Cowell or someone in the Simon Cowell role; Project Runway is actually much better now with Christian Siriano as mentor.

In 2016, Kevin told Inc. magazine, “Running a business is hard. You have to be willing to fire your mother. When you are the leader of a business, your responsibility is to the success of the whole organization, not any one individual, including yourself.” 

He’s absolutely right: the success of Shark Tank is not dependent on one individual, and yet it’s acting as if it is by keeping Kevin anchored to the center chair.

I don’t want anyone to lose their job, but I’ll make an exception. At the very least, Shark Tank should keep bringing in more and more guest sharks, and offer them Kevin’s seat first. Of the six main sharks, he adds the least, and is increasingly making the show worse.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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