A few days ago, I shook Mark Burnett’s hand.
That would be me and a 50 or so other adoring fans who were gathered at the Motion Picture Association of America with Comcast-NBC Universal executive David Cohen to get a first peek at the new NBC television drama A.D., which will air this Easter Sunday.
“Burnett basically invented the reality-show genre,” Cohen said. “He has 112 Emmys and eleven shows currently on the air.” Including my favorite: the groundbreaking pro-entrepreneur, investment show Shark Tank.
I became a fan the first time I watched the original Apprentice. I had no idea Burnett was a Christian or any kind of political conservative. What I noticed was the reason I found the show so profoundly and oddly compelling, despite my anti-reality-show snobbery: It tapped into a deep dramatic narrative that I almost never saw on TV or in the movie theater, the drama that once launched a series of Horatio Alger best sellers, the drama of “making it” in business. In Hollywood, the businessman was usually the villain, not the protagonist of a moral drama. This kind of story was invisible, despite being the story of so many young people’s lives.
According to Wikipedia, “Each team comprised a mandatory mix of both men and women, racing nonstop, 24 hours a day, over a rugged 300-mile (500 km) course, participating in such disciplines as trekking, whitewater canoeing, horseback riding, sea kayaking, scuba diving, mountaineering, camel-back riding, and mountain biking.”
Episodes appeared on cable TV for seven years. His next show was Survivor.
With his wife, Roma Downey, Burnett is now working on several other faith-tinged projects including The Dovekeepers, based on the Alice Hoffman novel.
Burnett’s first venture in broadcasting. The Bible, in 2013, gained 100 million viewers and became the most-watched miniseries of the year. In introducing A.D., Burnett proudly pointed to the Academy award–winning team he is able to assemble (“This is not some crappy little Christian programming”) and called the show “The Bible meets Game of Thrones meets House of Cards.”
I should not be surprised a man of this intense creative genius knows the story he is telling. “With two shows I now have on television, A.D. and Shark Tank, we are telling the story of America: Free enterprise and the Bible!” Burnett said.
Amen to that.
— Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project. She blogs at MaggieGallagher.com.