Reality TV producer Mark Cronin joins the show for a discussion about his extensive career working as the creator and executive producer of various reality TV shows starting with Singled Out in the 90s and continuing to his work today on hit shows like Bravo's Below Deck.
If you’ve ever caught yourself lounging on the couch obsessively watching what happens to a seemingly everyday character on your favorite reality TV show, then you should probably know the name Mark Cronin, who I recently interviewed. He is the wildly successful reality television producer, best known for creating the “celebrity-reality” genre that has taken the entertainment industry by storm.
He is the creative genius and founder of Little Wooden Boat Productions, the famed company currently producing the game show Idiotest on GSN (Game Show Network), and Mark himself is the Executive Producer behind Below Deck, and its spin-off, Below Deck Mediterranean, both aired on Bravo.
Veteran TV producer Mark Cronin had an unusual background for entertainment. “I went to school for chemical engineering. I hated that career, though, and got myself out by harassing the ‘Howard Stern’ TV show until they hired me in the early ‘90s,” he explained.
From there he became a showrunner for MTV’s ‘Singled Out,” before launching his own production company, Mindless Entertainment, for game and talk shows — and eventually the reality show, “The Surreal Life.” “That became a big hit. Now I produce ‘Idiotest' for GSN (in our fourth season now), and ‘Below Deck’ and ‘Below Deck Mediterranean’ for Bravo,” he added.
Charlene Weisler: How has content creation changed (or not) since you first started in the business?
Mark Cronin: When I started in reality TV, it was still a pioneering genre. Now, as a mature business, there are standard procedures, positions and production methods. In the early days, I think we were making it all up as we went along.
Weisler: How do you craft a character’s image that the audience will believe?
Cronin: When people are on a reality show, you really need them to reveal the truth about themselves. Some people do it easily and willingly, and others have more trouble being honest and real in front of the camera.
I always construct and cast my shows so that the truth will come out one way or another. Once someone is being honest, truthful and revealing, the audience will know it, recognize it and love it.
Anyone who watches TV even for 30 minutes a week has seen the dramatic explosion of reality TV as a dominant genre of entertainment today. According to one study, we’ve gone from one major reality show “Survivor” more than 15 years ago, to over 300 reality shows being aired today.
I’ve often wondered where the ideas for these shows come from, and why exactly do some shows go on to be blockbusters, while others fail miserably. I’ve wondered too what makes them so addictive to some people, yet others aren’t attracted to them at all.
To learn more about reality TV and the secret to developing entertainment programs that enthrall their audiences, I caught up withMark Cronin, TV producer, writer and entrepreneur, and creator of the show Below Deck which is setting new ratings records forBravo. Throughout his landmark career, Mark has founded three successful production companies and served as show runner on 43 TV series across 12 different networks, the majority of which are seeing multiple seasons and spinoffs becoming standout entities. Mark is considered by many a true game-changer in the reality TV world, which continues to rise in the ranks of popularity and money-making ability for networks.
An Ivy league graduate with a degree in chemical engineering, Mark took an unusual path to producing television, ultimately creating reality TV powerhouse production company Mindless Entertainment and co-founding 51 Minds Entertainment. Mark continues to produce Bravo’s highly popular Below Deck, the spinoff Below Deck Mediterranean and his new company Little Wooden Boat Productions Inc. produces the game show Idiotest on GSN now prepping for it’s fourth season.