Forbes Interview: A Reality TV Trailblazer Shares Insider Secrets To Developing Blockbuster Entertainment

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.

#ThrowbackThursday - A.V. Club: Secrets behind "Singled Out"

In entertainment, an awful lot of stuff happens behind closed doors, from canceling TV shows to organizing music festival lineups. While the public sees the end product on TVs, movie screens, paper, or radio dials, they don’t see what it took to get there. In Expert Witness, The A.V. Club talks to industry insiders about the actual business of entertainment in hopes of shedding some light on how the pop-culture sausage gets made.

Anyone in their 30s remembers Singled Out, MTV’s innuendo-heavy dating show. Initially hosted by Chris Hardwick and Jenny McCarthy, the show matched up college-age singles by virtue of bra size, hula-hooping ability, and how well their raunchy perfect date puns synched up. It wasn’t a science by any means, but viewers ate it up, with MTV ordering five seasons between 1995 and 1998, when the show went off the air.

While both Hardwick and McCarthy have answered hundreds if not thousands ofSingled Out questions, there’s still not much information out there about what actually went on behind the scenes of the show. How did the show recruit its 50 muscle-bound dudes and flare-clad gals? Were any real love connections ever made? And why did the show always send its winners to Catalina Island? Mark Cronin knows the answers to these questions. Initially hired as the show’s head writer, Cronin was promoted to showrunner for its second and third seasons and saw Singled Out through its glory days. He talked to The A.V. Club about packages, spring break, and Singled Out’s dirty little secret.


Sirius XM: 1 on 1 with Larry Flick-Reality television with Mark Cronin

Longtime SiriusXM host Larry Flick comes to Entertainment Weekly Radio with a brand new daily pop culture talk show. Each day Larry will be discussing the biggest stories from TV, movies, and music from his point of view while interviewing some of the biggest names from entertainment.