‘Survivor’ producer pioneer in reality TV

Burnett fueled by desire to produce authentic content

Mark Burnett lit the reality torch with CBS’ “Survivor,” and he’s worked to keep the flame burning since. The acclaimed producer currently has unscripted series on four broadcast networks (including NBC’s “The Apprentice,” ABC’s “Shark Tank” and Fox’s “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”), not to mention cable networks as disparate as MTV and TV Land.

Credit the Emmy winner’s unconventional background — the British-born Burnett has been a paratrooper, Venice Beach T-shirt hawker and Beverly Hills nanny — for the varied slate.

“There are just so many things that interest me,” he says.

Even so, if there’s a theme woven throughout most of Burnett’s work, it’s this: “I enjoy removing people’s veneer and fakeness by putting them in situations that cause them to react with authenticity.”

Ultimately, the man who pioneered competitive reality television in the U.S. is most concerned with challenging himself. “Just because it’s not scripted,” he says, “doesn’t give you the right to not work your ass off.”

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