Before he became one of television’s most notable producers, Mark Burnett was a British army vet searching for adventure. He found it in the French marathon expedition race Raid Gauloises (think Tour de France on steroids), which became Burnett’s first TV production, a 1993 special for Los Angeles TV station KCAL.
He pulled it off with a lot of help from his friend, KCAL sports anchor and future “Entertainment Tonight” co-host Mark Steines, who hosted the special and helped Burnett shoot and edit the footage.
Steines, now co-host of Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family,” admits he had no inkling that Burnett was destined to lead the charge on the contemporary wave of reality programming. But the KCAL special netted Steines a local L.A. Emmy Award, which helped him get hired by “Entertainment Tonight” in 1995.
“If I bumped into somebody today and they said, ‘You know, about six months ago I was a nanny selling reduced interest rate credit cards and T-shirts on the beach in Venice. I’m going to be a big TV producer one day,’ I’d be like ‘Yeah, good luck,’ ” Steines says with a chuckle.
Steines remembers that Burnett’s work ethic was relentless. “Did he know what he was doing? Hell no. I think he had strong intentions, and he was going to keep knocking on doors and he was going to do it until he got it right,” Steines says.
In 2006, long after Burnett hit big with “Survivor” and “The Apprentice,” Steines teamed again with his friend on “Gold Rush,” an Internet scavenger-hunt show produced for AOL. While Burnett was definitely wealthier and savvier than in the Raid Gauloises days, Steines saw a relatively unchanged man.
“It’s great to see where Mark was and where he is today,” Steines says. “There’s a clear delineation between the two, but at the core, he’s always been the guy that I knew back in the early ’90s.”