“Sharks” Daymond John and Lori Grenier joined executive producers Clay Newbill and Yun Lingner as part of Sony Pictures Television’s Shark Tank panel at Deadline’s Contenders Television: The Nominees award-season event. Nominated this year for three Emmys — Structured Reality Program, Host, and Casting for a Reality Program — the show, consistently a Friday night ratings winner for ABC through 12 seasons, won the Emmy in the Structured Reality category in four consecutive seasons from 2014-17.
This past season has been one of its most challenging as it had to be produced during the pandemic, but also one of its most important as it has served as something of a godsend for many small-business entrepreneurs during some unprecedented hard times.
“It was an incredible season for us, Season 12,” Newbill said. “You know, it was in the height of the pandemic and we felt it was important to get Shark Tank back on the air not just for the 100-plus people that are involved in making the show to keep them working, but also to provide a lifeline for small-business owners. Shark Tank has always been a support system for small-business owners in America, but now we felt that it was needed more than ever. … Their stories of overcoming adversity we knew would be inspiring for other entrepreneurs but, more importantly, give hope and encouragement to our viewers that they could survive and that they could get through the pandemic.
“Shark Tank always had this underlying message, whether it’s you’re looking at the Sharks like Lori and Daymond and you know you think to yourself, ‘You know, they came from nothing, they did this on their own, they’re self-made.’ Even more so they see entrepreneurs on the show that come in and pitch a Shark and get a deal, and it’s that magic moment where their lives are changed and you see it. This year we felt that it would be more important than the Sharks’ message of that, but that the entrepreneurs, you’re watching those entrepreneurs at home and whether you’re not an entrepreneur or not, ‘if that person can get through it, I can get through it.’ So that’s why for us we felt it was so important to get the show back on the air — to give people hope and encouragement that there’s light at the end of the tunnel here and we can get through this together.”
Grenier was moved by the individual stories this season. “It always affects you,” she said. “I mean, we’re there to actually help entrepreneurs, and that’s what we do, and this year I think during the pandemic we wanted to try to give as many deals as we could to help as many businesses as we could and give an extra special leg up because it was extraordinary times where people really needed it even more than ever.”
John agreed. “You know, I got to say, to be honest, the entrepreneurs that we saw this year overcame really, really, really challenging times like the entire world,” he said. “It was really like falling in love with so many different people because I wanted to also learn from them to help them, to let the world see how great people are facing adversity, so it was just really a very emotional and a great season for me as well.”
Lingner said the entrepreneurs they see are always inspiring season to season, as well as being different (there are roughly 20,000-30,000 applicants each season). “I think what’s so great about the show is that it’s such an accurate, organic reflection of what’s going on in the culture, in the world, and in business. So, you know, it’s a pretty simple concept, but like every season it’s fresh because the world changes and evolves.”
Check out the panel video above.