Cable Production Is Summers' Game

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Get to know Marc Summers and it won't be long before you hear his career mantra: "Be as good a host as Bob Barker and as good a producer as Dick Clark."

Over the last two decades, cable viewers have come to know Summers as a host of game, talk or reality shows — particularly Nickelodeon viewers, who watched his rise to fame as ringmaster of the long-running hits Double Dare
and What Would You Do?
Of late though, a number of cable networks are working with Summers behind the set on an array of first-run programming.

Through two production companies — a self-named outfit he runs and a second, Get Real, which he oversees with partner Jean Wigeman — Summers'Ultimate Revenge
is winding up its second season on TNN: The National Network. TNN is also currently considering a third set of 13 half-hour Revenge
segments, as well as another project.

Meanwhile, Nickelodeon relaunched Wild & Crazy Kids
— one of its most popular shows a decade ago — earlier this year, with 10 half-hours co-produced by Summers and original Kids
overseer Woody Fraser.

Under the Get Real flag, Summers has also submitted The Firestarter, a documentary on arson investigations, to Court TV, where it played to solid reviews.

Combining talents

Summers also has ideas and pilots in play at A&E Network, Home & Garden Television, Food Network and elsewhere. One place where he doesn't have something bubbling yet — at least not something he'll disclose publicly — is Game Show Network, home of WinTuition, Summers's newest hosting gig.

WinTuition, which premiered last month, gives contestants a shot at winning up to $50,000 in college tuition money for themselves or family members.

"It's easier to be both producer and talent, because you have a feel for more aspects of the scene," Summers said. "I can put myself in the audience's seat and get a pulse of what can go on and what can work.

"It's a cool aspect of my life, because you carve out your own niche and go on your own drumbeat. I don't know many game-show people who've done documentaries. And as a host, given the volatile state of this business, you have to have a plan B."

Summers's production game plan includes several key plays. He partners with people he knows, operates on a modest budget and explores opportunities that are of the moment.

Many of the producers and Nick executives with whom Summers worked on Double Dare
are now in decision-making positions at cable channels, or engaged with their own production shops. Summers regularly approaches them with new concepts.

"His track record as a host put him into situations where he was able to learn about producing," said Nick executive vice president and general manager Cyma Zarghami. "When we made Double Dare, we did five shows a day. When you watch five shows done a day, you take in a whole lot of learning even if you don't want to."

Indeed, Nick let Summers co-produce Double Dare
down the stretch of its run on the network. His relationship with Fraser, whose long-running TV career includes Good Morning America
and The Mike Douglas Show, started with What Would You Do?

Zarghami is not surprised by Summers's success.

"He's incredibly and naturally intelligent, which makes a great combination of skills for a producer," she said. "This is the business where you can do anything you want to do, and he's met so many people in this arena, as an icon in the game show world, so you can pull that kind of bond together to make a great show, whether in games or not."

Right fits

Often, Summers will take the advice of friends and create shows based on their requirements. One such friend is Nancy LeBuke, an A&E executive who worked with Summers producing History IQ, the game show he hosted for The History Channel for two years.

"She asked for certain things for weekend or daytime, aimed at women 25 to 54. We came up with a music-based show with celebrity and nostalgia segments, based on a best-seller," Summers said.

At other times, he'll create an idea and see where it fits. What Are The Odds?, in which players bet on the ability of a studio audience member to complete a stunt based on odds set by the full audience, was developed with no channel in mind. TNN then took the pilot and ordered the show, based on the success of Ultimate Revenge.

No matter what the show, Summers is intent on keeping his content family-friendly and tasteful.

"I have standards, and I want to look in the mirror and do things I can be proud of," he said. "There are certain genres I won't do, including extreme-reality and relationship shows."

It also helps when hosting activities engender production opportunities. As an adjunct to Unwrapped, the weekly look at the origin of popular edibles Summers does for Food Network, he recently taped a game-show pilot for the channel, based on food trivia.

If Food calls for the series — a development that's anticipated over the next week or so — Summers will get together with Unwrapped
creators High Noon Productions and make some episodes as early as mid-January.

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