Always Hatching a Batch of Reality Ideas
Nash was in the business long before the genre got hot
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/9/2003 7:00:00 PM
Bruce Nash sells ideas. He has made a career of selling interesting ideas to the right people, and the ideas have gone on to become hundreds of hours of unscripted television programming. In the past three years, the programming Nash had been doing since 1991 has become the hottest genre on television.
"For me, reality has always been booming," he says.
At the moment, Nash has shows on the air or in production on both cable and broadcast. Meet My Folks airs Monday nights on NBC, and spinoff Who Wants To Marry My Mom? is coming soon. My Life Is a Sitcom is wrapping up on ABC Family, while Dance Fever is coming up. He's preparing Mr. Personality for Fox in April. And NBC is readying Around the World in 80 Dates for this summer, although production has been postponed in case the U.S. goes to war.
On cable, Nash-produced shows appear on The History Channel (Modern Marvels), The Travel Channel (Road Trip) and TLC (Robotica). Moreover, Nash's daughter Robyn also is producing a show by Nash Entertainment: For Better or for Worse, a wedding show for TLC.
Nash didn't get his start in TV. After graduating from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., he went to work in his chosen field, criminology. While crime-related research may not seem related to reality television, it taught Nash the power of knowledge, something he still values highly in his work. "Research," he says, "is the foundation of everything I've done."
When Nash talks about his ideas, it's easy to confuse them with his children. He speaks of them reverently, as if each is its own entity. And perhaps they are. His ideas have turned into tangible things: books, TV shows, companies.
"Over my computer at home, I had the picture of the Hollywood sign," he says. "I dreamed of it, but I didn't just dream of it, I made it happen."
Says David Tenzer, one of Nash's agents at Creative Artists Agency, "I think people generally in television underestimate the power of a really good, high-concept idea. Bruce completely understands the power of a great idea. He's generally regarded as one of the best idea guys in reality television."
Before Nash and his ideas set up shop in California—his office is literally under the Hollywood sign—he spent 15 years turning his ideas into books. He became an expert at developing ideas, selling them to publishers and converting them into big-selling books.
Nash published 20 books before meeting his business partner, Allan Zullo, who collaborated with him on 60 more. They penned books on ghost stories, Elvis, pets and sports, the last of which Nash loves perhaps even more than he loves television. His office is a veritable shrine to baseball; one of his favorite books he wrote was The Baseball Hall of Shame.
"The biggest compliment I would get was 'Oh, I had your book in my bathroom,'" Nash says, clearly understanding the importance of commercial appeal.
Although he had no actual knowledge of how a TV show was produced, that didn't matter to him. He knew he had plenty of ideas and how to pitch them and that he could hire people who knew TV production to get those ideas on the air. In 1991, he sold America's Best Kept Secrets to Ohlmeyer Productions, which in turn sold it to ABC. The special did a 20 share. Soon after, Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories appeared on CBS.
Since then, it has been full speed ahead. His breakthrough hit was Before They Were Stars, which aired on ABC in 1994 to a 24 share and became a half-hour series. It allowed Nash to start his own company, Nash Entertainment, which today is busier than ever.
Ultimately, Nash wants to move on to scripted comedies, dramas and even feature films. Of course, he has plenty of ideas.
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