Dreaming of reality TV
Author, criminologist Nash is father of 'Scariest Police Shootouts'
Joe Schlosser -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/5/2000 7:00:00 PM
Bruce Nash should be collecting his first Pulitzer Prize about now-or maybe running the North Carolina prison system. He shouldn't be Hollywood's most prolific reality-television producer.
Nash, president of Nash Entertainment and the man behind such hits as When Good Pets Go Bad and World's Scariest Police Shootouts, holds a master's degree in criminology and worked for the North Carolina corrections department. He is also the author of more than 80 books, mostly sports and trivia titles.
Coming out of Florida State University in 1969, he was prepared for a career in government. "I knew I wanted to do something that would have an impact," he says, "and I was figuring that public service was the way."
He went to work for one of his criminology professors, helping to open a North Carolina branch of the South Eastern Correctional and Criminological Research Center. In 1973, he moved on to the North Carolina Governor's Committee on Law & Order. Later, while serving as director of planning and research for the state's correction division, he realized that he had other aspirations.
Nash wanted to write books. So he researched old TV Guides and penned a TV-trivia quiz book, Tubeteasers. He had been a big television and film fan growing up and, when he received his first copy of the book, knew he had to change professions.
In 1976, he began producing books full time and soon had published 21, including volumes on Elvis, ghosts and sports. In 1984, he and journalist Allan Zullo teamed up in Nash & Zullo Productions and, over the next 10 years, published 60 sports-oriented titles. Their Hall of Shame collection gained them national attention.
"We were cranking them out, six or seven books every year," Nash says. "Then we were doing calendars, different types of merchandise, and we even had a syndicated comic strip at one point. It was like a factory."
Each trip to Los Angeles to promote his books made Nash hungrier to give Hollywood a shot. In 1991, he sold his first show to Don Olhmeyer's production company. America's Best Kept Secrets ran on ABC with Monday Night Football anchor Al Michaels as its host and turned in solid ratings.
For the next several years, Nash continued to write with Zullo and also produced specials for the networks. When 1994 special Before They Were Stars became a regular series at ABC, he founded Nash Entertainment, moved his family west and ended his writing partnership with Zullo to focus on television.
He started cranking out reality specials for all the major networks, striking gold with 1997's Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed. The November-sweeps program drew 24 million viewers and is still Fox's highest-rated special.
Has he produced anything he's not proud of? "I don't think so. We have always tried make a show a little bit more noble than its crazy premise. The example I like to point to is World's Scariest Police Shootouts, which had some terribly violent video. However, with my background and my respect for law enforcement, I made the show about brave cops and put a lot of them on camera to tell their stories."
Moving away from reality programs, Nash is producing shows for nearly every cable and network outlet in Hollywood. His first original film, The Man Who Used to Be Me, aired over the summer on FOX Family Channel, and he has sitcom pilots in development and projects at The Learning Channel and Travel Channel. Next stop: theatrical movies.
"This is a dream," he says, "and the dream continues because I haven't realized it fully yet. I've just started."
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