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Producer Phil Gurin

Here's Phil Gurin's corporate press release:

Established in 1997, The Gurin Company, Phil Gurin's young production company, has become a major player in all forms of light entertainment, including reality shows, game shows, variety shows, holiday specials, magazine and documentary programming and live entertainment.

Gurin is currently executive producer of the new NBC game show, "Weakest Link," which has been a huge BBC hit in England. He is also the executive producer of FOX's new hidden camera show, "Only Joking," which will debut its first six episodes this year, as well as creator and executive producer of both a comedy reality series called "Hotel Hell" for Comedy Central and a game show pilot for USA Network called "Search & Destroy." Gurin is executive producing two syndicated series - the talk show "Mark & Mark" with Mark DeCarlo and Mark Walberg and the consumer reality series "Crowbar." He just completed executive producing "Voice of a Child," a live music variety special for Canada's Global Television network and the hit relationship series "All New 3' A Crowd," which just finished taping its second season for the Game Show Network. He was executive producer of the prime time quiz show "Twenty-One," which aired on NBC this past year. The revival of this notorious classic program that originally ran from 1956 to 1958 also aired on PAX TV. Most recently, Gurin completed his fourth season as producer of CBS' "Candid Camera" and has just produced a game show pilot "Videoactive" for MTV.

The Gurin Company had at least five new projects air this past year on FOX alone. During the summer, "Now or Never: Face Your Fear," a reality stunt special and series pilot hosted by Jerry Springer and "The World's Most Incredible Animal Rescues III, the third installment of Gurin's original reality special premiered on FOX. The hit reality special, "When Cameras Cross the Line," aired this past fall. For the holidays, FOX aired "The Greatest Christmas Moments of All Time II." This spring will bring the premiere of another reality special on the network, with the airing of "On This Ice 2: The Dark Side of Skating."

Additionally, the Gurin Company recently completed production on the game show pilot "The Jack Cash Show (aka Smartass") for FX and a reality comedy pilot called "stop Making Sense" for FOX. Development is underway for a series exploring the msyterious and unexplained called "Unlocking the Mysteries of…" as well as production on a comedy film short entitled "A-List," which is set to tour the festival circuit. (See complete production slate.)

Gurin credits his success, in part, to good story telling. "I'd spent almost 10 years as a story analyst and television writer. I also wrote two books. For me everything - a reality show, variety show, even a game show - needs a beginning, middle and an end. You have to identify good characters - television is all about people - and how those characters are shown to America make al the difference. Viewers must be able to take away something from each 'act' regardless of the format. And that's what I love to do. Conflict and resolution is part of every good show."

The other element of his success has been establishing good production relationships. Gurin was recently partnered with television legend Fred Silverman on "Twenty-One," with whom he is also developing a new music/variety series. He is working with actor Wesley Snipes on a "stunt"-oriented event special and is partnered with actor John Ratzenberger on "The World's Mot Amazing Animal Rescues." In addition, he recently launched a new relationship with Hollywood legend Keith Addis of Industry Entertainment on their new series "Only Joking." But he says his most unique working relationship is with English royalty. Gurin was recently partnered with Edward, the Earl of Wessex and the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II. The Gurin Company and the Earl's Ardent Productions, Ltd., joined forces for the reality special "When Camera's Cross the Line."

Of course, experience counts too. "Part of my success is due to the fact that I have worked in television for a long time. I've worked for a 'zillion' people - some who are my competitors today - moving up through the ranks. I'm still just a working stiff myself. And when I hire a staff for one of my shows, I know exactly what to look for because chances are, I've already done their job at some point in my career."

I talked by phone Feburary 6, 2002, with Philip Gurin.

Luke: "How did you get into producing TV shows?"

Philip: "I started as a writer. For me, everything in television is about writing. I went to graduate school at NYU and got a degree in dramatic writing. I wrote a novel (Adventures With Dangerous Women) and a book of James Bond trivia. I worked in the development business in New York creating series and movies. And from my writing and development background, you come to the appreciation that everything is storytelling. Every genre is story telling, whether it is a reality show, an alternative show, a variety show, a re-enactment of stunts, it is still storytelling."

Luke: "How did you get your niche in game shows?"

Philip: "I don't know. I came to California to write movies. I went to grad school to write movies. At one point in New York, I needed a job. And I was asked to write for a gameshow for MTV, Remote Control. Then I came to California and while I was casting about looking for a job in the movie business, I got a call from Nicklelodeon. 'Do you want to work on a gameshow?' So they gave me a job as the head writer on the syndicated version of their hit show Super Sloppy Double Dare. Three months after coming to California, I found myself in Philadelphia and Orlando making gameshows and it snowballed into stunt shows, comedy shows, more gameshows, reality shows, quiz shows.

"I moved from writer to field director to segment director to show producer to supervising producer to ultimately I sold my shows and here I am."

Luke: "Out of all the things you've done, which have had the most meaning for you?"

Philip: "I always like to say that the one I'm working on at the moment has the most meaning because it is the child that I love at that time. And the other glib answer is that I am always most interested in my next show. I love a challenge. What I love about what I do is that it is always different. As an early struggling writer, my agents at the William Morris agency didn't know how to sell me because I liked to do everything. I did so many different genres. Now I think it is exciting that I had that cool fun background.

"I love Weakest Link obviously because it is my most successful show. When we're backstage, after each round, we're creating and producing live comedy. We're reacting to what happened in the previous three minutes and we're going to produce three minutes of jokes based on that. That's as close to live TV as I have ever come."

Luke: "What do you think it says about you that you are the producer of The Weakest Link?"

Phil: "I didn't create this show. I don't know that I am so responsible... I do think I get what we're trying to do here. We've evolved into a smart comedy game."

Luke: "How much does the show reflect your sense of humor?"

Phil: "A lot of it. Edgy, acerbic, confrontational, dangerous. That reflects my sense of humor and my attitude."

Luke: "Some think the show is cruel."

Phil: "They're not really watching. It's mean with a wink. If you have the hubris to think that you are so smart that you're going to come on our show and win the money, we're going to take you down a peg. It's saying to people on camera what people say at home when they're sitting on the sofa watching the show. That's why we getter younger demographics, because of its honesty."

Luke: "The show is emblematic of a change in television."

Phil: "We're catching the zeitgeist."

Luke: "Have any of your shows gotten away from you?"

Phil: "There was a show I'd loved but we had to take it in a direction that didn't come out as successfully as it could've. That was Now or Never, Face Your Fears. I did this two years before NBC did Fear Factor."

Imdb.com says: "An hour long special on Fox hosted by Jerry Springer and Kris McGaha. Regular people face their deepest fears for money. Fear of heights? A woman scales a 10 story building. Fear of fire? A woman is surrounded by a wall of flames."

Phil: "It was fun because we were challenging people to face their personal fears. We had too many cooks, too many people giving input. At the end of the day, a good creative vision will make a show stronger. If you've got nine points of view, that's a recipe for disaster."

Luke: "Has the zeitgeist changed since September 11th for the material you produce?"

Phil: "No. I produce light entertainment."

Luke: "What do you think of The Truman Show?"

Phil: "We live that. I see that happening all the time. The most prophetic movie was 1976's Network. That's what we do now. Network is here, except that we don't kill people when they get low ratings. Writer Paddy Chayefsky was a genius and he saw it all and we live it now.

"But people choose to be on TV. You can make a whole argument that all of these reality shows are nothing more than shows for wanna be actors who couldn't get a job on a series. For the most part, they are actors. It's cost-cutting. You don't have to pay them a big contract. You can put them in a reality show for just the prize. They get their two minutes of fame and tape on their reel to get a real acting job. I don't know how real it is when you've got actors playing real people in contrived situations."

Luke: "As you stay in touch with the other reality shows, do you ever see people going too low?"

Phil: "Not yet."