I'm not one for reality television. In fact, I tend to believe that this form of "entertainment" is turning the minds of our youth into seaweed and destroying American culture in the process. Programs such as Teen Mom, The Real World and Jersey Shore dish up dialogue and situations so vacuous and dimwitted that we may as well lobotomize those who watch them. I pray for the day that these media cesspools of narcissism disappear and the industry returns to employing actual writers to create more original sitcom and dramatic programming.
But there is one show that I find utterly fascinating and enjoyable. What's more, I am thrilled to say that my 8-year-old daughter is even more obsessed with it than I am. The show is ABC's Shark Tank, which airs Friday evenings and gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to a panel of five "filthy rich" (as the announcer refers to them) gazillionaires who then decide whether or not to fund their ventures.
Shark Tank's genius is that it's more game show and educational show than the standard reality fare. It actually teaches something important, and because of that unique benefit I strongly recommend that every parent have their children watch at least one episode.
As an entrepreneur who's started three businesses, it's music to my ears when Sophie asks, "Do we have any Shark Tanks taped?" This kid knows more about sales, profits, balance sheets and corporate valuations than I could ever have dreamed she would at this age. She's developed a genuine interest and appreciation for deal-making and the venture capital process.
Part of the fun for Sophie is the good-natured competitive jostling (the show could be called Snark Tank) amongst the Sharks as they vie to outdo each other for the most desired investments . Her clear favorite is Mark Cuban, the irreverent technology billionaire-turned-author-actor-movie/TV mogul-Dallas Mavericks owner. She loves the way he always seems to out-Shark the others to get the best deals. Her least favorite is Kevin "Mr. Wonderful" O'Leary. "That guy really loves money," she says with zero reverence. "Nobody seems to like him."
But the real payoff is when she asks questions such as, "What are sales?" "What does 20% equity mean?" and "What is a partner?" That she has such a capitalistic curiosity is refreshing, and I love being able to talk with her about it. Are there some adult themes, advanced humor and phrases uttered during this highly entertaining educational hour? Of course. But have you seen iCarly lately? I'll take Shark Tank any day over the mindless sarcastic drivel currently aimed at kids on Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and MTV.