Episode 1 – Behind the scenes

Thanks to Bill Ingram of Reality News Online for asking a question that appears below !

Let me say off the bat. It was HARD for me to make the cuts. I didn’t want to cut people that early, but we had established the rules and tests,and I had to stick to them. I knew exactly what I was looking for in each test, and I was going to cut someone with each.

In the show, you see me calling each contestant at their homes. What we told them was that they were in the final 25. That I would be calling them to let them know if they had made it or not. Thats why they were so excited. They didnt know if they were in or out till I called. It also meant I was going to have their full attention when I called. That was important.

During the call, I told them repeatedly “the game was on the minute they walked in the door.” I wanted it clear to them that something was coming immediately. If they asked a question, my response, in order to be fair was exactly the same. “The game starts the minute you walk in the door”

The first test was “You dont get a 2nd chance to make a first impression”.

I had some fun with Mario and Dominic to try to break some of the tension that wasin the room, but also to let them know that Im not against them taking chances and calculated risks. Thats a theme that will reoccur during the game.

Making the cuts were very, very hard for me. Maybe it didnt come across well on TV, but it was very hard for me to cut people that early. They all came with high expectations and to cut them before that got going was hard. Honestly, when I designed the game, I had no idea how hard it would be to stand up there and actually tell someone they were cut so soon.

Rich did the poorest job of making a first impression. I realized he wasn’t being directly derogatory with his stupid comment, but my first impression when I heard it certainly that he was. More importantly, the other players, realizing that there were tests going on right from the start, stuck to getting to know the other contestants. No one else took the bait from Rich and talked about the game in anything resembling a derogatory tone. In fact, those around Rich avoided the subject completely.

Rich was the only one that even created any questions about the first impression. He actually saved me. I was concerned that I might have to cut someone because they werent polite…didnt stand up when the women came in the room, that type of thing. I definitely didnt want to do that. Rich gave me an out.

As it turned out, Rich has an issue with saying things at the wrong time and his wife warned him to keep his mouth shut.

The next test was Meeting Expectations

Laurel was the easiest of the cuts. She was nothing like she had presented herself. Nice girl. But not what she billed herself to be.

Grayson and William were on the fence. We had several options depending on how many people I thought didn’t live up to expectations, each of which led to the final test,” can you deal with pressure” (for instance if only 2 had issues, it would have been Laurel and either Grayson or William playing Jenga)

Test 3.. Can you handle pressure ?

I thought the Jenga game was perfect. It requires concentration and coolness under pressure. What could be more pressure packed than playing with 1mm dollars at stake 6 hours after you had walked in the door ? I really thought with all the pressure, the game would be over in a few minutes. Boy was I wrong. They both were amazing. You could cut the tension in the room with a knife.

As the game went on, I was rooting for Grayson, but William was brilliant. Not only in how he played the game, but also in how he used his antics to put the pressure on Grayson and off himself. I wish we could have shown all the stupid stuff he was doing.

Grayson deserved a ton of credit for ignoring every bit of it and keeping her cool. It was unfortunate that she lost.

I know people wanted me to eliminate William because of how he acted, but the test was established. The loser was going to be cut. William was the coolest under pressure, won the game and earned the right to stay.

The Benefactoris not about who I like the most. I know exactly what I am looking for from each test. These are tests for success, not who I want to have a drink with. This is a single elimination event. Who ever is standing at the end gets 1mm dollars.

I tried to make the tests and the message from the testsreflect the challenges we all need to go through in ourefforts tobesuccessful. Not just in business, but in whatever is important to any of us..

During the taping, I would ask the contestants what they thought the game was about. As the they would say, it’s the game of life. Only in reality shows do they tell you that your success will be determined based on clearly established lists of criteria that you know in advance. I didn’t want to be like every reality show and more importantly, as a reality show, I wanted The Benefactor to be a true reflection of what it takes to be successful

Life is unpredictable to all of us. I wanted the tests to be unpredictable. The contestants and audience don’t know from where and when the next testsare coming and what they will be. They do know however that I will be as fair as I know how to be.

One thing that I was proud of, was that with so much at stake, all but the first cut, Richard, came up to me and gave me a big hug and thank you for giving them an opportunity and for latercuts, how much they learned.

Thanks to Bill Ingram for the following question.

Is there a chance players could save themselves after you tell them to leave or after you make a decision? For example, if you told Grayson and William to play Jenga and then Grayson, perhaps, reaches out, knocks over the tower on purpose and makes a moving speech about life being more important than a parlor game, would you seriously consider retracting your decision? Would you ever take back a decision for a good reason?

No.As Isaid above. I knew exactly what I was looking for in each. The tests were very specific and I wanted to be fair to those who did well in the tests. Also, remember, the game isnt about 1 day. There were a lot of challenges still to be encountered. Just because a contestant showed an admirable quality, or an unadmirable quality in the first show, doesnt mean they wont show a completely different side in the future. Which they did.

The show took many a twist and turn. Not just for the contestants, but for me. Contrary to what people think, and again, maybe the first eps didnt show is enough. Im not a host of the show. Im a participant. The choice of tests, how they are responded to, and the decisions I make are all influenced in real time by the contestants.

I think I got the first eps right and made the right choices. .I cant say that about all the future eps…

Expect the unexpected and more importantly, call all and email all your friends in your email lists and buddylists and have them watch The Benefactor on ABC on MOnday nites . Then have themcome back here and tell me what they think !

59 thoughts on “Episode 1 – Behind the scenes

  1. Mark, I love your enthusiasm, intelligence and humor, but the show wa terrible. I admit I did not catch all of it, but as soon as I saw 2 contestants were going to play Jenga for the chance to stay on, I immediately changed the channel; this was the dumbest reality show I ever had tuned into. Sorry, you lost my vote there.

    Comment by Josh -

  2. Mark,

    I watched the first episode of “The Benefactor” and I have to say that it didn’t make a good first impression. However, I’ve been reading your blog for several months and I really like most of what you have to say, so I’m gonna give the show one or two more chances to prove itself.

    My on-line impression of you is quite high but I didn’t like the way you came across on the first episode I watched. It was the first time I’d ever seen you on TV and you came across as kinda arrogant.

    Can you give us your perspective on the importance of arrogance, cockiness, outrageousness, or being overly confident when it comes to success? For many, it’s not a character-trait that people value. I think it holds a lot of people back from achieving their dreams. It plays off people’s fears that they won’t be accepted by others. What role does this attitude play for you? Is this something that will be addressed in a future episode?

    And, YES – I’ll play air guitar for you for a shot at $1M! I couldn’t believe that Laurel was too embarassed to do that. I guess she was treating it too much like a job interview and wanted to leave (what she perceived to be) a good impression on you and/or the TV cameras.

    Thanks for sharing your insights with us.

    Comment by Paul McCarthy -

  3. I missed the “live” showing of The Benefactor because my girlfriend was watching “Everwood”, but I did manage to tape it. I’ll admit it is a bit slower than The Apprentice, but that’s just because it’s a different type of show.

    I think the previews for the upcoming episodes are fantasic.

    For the comment about Mark only making his money in technology and that’s the only thing he can do, I’ve got two words: DALLAS MAVERICKS. Period.

    Comment by Savan -

  4. Mark, I loved your Howard Stern appearance earlier this week. Did you like it? Do you like Howard?

    Comment by Mike -

  5. “If I was playing, I would treat this like a job interview – you always want to put your best foot forward.”

    That is the perfect strategy for The Apprentice. But, I think if you tried that approach for this show, you’d get booted about 40% of the way through. He’s not looking for a cookie-cutter presentation, he’s looking for someone who thinks outside the box.

    He’s mentioned risk taking and creativeness several times. That’s why I suspect that William, despite getting on people’s nerves, will probably make it to the final three (no, I’m not THAT William).

    I think he’s looking for the person who is real and has a naturally successful personality.

    So far, he’s eliminated the duds. Next, he’ll be taking out the phonies, like Dominic and Latane.

    I haven’t gotten to know the others yet to predict other evictions.

    Comment by Bill I -

  6. Mark,

    I haven’t watched the show but I’ll be watching Monday. My first comment is that it sounds like you’re having fun in life and honestly that’s all that matters. Second, if the show is pretty much playing out unplanned and unscripted like others have said, that is exactly what reality television should be.

    Last point, you appear to be one of the best and brightest business people around (either by accident or on purpose). You probably already know this but markets are conversations and people respond to honesty and being genuine. This blog is a perfect example of creating that connection (be it positive or negative) with people. Slowly chipping away at a lot of the beauracracy and creating an environment where you connect with your customers. Even if The Benefactor gets cancelled or you get 5 seasons, it’s a learning experience for everyone and it’s obviously a lot of fun. You only live once.

    Comment by Ed -

  7. That so many people that have bashed the show really think their opinion matters. Only three things matter for this show. ABC, advertisers, production crew. As long as all three know they are making boat loads of money, this show will stay on the air.

    But since opinions are flying here, I’ll let mine loose as well. I can’t let you all have fun🙂

    The show was a freaking blast. This is the first reality show that was actually close to real. I have watched one episode of everything else before now. Up until this one, not one was considered watchable on a weekly basis. The good points of the show:
    A) Mark Cuban.

    B) The people choosen. Regardless if you like them or not. They each brought something to the table at first.

    C) Camera coverage.

    The week points:
    A) Camera coverage isn’t SPLICED real well in post production. That one should be fixed ASAP.

    B) Some things that were taped, didn’t air. I would like to have seen ALL the personal interviews, not just the ones that made good TV.

    C) No way for the audience to perticipate. I would love to see us be able to throw out questions that might eventually be asked. Someone out there might ask just the right question, of the right person, that either sets them apart or utterly destroys them.

    Granted this show has the “Golden Rule”.
    Mark’s gold, Mark makes the rules. But Mark also knows when to listen to others and put it to work for him. Shame he can’t on this one.

    Comment by Skull One -

  8. I learn more from Mark’s lessons in one episode than from the Apprentice. The Apprentice is about group psychology and dynamics, leadership and organization skills in an unusual situation (it’s unusual coz normally you won’t have so many type A personalities in one group) while the Benefactor is focus on sharing the key characteristics that would make a successful entrepreneur (it’s about realizing that the game is always on and the key factors in overcoming unpredictability).

    Mark’s lessons are great for an entrepreneurial type. The game rules for an entrepreneur are different and I think Mark is doing a great job in sharing these lessons (which i believe is definitely worth more than the $1M on the show) and this is also where Mark truly shines as a benefactor.

    However, i do agree that the Apprentice has better structure and dimensions for telling a story on tv:

    (1) Task is clearly assigned
    (2) Teams work feverishly to organize and accomplish the task.
    (3) Results compared.
    (4) 2 rounds of Board Room Discussions AND a chance for contestants to redeem themselves.
    (5) The Donald shows off why he is the Donald.

    In terms of story telling, obviously The Apprentice is a more tried and true method and the 5 dimensions really made the tv episodes easier to watch and follow. There’s also a rhythm to it with its mini-ups and downs which further adds nuances to the story telling.

    The challenge of the Benefactor is to stay true to its theme/feel of ‘unpredictablity’ without being bounded by a too rigid structure. This is of course very difficult to achieve. I think this show is pretty close in achieving that, except in the premise of the casting. Would the show be more “watchable” from a story telling point of view if the casting were different? What about having a cast of budding ‘entrepreneurs’ as opposed to just anyone on the street?

    I commend Mark and his production for trying. Looking forward to future episodes!

    Comment by Ron W -

  9. This show reflects the actual nature of business and success. I am a business developer and on my road to success I’ve encountered situations similar to those concocted on the Benefactor.
    Examples:
    1)At one meeting with a VC firm in Palo Alto, I made the mistake of coughing while waiting in the lobby. A firm partner came out and said “I was watching you on the security camera, and I saw you cough. You just can’t do that, please leave.” I got no second chance for a first impression.
    2)At different meeting with Vulcan, after I finished my presentation, none other than Paul Allen enters the room. He says that the presentation was great, but he really needed to know how I would respond to pressure. After a three hour long battle of ‘Uno,’ Paul Allen calls “Uno!” and proceeds to drop a ‘Wild’ for the win. As expected, I didn’t receive funding that day. It was a tough lesson, but now I know what to expect.

    These types of things are the keys to success, not education or personality. You have to be prepared for the unexpected, to think the unimaginable, and to do the impossible. Those things, and any game made by Parkers Bros. or Milton Bradley, are standard fare these days.

    Comment by Steven -

  10. Good TV Mark, Don’t listen to the above detractors.

    The messages about life are a little harder to get on TV as opposed to this wonderful blog. But then let’s face it.. If you were teaching me about life on Monday nights, I’d flip over to Monday night Football instead. I’d rather be entertained.

    It’s all about the makings of good TV

    Comment by Jerad Brown -

  11. The ABC broadcast of your first show was in poor quality standard definition. Since many of us consider you to be the King of High Definition, I was very saddened by this fact. Although it may not have been your fault it is still your name on the show. I will continue to watch this show and follow your many other antics. Keep up the great work.

    Comment by Gary Meyers -

  12. If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t turn down a chance to do a show like this either. You had a blast, someone got a million dollars and everyone had a good time.

    I thought you were approachable and “human-like” as a host, and while I don’t like a lot of the contestants, I think they will make the show interesting.

    I like how your show tests people differently than most reality shows. I’ll continue to watch until I’m convinced otherwise.

    Comment by Ryan -

  13. Hi Mark
    I watched your entire show last night and watched the last half of THE DONALD Show. This was the first time I had seen either show.

    I read your blog all the time and think very highly of your opinions and your observations, but the first episode of your show just sucked.
    The production value of the show is little and none-it looks like it was shot with a handy cam
    and edited like a BAD home movie.

    I think you could have dressed up a little more for a GUY who’s worth a 1000 million $$$. Who cut your hair? they need to be fired too!!

    Did you make up the interview ??s and why did you ask the guys who they thought the hot CHICK was?? What’s that got to do with the GAME?

    I’m no big donald fan but the guy does know how to dress for Sucess and his hair was at least combed.

    How much of your personal time was spend making
    this show? like you say TIME IS $$$ and DON”T
    QUIT YOUR DAY JOB.

    I’ll give your show a second chance on MONDAY and hope for the BEST.
    BIG FAN
    bob

    Comment by bob -

  14. Mark,

    I have followed you ever since you had Broadcast.com and have always been intrigued by your story and advice. The only interesting part of the first show was the segments where you handed out advice to the viewers at home. That is why I watched the first episode and that is why I will continue to watch. The contestents seem more like the ones from the original Joe Schmo than real contestents. The production on the show was a little shaky!! They cut in and out of certain shots with out lining it up with the voice over a couple of times. Hopefully this was just first episode jitters. Thanks for all the good insight.

    Comment by Dan C. -

  15. OK, I know that everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, but it really bother’s me when people state that Mark’s show is lame. Now I will not deny that maybe I’m missing something, and that maybe these “Mark Bashers” are right, but unless I too am really lame (which is possible) all I can say is that Mark show kicks ass.

    Maybe those who think the show is lame don’t like it because it requires you to think
    *gasp!* Oh horrors, you have to actually use your brain in this show? Come on people! If you want to see bimbos, greedy grubbers, and basic jerks then watch Temptation Island or Survivor. Heck, if you’re really a snob then watch “The Donald’s” stupid TV show however, if you want purely intellectual entertainment that will keep you glued to your seat then The Benefactor is the show for you.

    Mark, I’m sure that the negative comments about your show just roll off you like water on a duck’s back, but just in case they don’t then I want you to re-read your previous blogs. I’m positive that there are more people out there (like me) who think your show rocks so don’t listen to the negative critics… Not even for one second!

    Mark you’re a very successful guy so I’m sure that you know that good ideas always get negative press at the beginning. It’s kind of like an odd baptism by fire thing… God knows why it exists, but in the end once you’ve proven yourself the critics tend to shut up for a little bit. So, hang in there dude for your moment of glory will come and I cannot wait for the day when these critics have to sit down at a table and eat a million plates of crow. Heck, I’ll be there with a shovel to force feed it to them!

    Anyway, take care of yourself Mark and may God bring forth many blessings on your family.

    Peace!

    Comment by Margaret A. McGregor -

  16. I’m from Portland, and I play poker, so to be honest I was very disappointed that the pretty, redheaded lady poker player from Portland was out so soon. If only she had answered that question better…

    But I like the fact that the game isn’t all layed out ahead of time. The biggest failing of most reality shows is either that the audience doesn’t know what is going on, so the results seem random, or the audience knows exactly what is going on (these 5 allied against those 4) so that the results are predictable.

    The Benefactor managed to avoid both of those problems. First, when Mark explains what he is going to do and (most important) why, and second by not letting the contestants pre-determine the results.

    So I’ll be watching, but I hope Grayson gets another chance on season two.

    Comment by Courtney -

  17. If you really paid attention, you would have learned more in the first hour than you could learn in years of business school. When a self-made multibillionaire gives you free advice every week, you’d be “stupid” not to take it. I’ll bet Rich will be watching his tongue from now on, and Laurel will be aware of the dangers of selling goods she doesn’t actually own.

    Personally I would have eliminated William for being an insufferable jerk, even though he won the Jenga game. It’s one thing to win something, but being totally disrespectful to your colleagues while doing it is unacceptable. There is something to be said for having some class and not alienating your colleagues just because you’re better at something than they are. I wonder how Mark would have dealt with this dynamic in his real businesses. I couldn’t imagine wanting someone who behaves like this–while trying to make an early impression on me!!–representing me in my business.

    Comment by Laurie -

  18. I have to say, that is one of the worst TV shows I’ve seen. The people look and act fake, and Mark, don’t give up your day job – you don’t have a very good TV persona. The whole thing just feels like you’re making up rules as you go along.

    And tell the producer he needs to spend a little more money on production – the film work looks like it was shot with a cell phone camera.

    Comment by Joe -

  19. The Jenga test was interesting, and certainly tests “concentration and coolness under pressure” skills/characteristics, but I’d take a histologist to win over a poker player any day. Simply, a histologist works with their hands everyday with high percision; something that would aid in a Jenga game. A poker player does not have this advantage; hence you think you were testing for one thing, while actually exposing something else.

    Comment by Peter -

  20. Mark, I have a great deal of respect for what you have accomplished personally, and Trump is definitely a clown, but your show could be better. Right now I don’t see myself learning anything from this show about how to be a success – this is just a forum for you to make people jump through hoops every time a new thought pops into your head.

    Comment by Chris -

  21. If you notice, the principals that he used in the first show are basic fundamentals when dealing with new people, surroundings, etc.

    I have a feeling the people that lose, are the ones that try to cheat to win. Thats why I was initially turned off to the show. The previews made the cutthroats seem like the ones that were going to advance.

    If I was playing, I would treat this like a job interview – you always want to put your best foot forward. Your not competing against other people, you are competing against yourself. I think thats what is going on here. Mark is giving away his own money, so he wants to make sure it goes to the right person.

    Somehow I got the Willy Wonka story in my head…

    Comment by Dan -

  22. How can you say Lame? It was very entertaining and actually fun to watch unlike the The Apprentice. Trump is supposed to be looking for his apprentice a person to run one of his companies yet he goes and fires Bradford, which he said was the best business person in the room. That’s great business sense Donald. Instead he should have gotten rid of Stacey the crazy woman that every single person in the board room said they would fire. Donald is simply worried about ratings and is going to keep Stacey around just so he can have some crazy bitch on TV to spark an intrest! Cuban at least made the competition head to head where you have to win to stay. Even if you think Jenga is juvenille or lame it is still a competition and it shows that you have to be able to anything at anytime to win the $1 Million. Whether its shooting free throws, playing a board game, or answering questions in an interview you have to be the most well rounded complete competitor to win this game which is why I love it! Keep up the GOOD WORK Mark!

    Comment by Dallas Lusk -

  23. The benefactor is really a good show, but you have to be a total DORK (like I am) to really get into it. Where are the MILF’s?!?!? We need more of those on reality TV.

    Comment by Billy -

  24. I’m a 22 year-old middle class straight American male, and I really liked the first episode of The Benefactor. More importantly, I really really liked the characters – felt like I connected with these kids more than ‘The Apprentice’ lineup.

    If you’re expecting to skip your evening MBA classes and catch the course Cliff’s Notes on The Benefactor, good luck – I don’t think that’s what the show is about. It sure feels a lot more like a mentor relationship than any other combover faux professor I’ve seen elsewhere.

    Comment by Nick Gray -

  25. I like you Mark and know your history, but your show was bad. What’s the point of the show??? Show how how to succeed in business and how to make it in the world? Or is it do what “Simon (Mark) Says” and how low a person has to stoop for $1 millon bucks?

    Comment by Larry Ludwig -

  26. Your show is lame, I watched up until you made the contestant play Jenga. Very, very lame. Almost comically bad. I dislike Trump on many levels, but your show is definitely a rip-off of The Apprentice, even if you say its not (as if you saying its not doesn’t make it a rip-off). Stick with getting lucky in technology.

    Comment by Henry -

  27. It’s a game, not a job interview. That is the difference between Mark’s show and Trump’s show. I enjoyed the evil grin that Mark showed as he annouced the interviews and the Jenga game. With that smile you never know what’s next.

    Comment by Melissa -

  28. Cuban is not giving away his own money??

    Comment by matt -

  29. Personally I would have eliminated William for being an insufferable jerk, even though he won the Jenga game. It’s one thing to win something, but being totally disrespectful to your colleagues while doing it is unacceptable. There is something to be said for having some class and not alienating your colleagues just because you’re better at something than they are.

    Comment by runescape money -

  30. The show was a freaking blast. This is the first reality show that was actually close to real. I have watched one episode of everything else before now.

    Comment by wow powerleveling -

  31. Did Mark not set up the fallen patriot fund. So he does actually help people. out Maybe before you make a comment like that you should do a little more research about Mark Cuban.

    Comment by deanna -

  32. Cuban admits this show wasn’t his idea, the network came to him.

    Comment by Tom Canavan -

  33. Listening to Bob and Tom this morning Cuban admitted it wasn’t his million he was giving away.
    A. The show itself is stupid.
    b. Cuban is not giving away his own money.
    c. I assume he is getting paid to host.
    d. He is as far from being a benefactor as anyone could be.
    e. Do you know what the meaning of the word benefactor is? You are giving a bad name to people that really do try to help others.

    You should be ashamed of yourself and this farce.

    Comment by Tom Canavan -

  34. Mark,

    Just wondering, you wouldn’t own the rights to jenga would you, seems like something a successful person would do!!!

    East Texas Neighbor

    Comment by Randy -

  35. It is a great show, there is no crap and you have no idea what is coming. This is who Mark is, and to expect anything different would be disappointing. It would be fantastic to see Trump pull out Jenga in the boardroom instead of that self-serving stuff he loves to dish out every episode. It is exciting to see a reality show that is not the same old tired story.

    Mark, I hope you have stayed true to yourself throughout this show and did not use the same lame editing tricks that many of the reality shows use to try and increase ratings. This is a great show and I hope it continues to surprise me.

    Comment by Scott -

  36. Mark definately needs a PR person with half a brain. First off I think the Benefactor is great, I love the format and everything & I’ve learned some good life lessons, but Mark is setup for permanent image failure in the role he plays in the show. Anyone who plays the role Mark does in the show is going to look like a spoiled self centered little brat- “I have a billion dollars and you don’t, ha ha ha ha ha “. His PR person never should have allowed him to do this show under its format. Mark had nothing to gain and everything to lose by doing this show, its not like his name was a brand trademark like Trump, and believe me he’s lost alot of respect from people. In the case of Trump, he’s a pompous pretentious arrogant non self made man and his show parodies that. In the case of Mark Cuban, from everything I’ve read about the guy, he’s a fun, creative, unpretentious nice off the wall guy who enjoys life to the fullest. In his role in the show, and this would have been applicable to anyone in that role, as I said, Mark comes accross as a spoiled rich know it all. To me his image is permanently tarnished. I also don’t think the mark realized the PR beating he took for letting Steve Nash go. I realise maybe PR isn’t important to Mark and he had guts to make the decision, but was it worth in the long wrong the 10 million or more difference it would have taken to sign Nash? Right now, as a result, the Mavericks appear to be a slightly better than mediocore team and they’ve totally destroyed a great playoff team in the past few years by stupid trades, not signing Nash, etc. Would anyone in a million years trade the entire team that beat Sacremento in the playoffs for this current Maverick team?

    Comment by Phil Hershon -

  37. I do not watch much reality TV, but this is the worst I have seen so far. It is like a game a couple of kids would play – making up rules as they move along.

    Seems like the main point is to suck up to Mark. Please do us all a favor and get this crap of the air

    Comment by Eric -

  38. The one thing that has stood out to me about the first one or two episodes of The Benefactor is the way the contestant interaction is presented. The Benefactor hasn’t really shown ‘the strategic alliance’ or ‘the back stabber’ or even name calling. When you watch Survivor or The Apprentice, from the first moment of the first episode you are presented with who can’t stand who and how the teams can’t get along and that somebody is a racist. Sure it helps set up the heroes and the villians of the show, but Survivor and The Apprentice do it in a teenage drama ‘Real World’ kind of way. The drama between the characters becomes the show.

    The Benefactor has kind of put the contestant interaction on the back burner. It’s there but it hasn’t overshadowed the entire show. In between competitions you have a little ‘I can’t believe this guy said that’ or ‘These two contestants are attracted to each other’. That introduces the viewer to the characters and sets up thew viwer’s expectations for that character. I’m sure the director or producer have more catty or confict filled moments on film but they haven’t really brought them to the forefront of the show.

    So far the unpredictability of the competitions have been the show. Sometimes they are one-on-one. Others are team based. The team picking contest was an ‘odd man out’ competition. (A review by 2nd graders for pete’s sake?) The unpredictable nature of the show had a side effect in that the contestants are constantly stunned. The presenters of the show hasn’t shown the characters in their cliques or in violent argument with each other. The presenters are making the unpredictability and the constant surprise of the characters the show. I’d rather watch people being surprised, or let down, or elated, or even their expression when they see they just caught a lucky break than watching two contestants argue over who let the team down more.

    Provided this season is a success this approach is going to have a challenge and its the same challenge that every reality show has. When people are already aware of the show and its premise they’re reactions will not be ‘real’ anymore, they stop being compelling characters and start becoming actors. Usually bad ones.

    Comment by RyanS -

  39. This is in response to Bob. How can you judge the contestants when we really even havent seen them. You have no idea what they are like by watching 1 show. This is what kills me every time a reality show comes out it gets bad reviews. Then people end up loving it. Why don’t you watch a couple of more shows to get an idea on who someone is before you say you have no interest in them. Afterward if you still feel the same way then fine. But you should definitely watch a couple more. You’ll be surprised.

    Comment by Jennifer O'Hara -

  40. I thought that you appeared pretty unpersonable whenever they did your little appearances where you talked about the contestants. I think that equating some of the things you did, like Jenga, to business was ludicrous. I don’t have any interest in watching this show further because, quite frankly, I don’t see who would even care if any of these people got a million dollars.

    Comment by Hathery -

  41. Mark,
    I enjoyed your first episode and look forward to seeing what happens tonight. Your show is an entertaining addition to reality TV.
    All the best,
    GG

    Comment by GilbertG -

  42. Yo Mark,

    As a long time reader of your blog (and subsequent “blogger” myself as a result of your “inspiration”), I really enjoyed your first episode. It excited me to think that a game with such a reward could be won simply for doing the right things (i.e., standing up when introduced to a woman, saying the right things, etc.).

    I do, however, think that the comment you made in this post, “These are tests for success, not who I want to have a drink with,” was, not only wrong in the English language (this should have read “not with whom I want to have a drink,” — it’s OK, I’ll forgive you; just don’t end a sentence with a preposition), but was not played out on the episode. You talked about this “model hairspray guy” (sorry, I don’t remember his name, which must mean I don’t think he will be that important down the line) as if you were going to keep him around just because you wanted him to entertain you as if he were some sort of court jester. I do hope, if you do decide to keep him around, he does something more than make you laugh. You made him out to be so impressive, so it makes me worry . . .

    I am also disappointed that Grayson had to go home because she lost a Jenga match. There’s a lot more to success in life than winning a board game. I’m not sure true psychological success can be measured in such a game, but what do I know?

    Despite these issues, you’re awesome. Keep up the good work. I already have my TIVO programmed for your show this week.

    -Rick

    Comment by Rick -

  43. Its pretty funny how everyone either kisses ass or rips the show, its only been one week. Give it some time…Kissing ass on this site isnt going to get you anything from Mark, so why are so many people doing it?

    Comment by E Portnoy -

  44. I’ve watched the season premiere of the Benefactor and I believe that it is a poor manifestation for what someone had planned on paper. I don’t believe that Mark Cuban came up with the concept, in fact I don’t know if he did or not, it’s not the point. The network is clearly looking at an “apprentice” like concept. “Apprentice” has a plausible, believeable, emotionally driven and fairly real to life presentation. It appeals to us on a “my job is just like that” idea, I know a bitch like that or so and so… The problem that I have with the Benefactor is the overall cast and the obvious “wide” demographic, “haven’t seen “that” guy represented on TV before is not thought out and feels very awkward. This reality show is like riding a sports car in a race to the bottom. It makes MXC (most extreme challenge) look intelligent. At least on that show you know how goofy it is and so do the players. On Benefactor, the obvious shows, Cuban and uncharismatic, the players shallow and unbelieveable, the games stupid (Sorry Mark, no Stupid as in “That was I’ll…” I mean just plainly idiodic” Either after the network approached the only person worth any money to whore himself on TV ruined the original concept or Mark paid to get himself on TV…who knows. I wil not be watcing the rest of the program, thus eliminating any chance of me becoming influenced to purchace any products unskillfully placed in the show or during the “probably more entertaining than the show” commercials.
    This is my truth, and many of my friends feel the same way. BTW, I’m watching the Emmy’s right now, and I’ll make a prediction, Mark will not be receiving an Emmy gift bag next year or even making it through the 6 “over-confident” episodes.
    But seriously, Jenga? I’m sorry Jenga manufacturer, you’re product has just “jumped the shark” and has been damned by the Benefactor program, I’d suggest some damage control.

    Comment by Ben -

  45. I am not a reality show freak like the rest of the country,so maybe I am not qualified to say Benefactor is the best reality show on TV. But I have said it anyway. I had to watch The Benefactor becuase the promos looked great. I love this show because 3 people were off the show in the first episode. Definitely, entertaining!! I also liked it because the rules of the game are true to life. A first impression is so important!! And Rich proved that husbands should listen to their wives. The twists make for great television. It’s not every reality show that contestants have to play Jenga to determine who is done and who gets to keep playing.

    Comment by Michelle -

  46. This is great that you are doing this, Mark. This will make for cool DVD material if the Benefactor is ever released on DVD.

    Comment by TDavid -

  47. I have to be honest, the show was boring. The game at the end was utter snooze material. The contestants are not interesting to me. I like your simple concept of the rules for success thought.

    Comment by Bob -

  48. i was quite impressed with the show. i like it far more than trump’s trash. i kinda hope that it stays a completely teamless game. anyway study time.

    Comment by Chris Havins -

  49. a little slow…liked the jenga for a million… liked how u kicked somebody right away… cant wait for monday

    Comment by clint harrison -

  50. liked the jenga for a million… that would be intense… aslo like how u kicked someone in the first few minutes… can’t wait for monday

    Comment by clint harrison -

  51. I’ve been a long time reader of this blog and an admirer of your success. I still can’t believe how disappointing the first episode was. The bad lighting, the annoying and irrelevant questions, and the Jenga at the end were completely infantile. I was sorry I wasted my time thinking it would be serious competition for Trump. The Apprentice and The Benefactor are different types of shows. Your cast is real and down-to-earth but pretty ordinary and not eye catching. The whole show has a low B-film quality to it. Although I have no experience in your fields of expertise, with your money, I could have done a better job guaranteed. Mistake #1: You built yourself up too much. I expected the second coming of God knows what. The show that would knock Trumps’ socks off. It didn’t even come close to doing that. Mistake #2: Film quality and lighting. Bad takes. Bad sound. Not professional enough. Where’s the HD you’re known for? Mistake #3: Jenga. If you want the audience to take you seriously, please take your role seriously.

    Were you making the show up as you went along?

    Judging your “first impression”, I’m sorry to say that it was a bad one.

    I’m going to give it one more chance this coming week. Hopefully, things will get better.

    Comment by Nina del Sol -

  52. 1- Would it be possible to post your appearances on this blog? I just read above that you were on Conan and Stern. Had I known, I would have altered my schedule and watched you.
    2- Ron W. is totally totally on point from both a business and entertainment point of view. and the guy above who talks about audience participation is totally on point.
    3- It seems clear to me that your approach of hands on, versus Donald’s of getting reports through his manager’s, is evident in your show and I assume is how you run your business. Maybe you can highlight this is post on future eps…or in a special on the show.
    4- Living in the NYC area, I cannot agree with the sole poster who says the casting is diverse. As we go along we may see personality quirks, but the casting itself is not diverse.

    I THINK YOU COULD DO A LOT TO DISPEL THE IMPRESSION THAT YOU ARE MERCURIAL OR ARROGANT (WHICH I DON’T THINK YOU ARE) BY RELAYING DIRECTLY TO THE CAMERA/AUDIENCE,A REAL LIFE STORY ABOUT HOW YOU YOURSELF LEARNED THAT LESSON THE HARD WAY. Mark, you would find people compassionate towards you by revealing your scar/vulnerability/war story of how you learned each and every lesson. I think that is the missing link.
    Hear me on this….Donald’s bad hair is fodder for humor but it actually works in his favor because it shows he has faults/is human.
    I mean, we know from business/psychology that people typically want to hire/have friends who are most like themselves and also sincere.
    I think the blog helps people feel you are a kindred spirit. I think you just need to inject that spirit into the airwaves.
    I also see an ambiguity as to the marketing. “NO RULES” versus rules/tests. That needs to be ironed out and spelled out clearly for your non-blog reading viewing audience.
    And this is important. People love watching sports because they know the rules and the boundaries. Kids need boundaries/rules to grow up feeling secure and loved.
    Whatever boundaries/rules do exist, they need to be shown in the show.
    Even if it is in camera confessional moments that you would need teams to go out and shoot now..and rush to an editor. If that is impossible, perhaps you can find another way to make the contestants appear that they are not scared of you/game. Which is how the naked guitar girl appeared.
    And that has nothing to do with you. It’s the same thing with Apprentice. Season 1 all sat in awed silence in front of Trump. Now in Season 2, they all watched S1 and rudely cut off Trump and Carolyn.
    It’s a familiarity thing.

    Comment by cheri/benebe -

  53. why don’t people watch the show for what it is and stop being haters. personally i think the cast is very diverse. unlike the apprentice who has all business savvy people.people should be comfortable with the benefactor since it hits closer to home for most of us.only seeing the first episode i already have favs…..KEVIN! sorry ERICKA dont get scared he really is gay and from my home town of DALLAS. and this is gonna kill ya i like linda too, who after reading several news papers isn’t gay but engaged to a man! sux for me cause im a woman who is very gay and thinks linda is very hot!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by brook h -

  54. so it sounds like someone is jealous or got skipped over by mark….maybe he should of picked you,because you need to learn some lessons in life! like stop hating those who “YOU” think are “gay”. what are you going to hate the black contestants next week…? “ericka” take off your white hood and watch the show and learn a thing or two.mark im not a fan or reality shows cause they usually are meaningless but yours touched on real things and taught lessons. im a construction worker who lives in maine who is writing in respose to “ericka” listed above. working in my buisness i can appreciate a tough woman who can hold their own….and thats why im writing to say linda is not only tough and athletic but attractive. among all those dainty women she sticks out like a sore thumb.but thats what makes her dangerously sexy.and she lives just across the bridge from me in nh.but we never met. the reason im responding is simply because i know who “ericka” is and yup this is not her real name,she is somewhat of a relative who is not comfortable with herself and cant help but be jealous of someone they can never be.sorry L.A or l.d

    Comment by john o -

  55. Mark,
    Great interview on Conan last night.

    Comment by Mike -

  56. Mark –

    You are getting quite well known….a friend of my wife’s just called and told us to “turn your radio to AM 640” and hung up. She knows I’m a fan of the Mavs and your work. So I turn on the local SoCal KFI station and got to hear the tail end of your interview (Saturday AM). Good answers to some good questions. And you certainly sounded like someone who is not content with the success you have accomplished to date. Keep humble and keep the fire going!

    greg

    Comment by greg -

  57. You talk too soft and it was a bit slow, but overall I liked the show. William was annoying, not funny. He is trying to hard to portray himself as someone he’s not. He took a chance and portrayed himself as what he thinks you are looking for, bad move. Be yourself. Boot him next.

    I gave Trump the first week edge. I think he had more action and was slightly more entertaining. I have high hopes that you will be at that level fairly quick and expect you will surpass him, entertainment-wise. Until next week. Go Mavs!

    Comment by Troy -

  58. Excellent first episode, IMHO. What I saw was exactly what I was expecting from the man who once pulled the Dairy Queen stunt. 😀

    Comment by Andrew -

  59. Hi Mark,

    I usually don’t watch “reality” shows but I made an exception being a Cuban fan. The show definitely captured my imagination, wondering how soon I’d be cut, if I had even made it to the show. It’s a great opportunity that you are giving in this show. Well, I’m glad to be in the game, with a bit of inspiration from the Benefactor.

    Mark, I wanted to share what my brother, Richard, in El Paso Texas had to say:

    I saw the Benefactor last night and was surprised at
    how well it was done. Cuban comes across as a real
    interesting guy, and it kicks Trump’s show in the ass.
    he actually has philosophies and Trump just has catch
    phrases. I hate most reality shows, but Cuban is good
    because he has such an off-beat personality.

    ———
    See ya Monday,
    Mary

    Comment by Mary in Big D -

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