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Posted at 6:59 PM ET, 02/ 1/2011

Mayor Vincent Gray pitches Washington docu at reality-TV confab

By Lisa de Moraes

Mayor Vincent Gray (The Washington Post)

"I'm sorry the mayor left -- I was going to give him a lesson in the development process," History channel President Nancy Dubuc said Tuesday morning at a TV confab in Washington, as she followed Mayor Vincent Gray on stage.

And, what she could have taught him about the development process! Dubuc is credited with developing -- reportedly to the tune of tens of millions of dollars -- that controversial Kennedys miniseries her network's parent company then scrubbed after seeing the finished product. Just hours after she delivered that gag, word broke that U.S. rights to the Kennedys miniseries had been sold to ReelzChannel.

Anyway, The District's mayor had opened the conference of agents, network development suits and wanna-be producers with a pitch for a political docu-series idea of his own:

"All of you know this country was [founded] on a very successful resistance to taxation without representation, and that is exactly what we have here in the District of Columbia," WaPo TeamTV's Emily Yahr reports from the RealScreen Summit.

"We pay $3.6-billion in federal taxes and have absolutely no voting representation in the legislative body. That is a great story and we would be happy to connect with you and talk to you about that.

"Think about it. We send our sons and our daughters and our relatives out to fight wars in far away places to establish democracy, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. And when those folks come home -- and sometimes they don't come home -- but when they do come home, they come back to a place that itself [doesn't] practice democracy. It is a great story."

Wrapping up his pitch, Gray, on a more practical note, urged attendees to help the struggling local economy by spending "every dime you have in your pocket" while visiting Washington.

"If you hear something like we don't take credit cards, we don't take checks, we don't take IOU's ...that is a myth, we take everything that is negotiable," Gray said.

Immediately following Gray, British reality-TV producer Mark Burnett lept to America's defense:

"In America you are given chances, and Americans want you to succeed -- the American viewers want you to succeed. The cable channels, the networks, they want you to succeed. ...It's a raise-up kind of country," said the exec producer of "Survivor" "The Apprentice" and "Sarah Palin's Alaska"

"And, I learned the value of money," he said of moving to the United States as a young man in his 20s with no producing experience. "And I also learned -- you know? -- being rich seems pretty cool. And I realized as well, while I didn't have the Ivy League education, they were no smarter than I was. I learned I had to step up, because I had to sell myself. I learned that.

"Cut to: I started selling T-shirts on Venice Beach...and I was reading Donald Trump's book 'The Art of the Deal,' never imagining I'd ever physically see this guy, never imagining I would meet him, that I would be in business with him.

"I remember something -- it's a real basic piece of advice from Trump, and so about the way you should approach your shows. Donald said in that book" 'You can spot a loser easily. A loser is the person with a For Sale sign on a dirty car. Couldn't even be bothered to wash it."

And, the most annoying thing about being a successful reality-TV producer?

"That stupid question I get asked weekly: 'Do you think reality is here to stay,' " Burnett told the crowd.

"I hate the word 'reality' -- it's made up. What the hell has this got to do with reality? Let's face it, none of the shows are actually 'reality.' [On 'Survivor'] they're not really marooned on the island.... [On 'The Apprentice'] they're not really applying for a job with Donald Trump -- I mean, who would?"

By Lisa de Moraes  | February 1, 2011; 6:59 PM ET
Categories:  Local TV  
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