Toeing the Line: Characters key to a show's success

November 22, 2013|By Ray Richmond

In a world where everything seems to be a reality show, nearly everyone appears to believe that his or her life qualifies for national exposure. The guy with a wacky family. The odd couple running a dry cleaners. The crazy old lady who never throws anything away.

[For the record: An earlier version of this piece stated "White Color Brawlers" was created by Authentic Entertainment and developed by Olkkonen. Neither is correct.]

But it turns out there's a little more to it than that. Being a strange character with a unique story to tell isn't quite enough. And it's separating the golden ideas from the ordinary ones that defines Dana Olkkonen's job as vice president of development at Burbank's Authentic Entertainment.

Olkkonen is one of the execs credited with launching a phenomenon called "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" for TLC back in August 2012. It had started with the appearance of pint-sized beauty queen Alana (a.k.a. Honey Boo Boo) on the Authentic-produced series "Toddlers & Tiaras"."


"One thing that made her different from the other families on the show is this massive Internet and viral presence she'd already generated," Olkkonen says. "My job was to reach out to the other members of Alana's family and see what those other characters were truly like, what the dynamics were — and if they could (hold their own in) an ongoing series."

The breakout success of "Honey Boo Boo" would prove a feather in Olkkonen's cap and a rare case of a spinoff becoming more success than the series that spawned it.

Authentic’s latest new effort is "White Collar Brawlers," which premiered this past week on Esquire TV. It features white-collar employees who carry a personal or professional dispute, then train for six weeks and get into the ring to settle it like men.

Unlike most shows that wind up getting produced by the company,  “WCB” wasn’t a homegrown Authentic Entertainment idea. And under the theory that you never know where the next blockbuster hit is coming from, Authentic maintains a website for taking public pitches at

Olkkonen estimates that only about "one out of 100" pitches leads to further investigation.

"It may be the best idea under the sun," she explains, "but at the end of the day, there has to be a market for it or it won't pay off."

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