This spring during upfront season, most networks gave out expensive bath products, notebooks, bags or pens to prospective ad buyers. The Sundance channel gave out a dustpan.
The show responsible for the dustpan - which is a really great dustpan, I hasten to add - is Ben Kaufman's reality show "Quirky," and it'll be wrapping on Sundance at 10 p.m. on Friday. It's one of the few unscripted shows that you can see in action in the real world. By definition, "Swamp People" is interesting because its characters are inaccessible. "Quirky" is about space- and time-saving inventions that you can actually find in a store. Yes, it sounds a little like an infomercial. But it sort of isn't (full disclosure: if I flip over to QVC, I have to flip away, quickly, or I will watch. And watch. And watch).
Conceptually, Quirky (the company) is pretty simple: it has an open-submissions policy for inventors, who are shepherded (on the show) from concept to design to fabrication, and then see their products shipped out to partner stores. "We sell products to all these retailers - we handle all that for our investors - Bed, Bath & Beyond, OfficeMax, and so on. BB&B is our main retail partner. We're constantly increasing our distribution." Having a TV show, obviously, has helped with that. Quirky saw encouraging sales on its latest approved invention, a super-complex shower caddy, on the Home Shopping Network.
The show's not competitive ("We didn't want to do 'American Chopper' says Kaufman), but it does get some mileage out of the the offbeat suggestions that result from the open-submissions process.
"We see everything from edible frisbees to time machines," says Kaufman. "You can imagine what happens when you tell people "we can make your invention real." Are those submissions written in crayon? Not always. "Some people just say 'A time machine would be a great idea,' some people actually put up diagrams and stuff."
No word on whether or not the diagrams describe a viable device, but Friday's season finale takes place in 1985.