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Mike Fleiss Shares How His Earliest Love for TV Fueled His Ability To Generate Endless Show Concepts

Most people look back on the TV shows they watched as kids with fond nostalgia but few turn that passion into a mega-successful career. Reality TV producer Mike Fleiss admits he spent his carefree boyhood watching a substantial amount of sitcoms — and it’s certainly paid off. Once he broke the ice with his first winning concept based on his youthful obsession with the small screen, Fleiss has been a creative perpetual motion machine, spitting out hit after hit to the delight of fans.

“I watched everything,” confesses the Hollywood mogul; he cites Family, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Aaron Spelling’s fleet of shows like Dynasty and Melrose Place among his favorites. 

A voracious appetite for television eventually shaped the innovative content connoisseur’s debut TV show idea: Before They Were Stars.

Long before he stepped foot into La La Land, Mike Fleiss had an aha moment between episodes of his favorite shows when commercials aired. Wouldn’t it be a hoot, he thought, to compile ads that featured superstars like Tom Cruise long before they hit the big time? 

“I’d watched Jodie Foster do a commercial as a kid for toothpaste or something like that, and then later become a big star,” Mike Fleiss recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh, it would be a fun little show to do.’ And so we did.”

Fleiss credits television executive Stephen Chao with encouraging him to pitch this concept to a network — and the network bit. Since then, Mike Fleiss admits he continues to churn out a mind-boggling mound of concepts with no signs of slowing down. 

“I’m always coming up with ideas. I’ve created dozens of shows that have been on the air,” says Fleiss, who keeps a notepad next to his bed in case inspiration strikes in the middle of the night.

With more than 30 years of experience under his belt now, Fleiss admits he’s no newbie when it comes to generating his next huge project. Sometimes, his inner idea mill is turning so rapidly that he wonders what it would be like to shut it off — but then he realizes he doesn’t even think that’s possible. And why would he want to? The world would then be robbed of the next binge-worthy reality sensation.

“I’ll be doing a bunch more reality shows down the road,” says Fleiss, adding that he’s eager to begin working on new projects. 

Some of his past production masterpieces include The Real Gilligan’s Island and Who Wants To Marry a Multi-Millionaire?

He describes his writing process as trying to create shows everyone would want to watch while injecting a bit of an edge. 

“I just try to imagine something that I haven’t seen on television and try to think about something that might interest me,” he says.

However, coming up with TV’s next smash sensation is not all Mike Fleiss is up to these days. When he’s not creating content with a kick, he says he’s pursuing another curious hobby — the jalapeno pepper business. Yes, the reality show creator’s devotion to hot peppers is so intense that it prompted him to open Toreados restaurant in Lake Oswego, Oregon. The eatery offers grilled jalapenos as a condiment — something Mike Fleiss says he always wanted to purvey. When he thinks about his latest food endeavor, he says, “It’s a dream come true to see.”

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