But you're really no one in this culture until they make a TV series about you, even if you make it yourself. “Pitchmen,” premiering tonight on Discovery, with Mays and Sullivan as stars and executive producers, is that show. But it is less a glimpse into their lives than it is an extension of such earlier bring-us-your-gadget reality shows as "American Inventor" and "The Dragon's Den." In each episode, the pair will pick a couple of products to sell, and we get to see how they sell them.
Drama is also made out of their dealings with inventor Matt, who is pitching a gel-filled insole so shock-absorbent it protects his hand from the blow of a sledgehammer. (You have to wonder about the first time he tried that.) "One of the best demonstrations I've ever seen in my life!" enthuses Sullivan. But Matt wants creative input into the ad and has his own ideas about pricing.
Tonight's other inventor, Jim -- a cancer survivor living in a Texas mobile home -- has a product called GPS Pal that slots a global positioning system into a car cup holder. (His previous invention, Golf Cart Pal, mounted a propane heater in a golf cart, but "then the government took the heater off the market because some people put it in their campers and went to sleep and died with it.") Mays is wary of the GPS Pal -- "Where's the wild demo?" he wants to know -- but eminent colleague A.J. Khubani of TeleBrands (products include Ambervision, WaterSweep and the Fish Pen) likes it, and they give it a try.
As a life-makeover show, "Pitchmen" invests heavily in the technically correct idea that Dreams Can Come True. "This is when it feels good to be Billy Mays," says Billy when Impact Gel launches big; and patent holder Matt, who has been painted as a family man who risked everything, wants "all the people that are out there with a dream" to know that "you've got to rock, and you can never, ever quit." The fact that Matt's earlier applications of Impact Gel (saddle pads, hockey protection) were already generating millions of dollars in sales is conveniently omitted.
There is a more interesting and complex series to be made about this world and these men. But Mays and Sullivan know their business, and that is not what they have come to sell.