Discovery Channel catches up to executive producer, says Pitchmen will present a second season after death of star Billy Mays
(UPDATE: After I posted this item on the certainty of producers' Anthony Sullivan and Thom Beers that Pitchmen would continue after the unexpected death of Billy Mays, Discovery Channel -- which had originally declined to comment on my item -- issued a press release admitting a second season was going to happen.
The channel is also repeating its hourlong tribute to Mays on July 24; it originally aired July 9. The channel's release says Sullivan, Beers and Discovery Channel are developing the next season with Mays' son Billy Mays III.)
To clear his head after the death of his friend and partner, legendary pitchman Billy Mays, infomercial producer/talent Anthony Sullivan decided to hike a distant mountain in Colorado, far away from their Tampa homebase.
But when a group of girls stopped to pet his dog, Sullivan soon found out he hadn’t traveled far enough to outdistance fans of the Discovery Channel show he starred in with Mays.
Which helps explain why Sullivan and executive producer Thom Beers say they are going to try reinventing the show for another season after Mays’ death — if they can work out a new format that honors their departed co-star’s memory.
“Everyone has said to me ‘Are you going to find a new Billy Mays?’ and that’s not possible,” said Sullivan, noting only his 20-something son, Billy Mays III, might come close. “We have to reinvent the show, but I really want to be careful. I just want to make sure we do what Billy would want — I think he’d roll over in his grave if we just stopped it.”
Executive producer Beers, whose credits include the Discovery hit Deadliest Catch, was more definitive, saying “I know (Pitchmen) will continue on. Absolutely, without a doubt.”
Mays, 50, was found dead in his Tampa home the morning of June 28; the Hillsborough County medical examiner said preliminary autopsy results indicate he may have died of heart disease. Sullivan and Mays had already filmed the 12-episode first season of Pitchmen, which concluded July 1. Discovey aired a special tribute episode July 9.
Beers suggested the show could continue because so much drama came from the stories of inventors pitching their products to Sullivan and Mays, who would decide which deserved a showcase in a major direct-marketing campaign. But fans may wonder if the chemistry between Mays and Sullivan, who sparred with each other playfully like an old married couple, might be difficult to replace.
“(Mays) was thrilled with his ability to help all these people reach their dreams,” Beers said. “Why would we give that up?”
And though Sullivan had some ideas for revamping the show, he wants to make sure Mays’ wife, Deborah, and son are on board, as well.
“The main thing, is we want to be sensitive to his fans and his family,” Sullivan said. “And we’ve gotten an overwhelming amount of mail saying ‘You’ve got to carry the torch.’ Turns out, hit shows aren’t that easy to come by . . . and I get the feeling how we do it will be part of the appeal of season two.”