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Discovery Channel's 'Pitchmen' to continue without Billy Mays

Pitchman Billy Mays and director Anthony Sullivan work on an infomercial in Gulfport in May. Mays was found dead June 28.

Associated Press

Pitchman Billy Mays and director Anthony Sullivan work on an infomercial in Gulfport in May. Mays was found dead June 28.

To clear his head after the death of his friend and partner, legendary pitchman Billy Mays, infomercial producer Anthony Sullivan decided to hike a distant mountain in Colorado, far away from their Tampa home base.

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, Pitchmen.

Which helps explain why Sullivan, executive producer Thom Beers and the Discovery Channel say they will reinvent the show for another season after Mays' surprise death.

"Everyone has said to me 'Are you going to find a new Billy Mays?' and that's not possible," said Sullivan, noting only his partner's 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."

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 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 and 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.

"(Mays) was thrilled with his ability to help all these people reach their dreams," the producer said. "Why would we give that up?"

And while 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 2."

Discovery Channel will rebroadcast its tribute to Billy Mays at 10 p.m. July 24.

Discovery Channel's 'Pitchmen' to continue without Billy Mays 07/14/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 14, 2009 10:53pm]

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