British TV producer Charlie Parson changed the media landscape when he developed a reality show idea that would eventually please audiences around the world. The “Survivor” series, originally titled “Expedition Robinson,” has spread around the globe with franchises in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the United States. The format, inspired by the novels “Robinson Crusoe” and “The Swiss Family Robinson,” places ordinary people into a survival situation on a deserted island, where they must struggle for food and compete in physical challenges, while vying to be the sole survivor by avoiding expulsion from the group via a tribal vote.
Parsons originated this simple but captivating reality show idea in 1994, but did not debut the first TV production of the concept until 1997 on Swedish TV. The show was an instant hit and soon spread to other countries. Parsons and his partners franchised the idea to other producers, most prominently to Mark Burnett who introduced the U.S. version in the summer of 2000.
Originally from a middle-class home in Kent, England, Parsons, born in 1958, has been called the “Titan of Tack TV” for his phenomenal success in developing popular reality entertainment. After studying English at Oxford, he trained and worked as a journalist before joining with musician Bob Geldof, and producers Tony Boland and Lord Alli Waheed to found the production company Planet 24.
Planet 24’s first success was “The Word,” a magazine-style late night program that ran from 1990-95 in Britain. One notable feature of show was “The Hopefuls” which gave people the opportunity to get on TV by performing disgusting tasks like eating worms, or bathing in maggots. Next, they presented the morning entertainment program The Big Breakfast on the UK’s Channel 4, called. The show ran from 1992 until 2002 and mixed news, interviews, and features broadcast live from a cottage.
After developing the “Survivor” reality show idea and its international success including 2 Emmy awards, Parsons and his Planet 24 partners sold the company for millions of pounds in 1999. Parsons continued to work as an executive producer for the Travel Channel and on the TV series “Food Wars” and “Man v. Food.” He then founded and serves as the CEO of a private investment company, Charlie Parsons Creative, which invests in and develops stage, media and entertainment ideas and celebrities.
The wide variety of ventures under the CPC umbrella include the theatrical development company Runaway Entertainment, which produced the West End stage musical “Never Forget” that features songs from the group Take That. Alchemy TV, another CPC project, focuses on creating TV programs for new on-screen talent. In 2010, Parsons announced his investment in New Entertainment Research & Design (NERD), an independent entertainment production company. Parson also serves as chairman for the firm.
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