Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Fremantle's Jayson Dinsmore Reveals How He Created 'Unleashed' for Nickelodeon

Jayson Dinsmore, President of alternative programming and development at Fremantle, recently spoke to Kidscreen about how leading the hit reality series Fear Factor at NBC helped him to develop Unleashed for Nickelodeon!

Unleashed‘s broad appeal saw Fremantle land on Nick.

When Fear Factor was released in 2001, it was never supposed to be a show the whole family sat down to watch together. It was made specifically for men. But then something else happened.

“We thought that people who like sports would like this show,” Dinsmore, the executive at NBC who was leading the show at the time, told Kidscreen. “Kids showed up first—they just found it so funny. Then parents heard their kids giggling in the other room, so they went in and watched it, too. Before we knew it, the show was a giant hit [with] all demos.”

Fear Factor was at the tail end of an all-family viewing trend that played out at the turn of the millennium. Content swings like a pendulum, and in the ’90s—when families were beginning to broaden their TV set collection—the main goal was bringing everyone together in primetime to watch programs like Full House, Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Nanny.

Dinsmore says a big lesson he took away from his Fear Factor days is this: If you can get the kids, you can get the parents.

It’s a tricky balancing act, and one he didn’t fully grasp until recently. Dinsmore pitched Nickelodeon multiple times over the years, but was always turned down.

“We developed shows thinking we knew what their audience would watch. And [in their] feedback, they’d tell us to broaden it out,” he says. “Nickelodeon said, ‘Make sure that parents will enjoy it as well, and don’t make it for little kids, because those kids aspire up.’ They know their audience better than we do.”

Eventually, he was able to create a show that worked, and he is now executive producing Unleashed (pictured, above) for Nickelodeon. The live-action animal competition series includes a water-skiing squirrel, a cheerleading goat and a horse that plays soccer. In each episode, the judges and kid jury crown the night’s “Most Entertaining Pet.”

The only way Fremantle was able to make Unleashed work for multiple audiences was to find something families were collectively obsessed with—their pets.

“I’m sure there’s some research that says every seven minutes you have to have a joke for the adult audience in a kids show, but I don’t have that data,” says Dinsmore.

“Instead, in every performance we ask: What appeals to kids here, what appeals to adults here, and how are we going to make that balance?”

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