How Mike Fleiss Became the Mastermind of Your Guilty Pleasure TV Nights

Fueled by a steady childhood stream of 1970s sitcoms and a college gig as the executive editor of the University of California, Berkeley’s The Daily Californian, Mike Fleiss has a knack for knowing what will entertain people.

The television producer has built an empire out of creating shows with dramatic twists, juicy backstories, and must-see moments that keep viewers hooked season after season.

His first sold pitch, Before They Were Stars — which featured a series of commercial clips starring celebrities before they were well known — was trailblazing in its own way in the early ’90s.

Fleiss has left an indelible mark on popular culture by shaping modern reality television into an utterly engrossing, cannot-look-away brand of irresistible programming.

When it comes to putting together an idea that will sell, Fleiss says he’s never had an issue generating new ideas. In fact, it’s quite the opposite — he can’t stop the ideas from flowing.

“I’m always coming up with ideas. I’ve created dozens of shows that have been on the air, so I have a pad next to my bed and I always write stuff down,” the reality TV trendsetter confesses. “I’ve been in the business for more than 30 years, basically just peddling my ideas. That was my job. And so I trained my brain, or tried to at least, to generate material.”

From reality hits such as The Proposal and High School Reunion to documentaries such as The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir and God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, Fleiss has his finger on the pulse of what people love to indulge in.

“I couldn’t believe it. The first time I got to meet Ozzy, and then to be working with him, blew my mind,” Fleiss said of the 2011 film he shot about Osbourne.

Mike Fleiss reveals he’ll never forget the day his phone rang and it was the Black Sabbath frontman’s wife, Sharon Osbourne, with a special request.

“When Sharon called me to see if I wanted to help them with the Ozzy documentary, that was beyond a dream come true,” he shared.

Mike Fleiss has been known to indulge in his own guilty pleasure TV nights. Lately, he says he’s been binge-watching episodes of The Sopranos. However, he shocked the industry when he admitted that he never watched much reality TV.

“I’ve never seen any reality shows,” Mike Fleiss adds. “Other than the ones that I’ve made, I’ve never seen any.”

A couple of decades ago, he says he did catch a bit of Survivor on the air.

“I probably watched two hours of Survivor 20 years ago, and that was it,” he states.

While reality television remains a ratings juggernaut, its formulas and production techniques constantly shift to match audience tastes, utilize new technologies, and spark continued interest in the genre. The traditional reality TV model continues evolving to cater to on-demand viewing habits and efforts to stay culturally relevant. And the industry-savvy content creator says he’s noticed a new trend since the big strike in Hollywood in 2023.

“Now that audiences [have] fallen out of love with traditional television and movies and gravitated toward social media content,” Mike Fleiss cautions, “I think it’s bad news for old-school entertainment.”

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a seasoned professional with a strong background in growth strategies and editorial responsibilities. Kokou has been instrumental in driving companies' expansion and fortifying their market presence. His academic credentials underscore his expertise; having studied Communication at the Università degli Studi di Siena (Italy), he later honed his skills in growth hacking at the Growth Tribe Academy (Amsterdam).


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.