Even without Billy Mays, 'Pitchmen' still has something to sell
"Pitchmen" may have lost its strongest voice, but the show goes on.
The sudden, heart-disease-related death of infomercial king Billy Mays Jr. on June 28 happened not long before the first-season finale of his Discovery Channel series. As the network and executive producer Thom Beers ("Deadliest Catch," "Ice Road Truckers") paid tribute to their fallen comrade, fans were almost immediately asking, "What comes next?"
Last week, Discovery announced that "Pitchmen" would return for a second season, which Beers is developing with Mays' partner, co-star and close friend, infomercial personality and producer Anthony "Sully" Sullivan, and Mays' son, Billy Mays III, who has appeared in the series working behind-the-scenes on his father's commercials.
"When you have a huge loss like this," Beers says, "you can't replace that. It's a void; it'll always be a void. But I didn't design the series nor create the series nor make the series as the life and times of Billy Mays.
"No, it was based on two things: the ingenuity and passion of inventors and what it took to get that product into market."
While he can't replace Mays' larger-than-life personality -- nor his personal and comedy chemistry with Sullivan -- Beers intends instead to refocus and broaden the idea of "Pitchmen."
"We're talking creatively with the network about this," Beers says, "but we're taking Sully now and putting him into a mentoring role. We get so many thousands of letters from people, 'I want to be a pitchman. I want to be a pitchman.'
"The idea is to maybe find three or four young pitchmen, cast them with the show, and sit down and make decisions about what products they're going to go forward with."
While Beers says he hasn't yet had a conversation with Billy Mays III about his precise role in season two, he anticipates it being a continuation of what he did in season one.
"My understanding is that Sully's been working with him for a long time," Beers says, "but grooming him more as a producer and director, behind the scenes."
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