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Review: 'Pitchmen'

April 14, 2009 |  3:59 pm
PitchmenBilly Mays and Anthony Sullivan sell things on television, famously. Mays, a burly man with a black beard and a voice that suggests incipient deafness, and could possibly cause it, is the more famous. But the cooler Sullivan -- who also produces and directs DRTV (Direct Response Television, as in "Operators are standing by") advertisements -- is the more versatile. Between the two, they have moved more than a billion dollars' worth of things that light up your house, clean up your yard, shape your body and otherwise improve your life -- products with names like Awesome Auger, Hercules Hook, Glass Wizard, Swivel Sweeper, the Stick-Up Bulb and Slimming Pants.

But you're really no one in this culture until they make a TV series about you, even if you make it yourself. “Pitchmen,” premiering tonight on Discovery, with Mays and Sullivan as stars and executive producers, is that show. But it is less a glimpse into their lives than it is an extension of such earlier bring-us-your-gadget reality shows as "American Inventor" and "The Dragon's Den." In each episode, the pair will pick a couple of products to sell, and we get to see how they sell them.

As a form of self-promotion, rather than a work of dispassionate examination, it tends toward the simple and benign. What conflict exists consists of molehills dressed at mountains. In tonight's opener, a repeatedly promised brouhaha between the costars boils down to Sullivan wanting Mays to focus on their upcoming spot for Impact Gel. Mild words of annoyance are expressed, but nothing suggests they won't be getting together at the end of the day to count their money.

(Photo courtesy Discovery Communications) Read more Review: 'Pitchmen'