IT ISN'T EXACTLY "Let's Make a Deal" -- no studio audience members dressed up as dinner salads, no contestants betting the lawn furniture against whatever lies behind door number three -- and unless a major corporte sponsor materializes soon, it may not see airtime in our lifetime. But "Going for It!," a half-hour "entrepreneurial game show" tentatively scheduled for a January slot on PBS, already promises to be one of the more unusual entrants in televison's campaign to turn entrepreneurialism into a full-blown spectator sport.
Named after the "quick guide to success" written by its host and creator, Remington Products Inc. chief executive offer Victor Kiam (the fellow who liked the product so much he bought the company -- and the thought so much he registered the trademark), "Going For It!" combines elements of "Firing Line" and "Wheel of Fortune" in a format pitting real-life company owners against a panel of real-life businss experts. The three panelists -- Excellence guru Tom Peters, Cincinnati Reds woner Marge Schott, and fashion king Calvin Klein -- grill guests on details of their business plans. Simply for appearing, each contestant wins a day's worth of consultation with a nationally known financial, marketing, or advertising firm. One of them also goes on to compete against future finalists for a grand prize.
That's the theory, anyway. In reality, the entrepreneurs on the pilot show -- a woman who makes "high-fashion blanket coats" in Santa Fe, N.M.; two men behind Life Sign, a $49.95 antismoking device; and an 18-year-old woman with a specialty-chocolates company -- split the vote three ways, a public reckoning longer on diplomacy than drama. But the format does how some potential.OK, Kiam does come across as part Monty Hall, part Pat Robertson. And yes, Calvin Klein's standard line of inquiry seems to be "Have you been to Bloomingdale's? Saks?" Still, the business analysis is reasonably sophisticated, given the time constraints. And the set's blue-skies backdrop and leather-cushioned seating arrangement emphasize both the risks and rewards of doing battle in the market-place, if not in the National League West.
Kiam is beating the hustings for $2 million in start-up capital and hopes to have "Going for It!" going for a 13-week air schedule. "We may switch our panelists around," he avers, "and the prize-money concept is negotiable, since the main idea is for these entrepreneurs to get some good advice. But $100,000 is a grabber for the average viewer, and we intend to grab 'em."
And if a contestant shows up with a better electric razor? "No problem," says Kiam. "I only pray he calls my office first."