Tonight at 9 pm/ET ABC presents the debut-season results show for American Inventor, in which one of four finalists will be deemed to have developed the best gadget. Who is likely to have earned America's vote? Who should win? And what changes are in store for the just-renewed competition's second round? TVGuide.com went to judge/cocreator/executive producer Peter Jones for answers.
TVGuide.com: As someone who gets an idea or two along the lines of "Someone should invent a...," I have to say this show has been interesting. I like it.
Peter Jones: Do you? It's quite interesting because some people say, "I really love the show," while others say, "It's crazy. Do those people really exist?" [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: As a cocreator and executive producer, what were your expectations for the show versus what you got?
Jones: I was a little trepidatious going in. It was a bit harder in my mind to make the show mega-successful because the producers got [fellow executive producer] Simon Cowell to front the show as if it was his, and I think that was probably a mistake for a couple of reasons. One, a lot of America wants to see Simon fail, and two, it isn't Simon's show and it wasn't even his idea. It was mine, and I don't think it's a good idea to try to kid America. We started like a rocket and then slowly started to decline because of those reasons. Also, some of the content in the show was a bit repetitive.
TVGuide.com: Were you unexpectedly impressed with the sort of inventions that you saw?
Jones: No, we struggled to get some really great "wow" ideas, but I think that was more due to the fact that it was the first season and I don't think many people knew about the auditions. That's where it will change next year. The show has been recommissioned, and that's great news. I'm very excited about it.
TVGuide.com: Do you think American Inventor might motivate folks to get off their duffs and act on bright ideas they get? For example, back in college I had the idea for merging Walkman headphones with earmuffs, but didn't do a thing about it. Next thing I know, someone else has them on the market.
Jones: Oh, my goodness! I hope it does motivate people, because it has captured certain hearts in America. It offers that emotional roller coaster and a lot of tears, although I haven't cried on camera yet.
TVGuide.com: We'll leave the misty eyes to judge Mary Lou Quinlan.
Jones: [Laughs] We are going to make some changes for next season to make the show better and more dynamic from the opening, starting with the auditions.
TVGuide.com: Let's go through the final four inventions, and you offer me your qualified pros and cons. First up: Janusz's spherical car seat for infants.
Jones: OK, this product has bugged me from the start. The way in which the show has edited the heartfelt story of Janusz, who lost his 17-year-old daughter, is emotional moving, don't get me wrong, but [judge] Doug Hall picked this from the start, and that surprised me because Doug is the man who stood for "invention in the real world" and dismissed any backstory for the person. He ended up picking a product that has only got a backstory! The fact about the product is that technically it's deficient.
TVGuide.com: When I first saw it, I was like, "Couldn't the top of the baby's head get lopped off?"
Jones: I actually said that on camera and it was edited out. It's an emotional winner if it wins, but you're not going to see it in the market. It's not going to be possible to make, and even if you did, you'd need a juggernaut to get it in, it'd be so large.
TVGuide.com: And even then, Britney Spears wouldn't use it.
Jones: [Chuckles] It's not going to come to market.
TVGuide.com: Next is Francisco 's bike with the second seat on the handlebars. Seems to me like the rider in front is cruisin' for a bruisin'.
Jones: Absolutely. The big problem I have and I've said it from the start is that for it to sell, you'd have to make a separate component that you attach to existing bikes. Nobody is going to spend thousands of dollars on a new bike, at least not just to have a seat on the front of it. It's good, but it's not good enough, is it? It may sell a few, but it's not America's next great invention, that's for sure.
TVGuide.com: Erik's football receiver's training aid, "The Catch"...
Jones: It's a good training aid. I've seen the product, and it is a good training aid. At schools and colleges, I can see this product on the playing fields, I really can. It's clearly not going to sell in huge volumes, but people will buy it.
TVGuide.com: Last, we have Ed's Word Ace.
Jones: I've wanted this product from the start, and we've made it fairly competitive amongst the judges, so how can America believe that I have an unbiased view? But the bottom line is, and it's an absolute fact, Word Ace is the only product in the final with the potential to be in every home, without question. Word Ace will become America's best-selling educational game regardless of whether it wins or not. Out of all of the products, this has generated more inquiries from manufacturers of major brands than any other product in the final. The sad part is that I don't think America got to see the game properly to make a proper judgment. The producers' view will be, "A game? If that wins American Inventor, is it exciting enough?" The reality is that the winner should be the best invention, the best product, so I'm slightly saddened that, unless Ed wins, I think we've done him a bit of an injustice here. But Word Ace is a five-letter word beginning with G great.
TVGuide.com: Are you second-guessing the decision to leave the final vote up to viewers?
Jones: No, I truly believe that America's got to decide. Otherwise, because it's my show, I'll end up picking the winner on Day 1, and that's not as exciting. We've got to let America decide. I'd like to see them decide on the final 12, actually. We might see that happening next season.
TVGuide.com: Now as far as contractual terms, who actually stands to financially benefit from the winning invention?
Jones: The inventor themselves get a very large proportion of everything going forward, which is really important, with the million-dollar grand prize on top of that. That gives [potential contestants] an impetus to come along for next year. We also need to sharpen the contract terms to make it easier for everybody to think, "I'm happy to give something away in order to get my product into the marketplace."
TVGuide.com: You have other shows in the works. Anything you can talk about?
Jones: I've got something I'm filming next month for the U.K., a show called Business Class. It's basically a big search in Britain for the next teenage tycoon. We're talking to networks in the U.S. [about developing an American version], and one is very interested. I think you'll see that come to the States early next year.
TVGuide.com: Aside from the teen angle, how different will it be from The Apprentice?
Jones: Completely. You're going to have Peter Jones going back to school to teach entrepreneurism, and we're going to choose about 60 people, through an audition process, who will then create a business idea. Instead of the winner just getting a job, that person will actually get their business, in the real world, supported by me with over $1 million worth of my money.