How the Creator of Jersey Shore Ended Up Working for CNBC

SallyAnn Salsano on life as the queen of reality TV

If Mark Burnett is the king of reality TV, then SallyAnn Salsano is certainly its queen. Salsano, a former Howard Stern Show intern, has produced dozens of reality shows for her company, 495 Productions, including MTV's mega-hit Jersey Shore and its various offshoots. She's worked on series for HGTV (Design Star), Oxygen (Dance Your Ass Off), TLC (Wedding Island), VH1 (Tool Academy), TV Guide (Nail Files), Spike (Repo Games) and Syfy (Fangasm), and she's spent the last year as showrunner of the syndicated daytime talk show The Real.

Salsano's latest reality creation is Blue Collar Millionaires, which premieres Wednesday night at 10 p.m. on a seemingly unlikely network for her: CNBC. Blue Collar Millionaires, which she described as "Dirty Jobs meets MTV Cribs," spotlights entrepreneurs who made money by getting their hands dirty in professions like pest control, hazmat services and waste management. It's only one of the reality shows on her plate this summer; she's also overseeing Tattoo Nightmares on Spike, Party Down South 2 on CMT and It Takes a Sister, which debuts Aug. 4 on Oxygen. 

Salsano spoke with Adweek about her path from Jersey Shore to CNBC, why Lifetime's UnReal hits so close to home and her plans to reboot Jersey Shore.

Adweek: What prompted Blue Collar Millionaires?

SallyAnn Salsano: A lot of the people that work for me and my company, I think we all come from pretty blue-collar families. My dad was a sanitation worker and was always so proud of what he did. We talk so much about what's not right with this country, and I think we need to focus on what is right with this country. Sure, education is available if you want it, but you don't need it to make it big.  Everyone forgets that sometimes the will to succeed and the will to want it is enough. I always say, I don't care what your job is—be good at it, be proud of it and be the best you can be. And that's what this show is.

How did the show end up on CNBC?

It's not a network I've worked for before, but I watch it like crazy. I watch The Profit, I'm a huge Shark Tank fan—I know it's really on ABC, but I watch it on CNBC—and my early morning Squawk. I have a relationship with Jim Ackerman [svp, prime-time alternative programming, CNBC], who used to work over at VH1. We were out socially, and he was like, "What do you got for me?" I pitched two things, and we went off to the races.

It's hard to fathom that the same person could be behind shows like Jersey Shore and Party Down South, as well as quieter shows like Blue Collar Millionaires. How do you juggle both ends of the reality spectrum?

I think that the worst thing you can do as a producer is just do one kind of programming. Creating new stuff keeps you on our toes. You don't have a second to rest on your laurels. And I also feel like each show, you learn something. So it keeps every format fresh. The last two years, I cast and launched a new daytime talk show, The Real. And I hadn't done a daytime talk show in 16 years [since Sally Jessy Raphael]. So, going back and doing that, it sharpens your skills in a different way. And now you take it back to your reality world, and it completely helps. There's always different ways to do it.

What has the past year been like since FremantleMedia acquired a majority stake in your company?