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CNBC's West Texas Investors Club positions itself as unscrubbed Shark Tank


The principal money movers of West Texas Investors Club. CNBC photo

Premiering: Tuesday, Aug. 4th at 9 p.m. (central) on CNBC
Starring: Mike “Rooster” McConaughey, Wayne “Butch” Gilliam, Gil Prather
Produced by: Charlie Ebersol, Jason Henry, Mike Lanigan

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Ain’t too hard to figure out what West Texas Investors Club is all about.

It’s CNBC’s chicken-fried, long-necked, western-cut, suit-less, tieless, college degree-less homespun answer to the big success of ABC’s Shark Tank. In that mold, it’s fronted by two multi-millionaire, Midland-based oil pipe salesmen and a cackling old singer/songwriter whose snow white beard is big enough to conceal a small handgun.

They all get nicknames for the show’s purposes. That means that two of them now have two. Mike “Rooster” McConaughey, who’s also the older brother of Matthew McConaughey, is billed as “The Gunslinger.” Wayne “Butch” Gilliam is “The Hatchetman” and Gil Prather is “The Tenderizer.” CNBC has ordered eight one-hour episodes and made the first one (premiering on Aug. 4th) available for review. It’s more or less OK, but needs some giddy up.

Holed up at “The Clubhouse,” Rooster and Butch sip beers and talk turkey to visiting entrepreneurs after Prather chats them up and determines whether they’re gen-yoo-ine human beings.

The cigar-chewing Rooster, who contributes most of the talk-to-the-camera asides, says Prather is an invaluable third wheel. ”He distracts ‘em, but he learns all kinds of stuff off of ‘em,” is the way he puts it. Butch spouts the show’s overriding tagline: “We’re looking at the person first and the business second.”

Most of the first episode is devoted to Adam Garfield of Miami, whose SpeedETab app allows bar and restaurant goers to order and pay for drinks and food via their cell phones. This particular segment is subtitled “The Good, The App and the Ugly.”

On the other hand, the 27-year-old Adam is “kind of pretty, like that singer from Maroon 5,” Rooster says. He’s asking for a $600,000 investment in return for a 12 percent stake in his fledgling company. That would get him laughed out of the room on Shark Tank. But Rooster and Butch methodically play along, requiring Garfield to have a beer with them before they test-drive his invention at nearby Corky’s bar.

Rooster, who portrays himself as a prodigious beer drinker, agrees to use the app while Butch orders the old-fashioned way, which pretty much amounts to “Gimme another one, honey.”

Rooster is soon frustrated. “All of a sudden my dad gum SpeedETab crashes,” he laments. Wi-fi reception at Corky’s isn’t exactly state of the art, it seems.

Even so, things eventually get ironed out. Then Gil plays and sings a really purdy country ballad for Adam, who’s “such a decent young man.” This “means a lot,” Adam replies, sealing a little autumn/spring bromance between a modern-day Gabby Hayes and his young new tenderfoot protege. “I’m gonna bust my ass to try to get you funded, son,” the old-timer tells him. Shucks, man.

Next is “The Pow Wow” and finally, “The Negotiation.” Will Rooster and Butch bite? And if so, for how much? No need to spoil the “suspense,” which is compromised by things being dragged out for too long. This leaves scant time for the second entrepreneurs of the episode, Christy Chang and Amy Pepper from Potomac, Maryland. Their little segment is subtitled “No Country For Old Pen.” Rewrite!!!

Prather doesn’t even get to meet, greet and dissect these two. Instead they just show up at The Clubhouse and begin talking up their No Touch Pen, which is supposed to ward off finger contact with disease-spreading germs. They want $75 grand in return for 20 percent equity.

Rooster is highly insulted when one of the women tells him, “I know you like Heineken.” It’s as though she’d asked him to drink his own piss, which is West Texas for urine.

“How dare she say that to me,” he huffs. “I named my dad gum son Miller Lyte.” He’s not joking. He really did.

Well, it won’t surprise any viewer to learn that this potential deal is going south quicker than Butch can say, “This ain’t Russia. This is West Texas.”

The show’s 14 future entrepreneurs. all of them announced by CNBC, hail from anywhere but West Texas -- or Texas, period. Products will include the Invisible Undershirt, Miss Jenny’s Pickles and the My Back Sleeper Pillow.

West Texas Investors Club has the potential to go down easier than a six-pack of Miller Lite via Rooster’s delivery system. But as an “authentic” un-scrubbed offshoot of Shark Tank, it needs to pick up the pace and cut down on the corn pone palaver, some of which seems obviously pre-scripted. Shark Tank gets more done with five investors to service in a single hour. In future seasons -- should there be any -- West Texas Investors Club would be wiser to spend more time putting up. Sorry boys, but that goes hand-in-hand with a fair amount of shutting up and moving things along.


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