Blake Glenn’s Looney thoughts, perspectives, and insights on the world of business!
— by Blake Glenn
Don’t look now.
Business is going big time in the entertainment industry.
Well at least on TV.
Business is having a big time moment, maybe even unprecedented in terms of the hours devoted to business programming. There may be more scripted and reality shows about business on the air right now than ever in the existence of the small screen. Now of course I don’t know this to be an absolute fact. But I think it’s entirely within the realm of possibility.
Here’s a quick look at the current landscape where business is front and center on TV:
This well-received HBO show has completed at least two seasons now. It’s a satire, or parody, of life in Silicon Valley. I mean it’s about life in a tech startup – not life as a cab driver of hotel worker or accountant working in Silicon Valley. And I’ve read that it’s pretty good. But I don’t have HBO. I have TV. And since HBO is not TV …
This tantalizing Fox juggernaut crashed the network scene in 2014 and has been on a rampage ever since. From the pieces I’ve seen, I’d say it’s about 1/5 biz story, 1/5 soap opera, and 3/5 total and complete insanity. It’s the urban culture of hip hop meets the cowboy, back-stabbing, devious culture of Dallas (the TV show, not the city) … set in the music industry!
Halt and Catch Fire
This show is set in Texas and follows the adventures of a group of computer entrepreneurs in the 1980s. Having been around during the early days of the PC industry, I’ve found the premise alone to be fairly interesting. But having it set in Texas instead of Silicon Valley makes it fascinating.
Blood and Oil
This new series about oil would seem to be yet another knock-off of the original Dallas series. I’ve not seen an episode yet. But if the trailers are any indication, we’re in for a real steamy, sexy, oily, back-stabbing mess. But even the recent Dallas spinoff – also called Dallas, just updated – didn’t last more than 2 or 3 seasons. So Blood and Oil’s prospects may hit a dry well. But maybe if it’s set on the North Dakota frontier, around a small town experiencing a boom because of newly discovered shell oil together with natural gas fracking, and shows a litany of modern day wild west type characters … maybe, just maybe we’ve got ourselves a hit!
This standard has given us dozens of tales built around the power and, ultimately, the repercussions of unbridled greed. What strikes me is how every single one of the featured greed-meisters has been able to sucker so many people. So many people that would seem to be reasonably intelligent, though some have been from the vulnerable elderly population. This show always reminds me of a book I saw a few years ago called “Snakes in Suits”. Sociopaths and psychopaths are all around us … beware.
The show also reinforces the old adage:
Never. Ever. Never. Put all of your money in one friggin’ basket. Got it?
Enough said. Don’t watch it? You’re dead to me!
West Texas Investors Club
Apparently actor Matthew McConaughey has a brother with a lot of money. And this brother has a business partner that also has a lot of money. And together they take pitches at their Texas digs. And after grilling the fund-seeker in their own West Texas style accent, they then decide whether or not to invest. Sometimes they even have the entrepreneur get drunk and spend the night.
In fairness though, the product being pitched in that case was supposed to be a cure for hangovers. It’s not hard to imagine this item in demand in West Texas and at college campuses across the country. Oh yea. Then there’s that third guy. I’m not sure his role. He got drunk and spent the night handcuffed to the entrepreneur with the alleged hangover cure. I really, really don’t want to know what happened that night.
Bazillion Dollar Club
This series, airing on the SyFy channel, features 6 startups as they try to get their ventures into the air. It also features a couple of apparently well-known tech startup players who coach them – 500 Startups’ Dave McClure and Highway1’s Brady Forrest. As the title indicates, it’s no longer enough to get into the billion dollar club. Now you must go big and reach for BAZZILLIOOOONNN!
Update: Looks like we have our first casualty of the new group of shows. SyFY has decided not to air any more episodes after the initial episode aired on Sept 21st. The ratings must have been pretty bad for that to happen. It looks like the producers are seeking another home so they can show (or “burn off” in TV terms … I’m an insider to the biz) the remaining 5 episodes. I have a suggestion – Youtube, Vimeo, or Crackle. Well actually I guess that’s 3 suggestions.
This entry, airing on ABC Family, follows the adventures of 10 students of Draper University. This program, run by VC Tim Draper, appears to be an intensive 7-week accelerator. So apparently the cameras will try to capture the competition among these 10 super-ambitious people. According to the description, all of them will have the opportunity to pitch for dollars.
This one is different. It’s had at least 2 seasons on CNBC. Instead of focusing on startups, it features one investor, Marcus Lemonis, trying to help small business owners turn around their mini-empires. I’ve seen these business owners. I’ve known them. I’ve advised them. This is a hard gig. In addition to advice, Lemonis invests his own money with a handshake. Sometimes owners listen. Many times they don’t. And sometimes Lemonis gets burned.
Make Me A Millionaire Inventor
No. I will not. But maybe buyers will. This CNBC show connects inventors with engineers and scientists to see if their invention has possibilities and, if so, to help with the commercialization process. Not all of them will make it. But for those that do maybe a few million isn’t farfetched at all.
This Spike TV show has been around about 4 years. It features a big, gruff consultant with a NY/NJ accent that tries to help struggling bar and restaurant owners to turnaround their failing ventures. I’ve watched about a half dozen episodes. The show’s format seems to consistently work like this:
1) The consultant and his team performs undercover recon on the bar to get an unfiltered look at the problems
2) The consultant and his team make recommendations to the owner(s) – menu items, decor, employees, management … etc.
3) The owners don’t like the recommendations and battle with said consultant and team
4) There’s lots of screaming and crying
5) Owner(s) concede they need help (but no concession for a therapist) and agree to changes
6) Changes and re-decorations made – usually in 5 minutes. The team and his consultants must be made up of super human speedsters
7) The owners and staff review changes – get mad, get happy, both
8) Bar reopens with changes and entertains a large crowd
However, it’s not all hugs and kisses. As I read the Wikipedia page I saw that many of these bars had failed anyway. And in one extreme case, an angry owner shot and killed a man in his bar after the bar was transformed, but before the episode was aired.
There may be a few other shows out there. It’s not an exhaustive list. And by the time you read this, another show or two may have been cancelled. But I can’t worry about that right now. I’m off to begin work on a series of TV show ideas I’ve kicked around for a while. Now, obviously, is the time to strike. Now where did I put Spielberg’s number. He said to call anytime.
Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?
If you dare, he can be reached the old school way … blake@LooneyExecutive.com