They May Be Sexy, but Dirty Businessmen Return to Prime Time

     This fall’s new shows are serving up some juicy stories of the twisted lives of businessmen, from “Big Shots” to “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Cane.”

     Everywhere you look on TV – whether it’s primetime dramas or the evening news – businessmen are in trouble. The Business & Media Institute’s latest study, “Bad Company III: For American Businessmen in the News, the Defense Never Rests,” is the latest proof.

     When businessmen appear in the news, it’s often because they’ve committed a crime or there’s a company problem like a product recall. And when they’re on TV shows, they’re often the villains.

     Part I of the “Bad Company” series looked at primetime dramas’ business characters and found that if you were a television character, you were 21 times more likely to be kidnapped or murdered at the hands of a businessman than the mob. Businessmen on the shows committed crimes five times more often than terrorists and four times more often than gangs.

     So what does this season have in store? It looks like more of the same. From casino owners to sugar barons and New York CEOs, new dramas are expected to portray businessmen and women and their relationships – and some will doubtless be ruthless, lying, cheating sleazebags.

New Shows, New Businessmen (and Women)

      “We’re men. When it comes to sex, money or criminal proceeding we’re allowed to lie,” says one of the “competitive but dysfunctional New York CEOs” at the center of ABC’s “Big Shots,” in a preview on the show’s Web site. Another character, shown first with his mistress and then with his wife in a therapist’s office, declares, “I run a billion-dollar conglomerate.”

     Ahh, the hijinks of beautiful but unethical people.

     Power women also get their turn in “Cashmere Mafia” ABC’s tale of “four Manhattan women bonded by their Ivy League educations and executive success.” “Cashmere Mafia is about to bring sexy back to the boardroom,” promises ABC.

     For the solo businessman trying to make a go of it, there’s “Viva Laughlin” on CBS. “Ripley Holden will do whatever it takes to get his casino off the ground,” the Web site teases. “But how many lines will he have to cross to find success?”

     Then there are the dynasties – at least two shows’ worth.

     The much-talked-about “Dirty Sexy Money” on ABC advertises themes of “murder, greed, power,” and of course the transsexual mistress. As a network promo about the show’s wealthy family says, “You can’t be filthy rich without getting a little dirty.”

      “While they symbolize the charm and all-Americanism of old money, they also embody scandal and have spawned five grown, troubled children,” says ABC.

     Finally, CBS’s “Cane” presents “an epic drama about the external rivalries and internal power struggles of a large Cuban-American family that owns a rum and sugar empire in South Florida,” says the network. “Sugar is the new oil,” says the protagonist in a preview.

     The Web site sets up a quandary for the sugar clan: “For the Duques, will family allegiance come first or will their secrets and acrimonious conflicts over love, lust and control of the family fortune, be their downfall?”

     The September 28 Entertainment Weekly further explored the lead character’s complexity – which, of course, means the upstanding citizen has a dark side. Apparently the show didn’t wait too long to reveal that, based on the magazine’s description of the pilot, which aired September 25.

      “…this is Jimmy Smits, the man who’s played the kind of honorable and upstanding lawyers (L.A. Law), cops (NYPD Blue), and politicians (The West Wing) we yearn for in everyday life,” wrote Entertainment Weekly’s Missy Schwartz. “And at first glance his newest character, devoted husband and father Alex Vega on CBS’s ‘Cane,’ seems cut from the same high-moral-fiber-cloth – until minutes from the end of the first episode when he orders a hit on a man threatening his family.”

     Nothing like starting the season off with a bang.

Bad Company: A Series of Special Reports from the Business & Media Institute

Part I: For American Businessmen, Primetime is Crimetime

Part II: Oscar-Nominated Movies Bash Business, but Hollywood Claims That’s Entertainment

Part III: For American Businessmen in the News, the Defense Never Rests