Before we begin, let's get one thing straight: Comedy and business don't go together. No one has ever found a way to make financial issues funny. Except by accident. See, e.g., any recent installment of "The Kudlow Report."
So the executives at Business News Network -- known everywhere as "Canada's CNBC" because it's just like the U.S. version of CNBC, only without the language barrier -- are facing an uphill battle with their new show, "Stock & Awe." (Get it? Me neither.)
"The Business News Network is branching into comedy with a scripted series about a debt-ridden spendthrift forced to gain control of her finances," reports the Toronto Star. The paper also notes that the show will feature "real interviews with actual money managers and financial experts" to present a "light-hearted take on what everyone needs to know to manage their money." Sounds just like "Mad Money" only without the psychotic behavior.
"It's comedic but I think it's also informative, and it's really a chance for us to attract a whole new audience, I hope," BNN's general manager told the Star. Right. Because what could be funnier than debt? War? Pestilence? Michelle Caruso-Cabrera writing a book? All those things can be fascinating, in a so-awful-you-have-to-watch sort of way. But trying to get an audience to laugh at terrifying subjects is an uphill climb, to say the least. Especially when it comes to Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a CNBC anchor who is just like "Stock & Awe," only without the ampersand. (Get it? Her name has a hyphen instead.)
Because, really, when people turn on their TVs, they want to forget that there is sadness in the world. Even if it's leavened with humor. And it doesn't seem as though BNN's producers have figured out a way to make it work.
Here's the way the Star describes the premise of the show, which features BNN personality Hilary Doyle in the lead role: "The energetic Doyle stars as a deluded version of herself -- a shopaholic business reporter who spends with abandon. She gets a rude awakening when she tries to withdraw cash for a spur-of-the-moment vacation but is told she's already drained her account.
That sets her on a path to find her financial footing, with the help of advice from industry professionals and anecdotes from average Canadians about their own money missteps." Actually, it sounds like "The Kudlow Report," only with the Hanson Brothers as co-hosts. Cool.
So maybe it will be a big hit. Let's hope so. We here at The Deal magazine have a vested interest in BNN's success. It's not widely known at this point, but we are also working on a scripted comedy to augment our coverage of the deal economy. In keeping with the editorial focus we've maintained since 1999, our show will be about bankruptcy (working title: "Dancing with the DIPs").
The series follows the travails of a love-struck hedge fund manager who quits his day job and opens a bookstore devoted solely to the promotion and sale of "You Know I'm Right: More Prosperity, Less Government" by Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. In a bitter twist of fate,
he locates his store on a city block undergoing massive redevelopment funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. With pedestrian traffic reduced to a trickle by the construction work, the store's sales suffer and the owner cannot meet his obligations.
The besotted bookseller files for bankruptcy in a desperate attempt to protect his life savings, only to discover -- in another bitter, yet altogether fitting, twist of fate -- that his attorney was attending the Ayn Rand Veneration Society's annual Burnin' Down The House Wienie Roast the day they covered Chapter 11 in law school.
Granted, it's still in the development stage, but we've already started filming. Deal staff members can frequently be seen scurrying around the Financial District with video equipment asking random pedestrians whether a shopaholic business reporter can maintain her journalistic credibility while playing a ditzy character in a moronic TV show. (Consensus answer: It's not nearly as reputation-killing as writing a book-length plea for your own show on Fox Business Network.) We're not sure how that footage will fit in with our bankruptcy comedy, but, hey, it beats working.
And it fulfills our own commitment to quality reportage on important financial issues. Sure, bankruptcy is inherently amusing. And we can appreciate the comedic stylings of Larry Kudlow. Still, readers can rest assured that we do not believe such clowning has any place in the world of high finance. (Get it? "High" finance?)