|The Business: Season One (2006)
Starring: Kathleen Robertson, Rob deLeeuw, Nicolas Wright, Trevor Hayes, Ellen David, James A. Woods, Arthur Holden, Kaela Bahrey, Nobuya Shimamoto, Karen Cliché, Matt Silver
Director: Phil Price
It’s gotten to be a fool’s errand to try and put together a series for broadcast television about the ins and outs of Hollywood. “30 Rock” is arguably an exception to the rule, but, really, that show’s more about the personal lives and personalities of its characters than it is about the making of a television program. (I mean, think about it: we’ve yet to see an entire sketch of “The Girlie Show.”) Otherwise, the broadcast landscape is littered with the corpses of fondly remembered but quickly departed series like “Action,” “The Famous Teddy Z” and “Grosse Pointe.”
Cable, however, has gotten away with it a bit more often. At the very least, they’ve had the highest profile success in the field, with HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show” and Showtime’s “Rude Awakening.” Now, IFC’s arrived with “The Business,” and, really, is any other network better poised with an audience for a sitcom about the making of an indie movie than the Independent Film Channel?
Actually, though, “The Business” isn’t the channel’s first stab at the genre. In fact, the show is really a spin-off of the six-part mockumentary mini-series, “The Festival,” which followed the adventures of first-time director Rufus Marquez (Nicolas Wright) at the Mountain United Film Festival (dig that acronym) with his motion picture, “The Unreasonable Truth of Butterflies.” Marquez returns in “The Business,” flush with the surprise success of his film and ready to take on a new project. But first, he has to get past a few obstacles that stand in the way of his artistic vision, not least of which is the corporate decision to hire a former porn star (Karen Cliche) as his lead actress, in order to bring in the Asian market with large American breasts.
“The Business” focuses in and around Vic’s Flicks, run by Vic Morgenstein (Rob deLeeuw), who was also introduced in “The Festival.” Formerly known for making videos full of drunk girls taking off their tops (yeah, like that could ever be a successful enterprise), Vic is now trying to go respectable after having successfully distributed “The Unreasonable Truth of Butterflies.” Unfortunately, he has absolutely no knowledge of how to be respectable, so he hires Julia Sullivan (Kathleen Robertson) away from IFC, and gets her to serve as the producer of his new horror film. Julia’s constantly teetering between total confidence and complete freak-out, and her situation isn’t aided any by Vic’s inability to get the film’s finances nailed down. Fortunately (or maybe not), Vic scores $1 million via his ex-brother-in-law (Nobuya Shimamoto), an eccentric Japanese businessman with an unfortunate tendency to forget to sign his checks.
There are other great characters in the show. Vic’s half-Japanese daughter, Beatrice (Kaela Bahrey), is wise way beyond her years but still doesn’t know exactly what a fluffer does. Egotistical leading man Lance Rawley (James A. Woods) begins to lose his mind when the aforementioned ex-porn star starts to get more respect on the set than he does. The funniest of the bunch, however, is Tony Russ (Trevor Hayes), who’s willing to sleep with anything that moves, Hayes looks and acts like Will Arnett’s younger brother, but his encyclopedic knowledge of obscure film references would put Dennis Miller to shame.
“The Business” starts off a little rocky – deLeeuw’s performance is so over the top that you’re really not sure if you’re supposed to like Vic or not – but the actors quickly get the feel for their roles and make them their own. Even though it’s the kind of show that any TV critic would love and laugh at, the stock line about a series like this is that the average Joe won’t get most of the jokes if you’re not in “the business.”
Ironically, however, “The Business” will prove funny to people both inside and outside of Hollywood. After all, people in any kind of business can appreciate the problem of trying to make ends meet.Special Features: Alas, there’s no commentary, but we do get a backstage look at the series, which offers a hint about the goings-on in “The Festival” for those who didn’t catch it, as well as almost 15 minutes of outtakes, most of which involve Trevor Hayes making Kathleen Robertson lose it. (They’re still damned funny, though.) There’s also a teaser for Season Two of “The Business,” airing right now on IFC, but, trust me, once you’ve seen Season One, you won’t need to be tempted to watch the second season; you’ll already have sought it out.