The Last Page

Graeme Blun­dell watches busi­ness on the box

The Australian - The Deal - - News - Graeme Blun­dell

TELE­VI­SION is go­ing through a golden age and many highly re­garded shows have busi­ness and the va­garies of cor­po­rate life at their cen­tres. We’re not talk­ing about the count­less in­fo­tain­ment and re­al­ity-style money se­ries like Shark Tank Aus­tralia or Mark Bouris’s The Ap­pren­tice Aus­tralia, but dra­mas and come­dies with lessons about com­merce, group dy­nam­ics, com­pany cul­ture, mov­ing in­ven­tory and sales, man­age­ment is­sues, en­trepreneur­ship and deal­ing with the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect of­fice.

Bil­lions (Stan):

This new se­ries takes an in­side look at the world of high fi­nance by fol­low­ing the im­pend­ing col­li­sion be­tween two ti­tanic fig­ures: the hard-charg­ing, po­lit­i­cally savvy US at­tor­ney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Gia­matti), and the bril­liant, am­bi­tious and vin­dic­tive hedge-fund king Bobby “Axe” Ax­el­rod (Damian Lewis). It is loosely based on cru­sad­ing fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor Preet Bharara, who up­ended New York pol­i­tics with his pur­suit of fi­nance in­dus­try mis­deeds. Writ­ers Brian Kop­pel­man and David Le­vien go to foren­sic lengths to cap­ture the tus­sle be­tween the law and the big end of town.

Un­der­cover Boss (Life­style):

This nicely for­mat­ted fac­tual show fol­lows cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives as they slip anony­mously into the rank and file of their own com­pa­nies. Each week an ex­ec­u­tive leaves the com­fort of the cor­ner of­fice for an un­der­cover mis­sion to ex­am­ine the in­ner struc­tures of the cor­po­ra­tion they lead. Work­ing along­side their em­ploy­ees, the bosses learn about them­selves – the ef­fects their de­ci­sions have on oth­ers, where the prob­lems lie within their busi­ness, the per­cep­tion of their com­pany – and dis­cover the unsung he­roes of their work­force.

The Of­fice (Presto):

Ricky Ger­vais co-writes, di­rects and stars in the orig­i­nal Bri­tish ver­sion of the sit­com that be­came a world­wide comic phe­nom­e­non; the US ver­sion with Steve Carell ran for 212 episodes. David Brent is the nearly use­less man­ager of a group of dis­grun­tled, idio­syn­cratic em­ploy­ees of the Slough branch of the Wern­ham Hogg Pa­per Com­pany in the heart of Eng­land. He blun­ders, blus­ters and bluffs his way through sit­u­a­tions that will be bleakly fa­mil­iar to any­one who has ever worked in an of­fice.

The Ho­tel In­spec­tor (Life­style):

This pop­u­lar busi­ness im­prove­ment se­ries fea­tures award-win­ning hote­lier Alex Polizzi – brunette, sul­try and very bossy. She comes from a long line of hoteliers, her grand­fa­ther be­ing Lord Forte, her mother ho­tel de­signer Olga Polizzi and her un­cle Rocco Forte still a player in the lux­ury Euro­pean ho­tel mar­ket, with an eclec­tic and ex­pand­ing port­fo­lio. Polizzi is on a quest to sal­vage some of Bri­tain’s worst-run ho­tels and bed-and­break­fast es­tab­lish­ments. En­er­getic, in­tense and highly ar­tic­u­late, she rolls up her sleeves and gets stuck in to help – when she’s not chastis­ing and scold­ing. No one on tele­vi­sion says the F-word with such pre­ci­sion and sen­su­al­ity. From staffing to menus and from decor to hygiene, it is a de­light to watch her un­leash her de­ri­sion on cowhide bed­spreads, four-per­son hot tubs, erotic art­work, origami toi­let pa­per and disco balls.

Utopia (Netflix):

Rob Sitch’s Tony is the be­lea­guered pro­ject man­ager of the Na­tional Build­ing Au­thor­ity, a govern­ment agency re­spon­si­ble for over­see­ing ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture projects – most of which turn out to be po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated white ele­phants. He’s a bu­reau­crat who tries to ac­com­mo­date ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­body while up to his neck in fea­si­bil­ity and scop­ing stud­ies. Tony is earnest and ide­o­log­i­cal, but most of his time is spent wor­ry­ing about Heart Health Week, con­stantly chang­ing pass­words and the qual­ity of the coffee in his PC of­fice.

Pawn Stars (A&E):

This is the global smash-hit show about the fa­mous Gold & Sil­ver Pawn Shop in Las Ve­gas. The store’s owner is Rick Har­ri­son, a man who knows how to buy and sell bet­ter than any­one on TV. This is per­haps the best ex­am­ple of the “hid­den trea­sures” genre, as we learn the back­sto­ries of the bizarre items that come across the pawn shop coun­ter­tops. Of course it hap­pens only if the seller is pre­pared to bar­gain, hag­gle, barter, trade, traf­fic, whee­land-deal, and ne­go­ti­ate.

“Your num­ber is?” the pawn­bro­kers ask straight off, or “What’s your best shot?” They are psy­cho­log­i­cal ex­perts of this dark art, but they show re­spect and un­der­stand­ing for the seller’s po­si­tion and frame the ne­go­ti­a­tion early around mu­tual in­ter­ests. Their minds are trained only on the end re­sult, a process they de­con­struct for us in the to-cam­era ses­sions fol­low­ing each sale.

Break­ing Bad (Stan):

This com­pelling drama takes us into the ruth­less depths of the drug trade – a world with­out cor­ner of­fices and white col­lars, but busi­ness none­the­less. Wal­ter White (Bryan Cranston), a strug­gling school chem­istry teacher di­ag­nosed with lung can­cer, “breaks bad” with the re­al­i­sa­tion of just how pa­thetic his life is. He teams up with a hap­less small-time dealer, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), and puts his ex­per­tise to work in a meth op­er­a­tion to se­cure his fam­ily’s fi­nan­cial fu­ture. The pair is thrust into a nether­world where mur­der and ar­rest lurk around ev­ery cor­ner – and Wal­ter at last be­comes the man he wants to be. Many sit­u­a­tions are recog­nis­able to the en­tre­pre­neur: dif­fi­cul­ties start­ing a busi­ness and break­ing into a mar­ket, low em­ployee morale, un­con­tained egos, poor un­der­stand­ing of du­ties and roles, un­happy cus­tomers, and dis­re­spect for man­age­ment.

The stars of Bil­lions, from left: Malin Akerman, Damian Lewis, Mag­gie Siff and Paul Gia­matti

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