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The $ Channel

A consortium of 168 major multinational corporations have banded together to form The $ Channel, a cable TV network devoted …

A consortium of 168 major multinational corporations have banded together to form The $ Channel, a cable TV network devoted exclusively to the world of business. But unlike previous and existing channels such as the Financial News Network and CNBC, which are or were primarily oriented toward the gyrations of the stock and bond markets and the actions of the Fed, The $ Channel will be entirely devoted to business-based entertainment: sitcoms, dramas, soap operas, and even talk shows.

“Business leaders are sick and tired of being portrayed on television as avaricious swine,” explains Ross Tarkenton, chairman of The $ Channel. “They’re fed up with always being caricatured is extortionists, polluters, blackmailers, and bullies. An innovation like this was only a matter of time.”

To date, The $ Channel has ordered up 48 new programs from major producers to flesh out its fall lineup. The most promising of these is a Sunday-night drama entitled The Somewhere Between $95 and $100 Billion Man. Loosely based on the life of Bill Gates, this program will chronicle he exploits of a geeky, unassuming computer industry titan who leads a secret life as a :rime-busting superhero specializing in bringing sociopathic hackers to justice. Each Friday light, as the real Bill Gates’s fortune is marked o market, the title of the show will be changed o reflect the current value of his portfolio. Producers at the network are already talking ’bout clever merchandising tie-ins such as virtual eyeglasses and deeply ironic sweaters.

Here are a few other promising selections from the fall lineup:

  • Two Unemployed Retail Industry Analysts, a Girl, and a Pizza Place. Erik and Jason, 20-something retail-industry analysts, lave just lost their jobs at a white-shoe Wall street brokerage house after blowing a call on he future of teen fashions (they predicted high school kids would stop wearing baseball caps at stupid angles by July 1999). Now they are stuck in a run-down apartment in Queens, sharing the space with Magda, a ditzy but lovable young Hungarian immigrant, who has just launched an ethnic restaurant called Pas Loin de Chez Attila.
  • Karma and Meg. Karma is a 30-somethingNew Age type who runs an on-line organic foods supermarket, and wife Meg is a straightlaced compliance officer for a small Long Island brokerage firm.
  • The XL-Files. Danah and Shelley are a pair of portly FBI agents who head a secret government unit devoted to the investigation of extraterrestrial involvement in the performance of Internet stocks. Danah, the more levelheaded of the two, believes that Internet stocks have attained gravity-defying levels because investors have gone insane, while Shelley believes that unscrupulous stock promoters from another dimension, called Parallel Alberta, are responsible for the astonishing run-up in the stocks. The show will also touch upon such subjects as the role of succubuses in frustrating corporate attempts to get a global cellular phone network off the ground and the possibility that the fashion industry may be controlled by 300year-old vampires.
  • L’Homme Nikita. Exactly like La Femme Nikita except that the lead role is played by a male, and he is not a hired killer but a bodyguard assigned to a different high-profile CEO every week. Has possibilities.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond James. Charming sitcom about a hard-working stockbroker employed by a wire house that just about everybody adores. Loads of laughs.

Obviously, not all of the programming on The $ Channel will be comedies or dramas. There will also be talk shows, special-interest programs and news. Here are a few offerings that bear watching:

  • The Late, Late, Late, Late Show. As opposed to The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, or The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, The Late, Late, Late, Late Show will be a program devoted entirely to discussing early-morning activity in European markets.

           “We originally thought about calling it The Early Show or The Early, Early Show or Early, Early, but we felt that ‘Late’ and ‘Late Late’ already had a certain marquis value,” explains Tarkenton. A great concept, but in the real world, a program for news junkies only.

  •  Like, The View. Four female Gen-X day traders lounge around on couches discussing their latest killings in the stock market.
  • America‘s Funniest Annual Shareholder Meetings Videos. Pies in the face, exploding cakes, whoopie cushions, the works!

Perhaps the most exciting project on The $ Channel drawing board is a morning show entitled Martin Frankel Living. Like his fellow Connecticutian Martha Stewart, the mysterious financier managed to fashion an amazingly elegant lifestyle for himself without possessing any apparent gifts. At press time, the exact shooting location for Martin Frankel Living was not clear.

Joe Queenan is a regular contributor on business issues, corporate culture, and financial follies to Barron’s and The Wall Street Journal.

About Joe Queenan

Joe Queenan is a regular contributor on business issues, corporate culture, and financial follies to Barron's and The Wall Street Journal.