Making It Big in the Business

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I'm Matt Holzman with The Business Brief, a guide to what's happening in and around the business.

Today, a business brief quiz. Which of these traits is a guarantee of success in show business?

  • • the ability to cry on cue
  • • dazzling good looks
  • • an uncle who runs a studio
  • • a Machiavellian view of the world
  • • the patience of job
  • • the luck of a two-time lotto winner
  • • skin as thick as an alligator's
  • • the inability to take no for an answer or
  • • flexible moral boundaries?


The answer is of course, none of the above. These are good traits, but there is no guarantee of success in show business. And lately, I keep being reminded of that.

Consider the curious case of the new ABC sitcom In the Motherhood. I won't mention that it's a very funny and original show since I'm friends with a lot of the people involved, but I will say that factors were heavily weighted to ensure its success.

The behind-the-scenes pedigree was impressive. The executive producer is the former head of ABC and the creators studied under the tutelage of Judd Apatow. The director of the pilot – they guy who sets the look and feel of a show – also shot the pilots of Criminal Minds and Ugly Betty, two very successful shows. In front of the camera, they cast what Tom Shales called an “awesome twosome,” Cheryl Hines of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Megan Mullally of Will and Grace.

Even with all that going for it, the fact that a pilot got made is a miracle. The fact that any pilot ever gets made is a miracle – but in this case lightning struck twice. They made a pilot and the network didn't it, so they did something rare: they recast the show and paid for a new pilot. And then they really got behind the show, putting big bucks into promotion.

It was all set for its big debut last week whhhhen – the President decided to go on TV to talk about the economy. And that caused American Idol – the death star of TV shows – to move to Thursday night. Thursday night – opposite the debut of In the Motherhood. The show's producers were suddenly reconsidering their support of Obama.

The show still managed to do very respectable numbers, but clearly not numbers that justify all the money they've spent in the minds of the network suits. They've already cut down the number of episodes they've ordered. So millions of dollars spent and years of development and top-notch people…and still, the future of the show is in doubt.

What's the moral of this story? I have no idea. But I will say this: It has been written that man plans and God laughs. If that's the case, then he must be sitting up there absolutely hysterical about what he sees every day in show business.

I'd love to know what you think. Send me an e-mail at You can download a podcast of this commentary, share it with a friend, or embed it on your blog with the click of a button from our new media player at For KCRW, I'm Matt Holzman.



Matt Holzman