Who wants to make a fast million? Featured

9:44am EDT July 22, 2002

I’m one of a handful of people who didn’t watch the ill-fated episode of “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?” back in February.

That’s not because I found the notion of some narcissistic buffoon having his pick of a bevy of beauties for his bride revolting, necessarily, but because I just didn’t get caught up in the pre-broadcast hype.

I have a vague recollection of hearing about it before its airing, but with all of the information my small brain has to try to process each day, some of it is bound to be missed.

The show, while a particularly smarmy attempt to attract the voyeuristic and dull, is no more and no less revolting or vapid than much of the pap that finds its way onto the airwaves. Pity the poor broadcasters. They find themselves in the position of having to compete with the Internet, as well as endure longer work weeks and incidental responsibilities such as childcare.

So they come up with programs that revolve around real encounters by police with players in trailer park tragedies and users of controlled substances. They follow a troupe of teen-agers on a pointless trip in a Winnebago, fretting over entertainment careers going nowhere or their parents’ disapproval of tongue piercing.

Then there’s the police chase show, in which fleeing criminals wreak havoc on Camrys and Cadillacs. And there’s the spate of TV game shows that have sprouted on the airwaves trying to take advantage of the success of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?” Most will run for a few months, only to be replaced by an equally mindless collection of programs that will capture the imaginations of advertisers, if not the viewing public.

For someone who wants to make a fast buck, there’s opportunity in the next big wave of hit programming. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

“Hard-Bodied Software Engineers” — A Fox Network movie that follows the escapades of bulky nerds who write computer software. Includes a guest appearance by Steve Jobs playing an arrogant computer hardware company executive — oh, he’s not acting.

“Venture Chase” A reality program that follows entrepreneurs trying to run down their first round of venture funding. Lots of scenes on airliners and in hotel rooms, and endless suppers of Chinese take-out. By the fifth installment, in a reality within a reality program, the VCs have taken control of the program’s production company and fired its founder, all caught on tape.

“Bankers Wrestling Federation” — Contenders in classifications including CEOs, senior vice presidents and vice presidents. Good guys with names like the Loan Arranger and Lion of Credit grapple with Hy Interest and Red Tape, fighting over mortgage rates, service charges and basis points.

“Different Coats” — A sitcom based on the ups and downs of running a family-owned paint retailer. “Mom,” played by Rosie O’Donnell, and Randy Quade’s “Pop” have inherited Pop’s pop’s stores, but the patriarch, played by Charles Durning, won’t get out of the way. Hilarious encounters with OSHA inspectors, paint brush salesmen and interior decorators. The kids get into the act, too, with sibling rivalries and succession crises inspiring several story lines.

“Hot Copy” — A drama about journalists on the trail of blockbuster business stories and ... never mind. I’ll keep that one close to the vest for now.

Ray Marano (rmarano@sbnnet.com), dramatist, broadcast wannabe and associate editor of SBN, spends most of his days on the trail of Hot Copy for SBN ... wishing he were a millionaire.