PROFIT CLAWS HIS WAY UP FOX'S SLIPPERY LADDER
(FORTUNE Magazine) – Just in case there's anyone left who isn't convinced corporate America is a den of naked ambition and bald turpitude, comes now Profit, a new TV show from Fox that should erase any lingering doubts. The show centers around Jim Profit, a venal junior vice president at Gracen & Gracen, 15th-largest company on the planet.
The reptilian-voiced Profit is something else--a slicked-back, modern-day Machiavelli with the ethics of a serpent, who employs a growing arsenal of dark secrets about his co-workers to strategically destroy any obstacle on his way to the top. While the no-holds-barred corporate raider is a favorite dramatic character (think J.R. Ewing and Gordon Gekko), Jim Profit is different. He's more disgusting. This isn't glitz and glamour. This is dark and sinister. Jim is ominous, brooding, acting out Shakespearean drama and violence on a high-tech business set.
And carrying a lot of psychological baggage. When not doing in colleagues and rivals alike, Profit sleeps naked, curled in a fetal position in a cardboard box because his father kept him inside one until he was 12. Jim fixed him--set him on fire. As for the rest of upper management? Their closets are a veritable graveyard too, littered with the bones of alcoholism, adultery, abuse, impotence. The suggestion seems clear: Maybe there's more to all these mergers and layoffs than meets the eye.
Echoes of real-life business sagas reverberate through the melodrama. Once you find out, for example, that creators David Greenwalt and John McNamara once worked closely under Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, you take a second look at one of the show's major themes: the tension between company CEO Chaz Gracen and Peter, his younger brother. Peter would like more recognition, power, and responsibility. Chaz would like to make sure he doesn't get it. Keith Szarabajka, who plays Chaz Gracen, confides that Greenwalt described the character as "someone like Katzenberg--very elegant, sleek, and calm, but at the same time very dangerous." (Greenwalt denies that.)
Actor Adrian Pasdar, who plays the main character, says Jim Profit is modeled on no one but acknowledges he studied for the role by following up-and-comers around corporate hallways to pick up their tics and hunger.
Fox is headed by corporate pirate Rupert Murdoch, who knows a little bit about both profit and danger himself. "It's his favorite [Fox] show," claims Pasdar. "He likes it being hard-edged and aggressive, the element of the shark."