Podthoughts by Ian Brill: “KCRW’s The Business”

Posted by Maximum Fun on 28th November 2007

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Who is Claude Brodesser-Akner?

The man is the center of discussion on many episodes of Jordan Jesse Go! for his corny humor and stringent Media Bistro guest lists. He is the host of KCRW’s The Business (iTunes link), the Santa Monica public radio station’s show that takes a distinct look at the entertainment biz. So does the notorious Mr. Brodesser-Akner live up to his reputation?

Most of what passes for entertainment journalism seems to be Hollywood gossip, Hollywood gossip given fancy dress and number crunching the weekend’s box office gross. It takes hundreds of people to create a film but glossy magazines and tabloid talk shows only seem to care about pretty movie stars and how glamorous they are (or if they’re “just like us”). The fact that the latest vehicle for Jessica Alba had an army of writers, producers, editors, sound people and people manning the craft services tables goes forgotten. The Business concentrates on that side of show business and seems to have a lock on finding real interesting stories about that other side of Hollywood.

The October 1st episode of The Business spent most of its half-hour talking to Mad Men executive producer and creator Matthew Weiner about product placement in television shows. Mad Men concerns the drama happening in an ad agency circa 1960. Weiner discussed how he had to strike the right balance to make his characters and their world realistic. He couldn’t have his characters eating from generic boxes marked “Cereal” but he didn’t want the mentions of brand names to seem like they were put there for pay. It’s an interesting topic and this was the most I have heard of it in the media. It’s an example of the intelligent programming on The Business.

Brodesser-Akner is unmistakable as a host (a fact made clear with his absence for the past two shows, although producer Matt Holzman does a good job filling in). He starts shows by covering the industry headlines, tagging each story with a piece of what Jordan Morris accurately described as “dad humor.” If you’re a fan of groan inducing puns then pay attention to the first five minutes of each edition of the show. When I first started listening to The Business I worried that this would be a show filled with the mild humor you hear on a lot of public radio shows. I was glad to find out that when it comes time for an interview Brodesser-Akner is all, well, business. He’s a great interviewer, able to get right to the most interesting thing about a subject and allow the both host and guest to examine it from all angles. It was nice to hear Bruce Dern tell Brodesser-Akner what a good interviewer he is when his segment ended, telling the host how well prepared he was.

Don’t wait for Brodesser-Akner to co-host JJG, although that will be awesome when it inevitably happens, and search through the archives of The Business and enjoy a take on Tinsel Town that’s far from what you see on Entourage.