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No False Profit

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“Body language is, unfortunately for them and fortunately for me, a pretty telling sign. And watching somebody sort of follow through on basic tasks or unwilling to follow through on basic tasks is sort of a projection into what’s going to happen in the future.” Marcus Lemonis

By Valerie Milano

Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 8/24/16 – The Profit had its season four premier on CNBC Tuesday Night. The Profit riffs on that venerable TV subgenre; the reality ‘rescue’ show. Similar to Bar Rescue and Restaurant Impossible, The Profit’s premise revolves around the host swooping in to bail out clueless boobs who think they know how to run a business but end up running it into the ground instead.

marcus-lemonis-tca-the-partnerOn The Profit, Marcus Lemonis is the venture capitalist in shining armour. The business in question is “Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour Restaurants”; a limp reboot of the original Farrell’s franchise that annoys customers with its loud, obnoxious ambiance. The owners also (inexplicably) reject Farrell’s family ice cream recipe in favor of cheapo ‘Thrifty’ brand ice cream. The company is nearly two million in the hole and needs help yesterday.

Unlike the aforementioned rescue shows that stick a financial band aid on a gaping wound, Lemonis goes all in. In the case of Farrell’s, Lemonis stumps up $750,000 for majority ownership of the company. Things get done his way or the highway, which includes ignoring workplace melodrama and allowing the boss’s capable daughter free reign to re-imagine the company’s signature candy concession, which has become a joke under the direction of the company’s well-intentioned but toxically negative HR specialist.

Structurally, The Profit is not radically different than other shows in the ‘rescue reality’ genre. We get the same narrative arc as Bar Rescue and Restaurant Impossible; we see the desperation, the bruised egos, hurt feelings, redemption and that peculiar, suicidal stubbornness that plagues businesses owners the world over.

The Profit succeeds because of Lemonis and his personal investment in the future the businesses he rescues. He has a stake and control, which sets up some interesting conflicts with egotistical business owners who espouse the ‘wrong and strong’ ethos regardless of the consequences.

Jim Ackerman, CNBC's EVP of primetime alternative programming; The Profit Marcus Lemonis; and Restaurant Startup investor Elizabeth Blau during CNBC's TCA session. (Photo by Chris Haston/NBCUniversal)
Jim Ackerman, CNBC’s EVP of primetime alternative programming; The Profit Marcus Lemonis; and Restaurant Startup investor Elizabeth Blau during CNBC’s TCA session. (Photo by Chris Haston/NBCUniversal)

The Profit plugs into the zeitgeist of America’s current business landscape. It reflects real anxiety and suffering of ‘small businesses’ trying to stay afloat. It might even provide a public service by educating a few people who need educating.

THT, TCA and others recently had the opportunity to speak with Marcus Lemonis at press tour in January 2016.

Lemonis talked about what motivates him to pull the trigger on a deal,

MARCUS LEMONIS: “You know, the investment’s usually predicated on the relationship with the individual, the relationship with the entrepreneur, and so I kind of put the business off to the side. And through our filming process right? it takes about 10 or 12 days to shoot an episode, but we go and come back and go and come back, and you sort of see the true colors of people over time. And if I get an early preview that the relationship’s going to be toxic or there’s some sort of amnesia about reality, it’s sort of better to cut your losses and cut bait. And in some of the cases right? I’ve invested a hundred thousand or 50,000 up to that point, and it’s unfortunately a total loss.”

Lemonis also talked about the factors that cause him to walk away from a deal,

Jim Ackerman, SVP, Primetime Alternative, CNBC, speaks onstage at the 'The Profit' panel during the NBCUniversal CNBC portion of the 2014 Summer Television Critics Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 14, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (July 13, 2014 - Source: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America)
Jim Ackerman, SVP, Primetime Alternative, CNBC, speaks onstage at the ‘The Profit’ panel during the NBCUniversal CNBC portion of the 2014 Summer Television Critics Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 14, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.
(July 13, 2014 – Source: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America)

MARCUS LEMONIS: “Body language is, unfortunately for them and fortunately for me, a pretty telling sign. And watching somebody sort of follow through on basic tasks or unwilling to follow through on basic tasks is sort of a projection into what’s going to happen in the future. And I usually sort of lay a framework or land mines, either one, that sort of tell me how they’re going to walk around them, whether they’re going to walk through them, or whether they’re going to throw them at me. And I usually get a pretty good sense early on, really, really good sense.”