Spreadsheets and Bedsheets

This season: TV embraces the workplace, with a vengeance.

Boardroom backstabbing, bonehead bosses, work-life juggling–they’re not just compelling business issues, they’re great television! That’s what a slew of hopeful producers are betting on during the spring pilot season, when networks develop their creative ideas–the best of which (in theory) will be announced at this month’s “upfronts,” a series of presentations aimed at coaxing upward of $10 billion from advertisers for next fall’s prime-time lineup. More than a dozen of the pilots in development are based in the workplace, no doubt inspired by the success of The Office. Here’s a sampling of the offerings, with our cut-to-the-chase translations.


Cashmere Mafia (ABC )

Lucy Liu stars as one of four female college friends turned successful New York executives who help one another juggle the demands of career ambitions and family.

It’s Sex and the City–but with all four characters modeled after the humorless striver Miranda!

Lipstick Jungle (NBC)

Brooke Shields stars as one of three über-successful women who will do anything, including jeopardizing personal and professional relationships, to get ahead. Oh yeah, it’s a comedy.


It’s Sex and the City–but with all three characters modeled after the humorless striver Miranda!

Bedrooms & Boardrooms (ABC)

Drama of CEOs gone wild, following the personal and professional antics of four dysfunctional but lovable high-powered execs.

It almost sounds like a reality show–until you get to that “lovable” part.


The Bionic Woman (NBC)

A reimagining of the 1970s show’s concept, infused with social commentary on the role of professional women.

This week: Jaime Sommers has to choose between attending her son’s piano recital and preventing terrorists from blowing up the airport!

22 Birthdays (CBS )

L.A. power players politicking against a backdrop of birthday parties they attend for their overindulged children.


It’s the Hilton sisters, the early years.

Code Monkeys (G4 )

Animated comedy about two video-game programmers whose lives are turned upside down when a clueless Texas businessman purchases their company.

It’s a truism of comedy and politics: Wacky high jinks inevitably ensue when clueless Texas businessmen take over.


The I.T. Crowd (NBC)

Based on a UK show that’s kind of like The Office, this comedy follows a company’s geeky and unappreciated information-technology workers.

Tech support is always funny until you get some.

Business Class (NBC)

The absurd adventures of two traveling soda salesmen (Horatio Sanz of Saturday Night Live plays one) on a nonstop business trip.


Death of a Salesman meets Sartre’s No Exit, but funny!

The Singing Office (CBS)

Alan Thicke hosts impromptu workplace singing auditions, with the best flown to Hollywood to face off in front of a studio audience.

Our worst nightmare: Jimmy the mail-room guy does “Jailhouse Rock” again, and there’s a camera there to capture the moment.


Adfight (Oxygen)

Ten teams of advertising professionals, students, and amateurs learn how to market to women, with the winner producing a real ad campaign for a Fortune 500 company.

You want to learn how to market to women? One word: chocolate.


About the author

Susan Karlin, based in Los Angeles, is a regular contributor to Fast Company, where she covers space science, autonomous vehicles, and the future of transportation. Karlin has reported for The New York Times, NPR, Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, and Wired, among other outlets, from such locations as the Arctic and Antarctica, Israel and the West Bank, and Southeast Asia