Prod'n co. gains high ratings with 'Claus,' 'Medicine,' 'Squares'
Don’t ever underestimate the power of a Ho.Whoopi Goldberg’s company, One Ho Prods., cleaned up on TV in the past few weeks. TNT’s “Call Me Claus” drew 9.6 million viewers in its Dec. 2 premiere, making it the second-highest-rated basic-cable movie for the year — and one of the highest of all time. One night earlier, the company’s “Ruby’s Bucket of Blood” aired on Showtime, nabbing great ratings. Meanwhile, the Lifetime series “Strong Medicine,” which Goldberg describes as “the show nobody wanted,” is the No. 1-rated drama in basic cable. And “Hollywood Squares,” which One Ho produces with Moffitt-Lee, continues to be one of the top 25 shows in syndication. In the 1990s, nearly every successful actor set up a production shingle. Goldberg is one of the few who actually made it work. “This isn’t a vanity production company,” the actress-writer-producer mused. “It’s real, it gets results.” So far, the company has hit home runs in series, gameshows and telefilms. Next at bat: films and legit. One Ho began in 1992, when Goldberg was kicking off her syndicated talkshow. The company’s double-entendre name was inspired by Quincy Jones. After completing the film “The Color Purple,” which Jones produced, “He gave me a hoe. I said this is my one hoe and I’m the only one working in this field.” But these days, she’s got a fellow toiler in the field: CEO Tom Leonardis works closely with her developing projects and producing the works. Upcoming are adaptations of the books “Destined to Witness: Growing up Black in Nazi Germany,” an autobiography by Hans J. Massaquoi; and Christopher Paul Curtis’ “The Watsons Go to Birmingham,” a seriocomic look at a black family during the intense days of the Civil Rights Movement. Also in the hopper is a biopic of Latin legend Celia Cruz, who’s been the queen of Latin music “for 155,000 years. She is Latin music,” Goldberg commented. “These are not gigantic projects, but they’re unusual,” Goldberg said, explaining she is simply delivering projects she wants to see as an audience member. A good role for her is not a necessity: “We’ve weaned everyone off the idea that we have to be in everything,” she deadpanned. ‘A genteel place to be’ The only criterion that’s a necessity: quality. “People want a genteel place to be; that’s what One Ho has always offered. I’m not into mean. I don’t want to watch that, I don’t want to see that.” Goldberg is an avid reader, which helps when acquiring books and scripts. Sometimes the company partners with other companies in projects. In the feature biz, “The Mao Game” and “The Piano Man’s Daughter” are completed and nearing distribution deals. One Ho is also one of the producers of the legit tuner “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which bows April 18 on Broadway. Everyone at “Hollywood Squares” is waiting to find out if the show will be picked up for fifth season. “I’m hoping for another two seasons,” she said. “I think people need something a little mindless, a little funny right now.” Hard to label One of Goldberg’s “problems” is that, in a town that likes to pigeonhole people, she’s so prolific and working in so many areas that people find it hard to pin one label on her. “If they were smart, they’d paste all the labels on me,” she laughed. “I’m trying to do several things at the same time. My philosophy: Do what you can do, get as much done as you can.” Even though Goldberg is one of the funniest women alive, she must clearly be taken seriously. So any showbiz money person looking for quality stuff that delivers should just repeat the mantra: Ho, Ho, Ho.