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Family Business

Arnold Shapiro and Allison Grodner, the team behind CBS' "Big Brother" and ABC's "The Family," turn to the world of porn and a family capturing their fractured notion of life on film in a latenight reality series that has yet to find a money shot. The downfall of "Family Business" is the lack of a compelling character.

This article was corrected on March 6, 2003.

Arnold Shapiro and Allison Grodner, the team behind CBS’ “Big Brother” and ABC’s “The Family,” turn to the world of porn and a family — mother, son and cousin — capturing their fractured notion of life on film in a latenight reality series that has yet to find a money shot. “Family Business” takes its cue from the slicker fare seen on rival HBO — “G String Divas,” for example — that attempts to keep as much nudity on the screen as possible while telling a story about an individual’s life. The downfall of “Family Business” is an issue that plagues so much of television: the lack of a compelling character.

Never mind any individual’s particular take on porn itself — this is an attempt to showcase the relationship between a mother and son who work together. First episode focused on the problems Adam Glasser, the porn maven who goes by the name Seymore Butts, has in attracting a girlfriend who doesn’t work in the biz. Mom Lila, accountant for the Butts operation, has but one goal in life — finding the perfect woman for her son. By the end of the first half-hour, he has been on two blind dates, appalled one woman and shocked another, and deleted his name from the online dating service he was using.

Episode three, airing Friday, digs deeper into the world of Butts, making a porn shoot as mundane as stocking shelves at the local grocer. While his mother praises his writing ability and his many talents, putting together a Butts video appears to entail an invitation to three or four women and three men — then asking for volunteers for a variety of sex acts. Butts holds the video camera and makes directing decisions; it can’t be that good that a few days later his editor is panicking that he has little to work with.

“Family Business” has a nagging quality that seems to stem from the open question of whether or not it has an agenda. Glasser has workaholic tendencies and it appears he wants to conduct himself as professionally as people in more traditional lines of work. But one has to wonder why his spacious hillside home has so little furniture; is it a lack of time, taste or money? He has a son — and even mentions joint custody — but it’s never quite clear if Glasser’s time with him is 10 minutes or a day or a week at a time. Even their give and take is little more than greetings.

Glasser seems sharper than the people around him — but then again, cameras have rarely captured a world-class idiot like “Cousin Steve,” who’s also the company’s business manager. This guy’s antics are what you expect from a pornographer — pissed off that he has to make a run to buy lubricant at a local porn shop, he ends up arriving late at a shoot because he can’t resist the offer of a lap dance. Glasser elicits pity as viewers may well ask how a guy so focused can fail to get more out of life than making sex videos. Neither he nor his mother, more than just a bit dull, have an answer.

Jay Blumenfield directed “Small Town Ecstasy” for Shapiro, Grodner and producer Elise Duran, a docu on a family’s relationship with the drug of choice for ravers. Here, Blumenfield and Anthony Marsh get a similar grittiness in their footage, giving every aspect of porn. Here they get a similar grittiness in their footage, giving every aspect of porn and its people a warty appearance. Reality series get their potency from the editing — witness “Joe Millionaire” or the best moments of the “Big Brothers” — but here there just doesn’t seem to be that much to work with. Glasser, on a first date with a buxom blonde porn starlet, marvels at how vapid she is. Little does she realize — she ends up practically a spokesmodel for her entire industry.

Family Business

Series; Showtime; Fri., March 7; 11:30 p.m.

  • Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Maxwell Prods. Executive producers, Arnold Shapiro, Allison Grodner; co-executive producers, Jay Blumenfield, Anthony Marsh; producers, Danny Wolf, Ross Breitenbach; editor, Ricky Kreitman; music, Wonderlick, Synchronic. 30 MIN.