What's new in business books, TV, film

A sampling of business-related offerings in media this month:


Families Stand Together: Feeling Secure in Tough Times

PBS, Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET (check local listings or pbs.org)

Even Sesame Street is not immune from the financial crisis. In this sweetly sobering special, Al Roker and his wife, Deborah Roberts, visit with families, both real and Muppet, who are trying to cope with the fear and anxiety of economic hardship.

Grover and Elmo help run a community market, where they encounter a family selling T-shirts to help make ends meet. For the educational component, personal-finance experts and family therapists contribute tips on talking to children about job loss, forced moves and wants vs. needs.

It's heartbreaking to hear a child's voice say, "My dad, he got laid off, and we had to move because we didn't have enough money." But it's inspiring to see families grow closer and stronger. As one father said, "If my job goes, the family still lives on."

The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant

HBO2: Wednesday, 8 p.m.; HBO: Thursday, 9:30 a.m. and Sunday, 12:45 p.m.

This emotionally charged 40-minute film sympathetically documents the shuttering of an Ohio SUV assembly plant from the point of view of those who are among hardest hit: the hourly GM workers.

Director/producers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert let the forklift operators, line workers and electricians speak as they leave their shifts in the months leading up to the Dec. 23, 2008, closing. With clarity and thoughtfulness, the workers visibly struggle with feelings of anger, loss and uncertainty.

"I've got a better life than my dad, but my grandson isn't going to have a better life than his grandpa. And that sucks," a toolmaker named Popeye says, adding that the plant's closing is part of a larger decline in the USA's manufacturing base that marks the end of "the good life" for many.

Others lament the loss of the relationships they've forged in the factory, speak proudly of their work and can't imagine what jobs, if any, they'll be able to find.

"I have to go out here and reinvent myself at 45 years old," one woman says. "I've got a high-school diploma, and this is all I've ever known."

Your Life, Your Money

PBS, Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET (check local listings or pbs. org)

Stay tuned after the Sesame Street Workshop show for another educational financial program, this one aimed at a slightly older crowd of teens and twentysomethings. Scrubs star Donald Faison is the host, with appearances by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and personal-finance gurus such as Michelle Singletary of The Washington Post. Mixed in between are a handful of young people who share their money woes and successes: a recent college graduate living on his own for the first time; a freelance Web designer; a single mother; and a college student who owes $30,000 on her credit cards.

The fast pace and non-preachy tone soften the blow of solid, if sometimes unwelcome, advice, such as distinguishing between needs and wants, living within your means and the importance of saving, to a group that sorely needs it. According to the show, the average college student graduates with $2,600 in credit card debt, and one in three young adults lack health insurance.

Bank of Mom and Dad

Soapnet, Sept. 30, 10 p.m. ET/PT

Picture this new addition to reality programming as a financial-makeover show. Each week, a young woman plagued by debt or poor fiscal decision-making lets her parents move in with her for a week to help her begin to regain her financial footing.

Personal-finance writer Farnoosh Torabi joins in as a so-called money coach, big sister and mediator.

"My role is to help these women develop a better relationship with money, to understand the basics of money, to get on some sort of a budget and to inspire them to get out of the rut," Torabi says.

This being Soapnet, and with the parents controlling their daughter's purse strings, the show promises plenty of drama. Torabi adds that along the way, there's a lot of tears, laughter and love as the parents try to bestow the wisdom they failed to earlier and as the daughter tries to get on with her career and life goals.


Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods by Shel Israel, Portfolio, $23.95, out now. With field stories ranging from a local handyman to the tweeters of Starbucks, the Mayo Clinic and Comcast, author Israel argues that businesses can no longer ignore the conversation on Twitter.

Adland: Searching for the Meaning of Life on a Branded Planet by James P. Othmer, Doubleday, $26.95, Sept. 15. The former Young & Rubicam creative director ponders life and advertising while chronicling his 20-year career from junior copywriter to golden boy to burnout and back.

Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On and Others Don't by Kevin Maney, Broadway, $23, Sept. 15. Maney, a former technology columnist at USA TODAY, theorizes that consumers' decision-making boils down to choosing between products they love and products they need. Products that aim to do both are destined to fail.

Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil by Peter Maass, Knopf, $27, Sept. 22. The veteran journalist explores the world's oil-producing countries to find out why their citizens are often worse off than those in countries without oil.