WATCH, LISTEN & READ
Frontline: The Madoff Affair: PBS, May 12, 9 p.m. ET (check local listings or pbs.org)
Perhaps Bernie Madoff said it best himself, calling the asset management arm of his investment firm "one big lie." While Madoff awaits sentencing in June after pleading guilty to a Ponzi scheme that hit thousands of investors for billions of dollars, producers Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria piece together how he pulled off the ruse for more than 40 years.
Smith says The Madoff Affair includes several exclusive interviews with Madoff associates, former employees and those who were heavily invested with him, including Michael Bienes, who colorfully describes bringing clients to Madoff as far back as the 1960s:
Smith: "Was this easy money?"
Bienes: "Easy peasy. Like a money machine. I always said I never lifted any heavy weights."
For Smith, who has also produced documentaries about Iraq, the Taliban and Hurricane Katrina for Frontline, the Madoff story was a study in gall and greed.
"How can you hide in plain sight and get away with it for so long?" Smith asks. "I'm still dumbfounded by it."
Eco Trip: The Real Cost of Living: Sundance Channel, Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET/PT
Host David de Rothschild, of the notable European banking family and founder of Adventure Ecology, traces the life cycle of everyday products such as cellphones and cotton T-shirts as a gentle nudge for viewers to consume — and dispose of — products in an environmentally friendly fashion.
In Tuesday's episode, for example, Rothschild observes the polluting side effects of gold mining in Nevada and visits a jewelry designer in Oregon who uses recycled and reclaimed gold.
The amiable Rothschild pulls off a neat trick: making a show such as Eco Trip not feel too much like a guilt trip.
Apprentice UK: BBC America, premieres Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET/PT
Self-made English billionaire Alan Sugar is anything but sweet in filling the Donald Trump role in this British version of The Apprentice. The show's premise and format are the same: 14 contestants vie for a six-figure position with Sugar's electronics company, Amstrad, by completing a series of business-focused tasks. Each week, Sugar jettisons an applicant by pointing a finger and barking, "You're fired!" — just like Trump but with a cockney accent.
Though this originally aired in Britain in 2005, the show doesn't seem dated. In Tuesday's premiere, the "girls team" and the "boys team," as Sugar refers to them, must first buy then resell 500 British pounds' (about $746 today) worth of flowers on the streets of London by the end of the day. The team that makes the most profit wins.
BusinessWeek Behind the Cover: Free on iTunes and BusinessWeek.com, Thursdays
Each week, BusinessWeek.com editor-in-chief John Byrne and a reporter or key figure from the magazine's current cover story sit down and record a 15- to 20-minute podcast about the cover story's topic.
"The way I think of (the podcast) is as a conversation about the story as if we were talking in a bar but a little too loud," Byrne says. That way, he says, listeners can "eavesdrop" on a fairly informal and personal talk, including information that may have been cut by an editor.