Now Fleming has to deliver. She allowed The Price of Fame to attend a recent audition at a Manhattan bank. It was part look-see and part brainstorm session. The reality show is billed as a "docu-series" featuring four or five women married to or divorced from Wall Street players, some humbled by the financial crisis. Fleming said she might explore other options, too -- perhaps a talk show or expert intervention a la Nanny 911. She hopes to complete casting by Aug. 15, then finalize the package she will present to networks and production companies. Making the pilot episode herself isn't out of the question either, she said.
A cross-section of women showed up for the tryout. While hair-pulling and ax-grinding tend to drive vixen verite vehicles such as the Real Housewives franchise, Fleming said she wanted to create an empowering vibe with strong women. "I want it to be the anti-Housewives," she said.
Fleming conceded that the audience she called Main Street would also enjoy the comeuppance of those who profited on Wall Street. That's in the mix, too.
"As a culture, we need to have honest and more vulnerable conversations about money," said one of the candidates, Melissa Matthes, a professor at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. "Is this the best format to do that? I don't know." Her husband had a hedge fund that tanked. Their reversal of fortune wasn't devastating, she said, but it did make the parents of four rethink their relationship to money.
No Shortage of Possible Storylines
Tamara Hunter, an executive representative at the Swedish bank Handelsbanken, told her tale of a marriage strained by the market meltdown. Her husband lost his job at Bank of America (BAC) in 2009 and is still unemployed. Now he's the homemaker, and neither is happy with the arrangement, she said. Asked if her spouse might be uncomfortable with having their tension played out on television, she replied, "I'll have to have that conversation with my husband."
A few latecomers took their spots at the conference table, among them Lisa Najarian, a mother of two and owner of Loopie Doop's cookies. Her husband, Pete, is a former NFL linebacker who operates a company called OptionMonster. "I'm not getting a boob job for the show," she snickered. And there was real estate agent Jennifer Walsh. Walsh's husband moved into her $1300-a-month one-bedroom apartment after he sold his $3 million Greenwich, Conn., home when the market soured and his previous marriage ended.
Fleming, a 49-year-old New Canaan, Conn., mother of three who's married to a Deutsche Bank wealth manager, had no shortage of story lines. (She plans to cast herself as well.) Finding the right blend was the challenge, she said. She also had an alternative title at the ready: Married to the Market.
In the unpredictable world of high finance and reality TV, a girl has to be prepared.