You’ve probably never heard of “PBC.” For accountants, PBC is a common acronym for “Provided by Client.” Also for accountants: FloQast software. And, in what seems like the ultimate bad idea for target-demo marketing, “PBC” is a branded-content comedy series about accounting that’s produced by FloQast Studios.
But here’s the weird part: “PBC” is not bad. Its supporting cast includes Danny Trejo (“Machete”), Kate Flannery (“The Office”), and Pete Gardner (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”). It just added Cheri Oteri (“Saturday Night Live”) and Neil Flynn(“Scrubs”). You probably wouldn’t know the series’ leads, Jessica Sarah Flaum and Christian A. Pierce, but they’re talented and have a total Jim-and-Pam thing going on.
If you want to check it out, Season 2 is now streaming (timed by FloQast to give accountants some much-need levity ahead of the busy accounting season). “PBC” is not the next big Nielsen hit; for one thing, it streams for free on YouTube. It’s definitely a very niche series that is very much about accounting, but there is no FloQast product placement.
“That was a big conversation early on,” said showrunner Michael Gallagher (“Real Bros of Simi Valley”). Early in the “PBC” development process, he said, it was a “big” point of contention: Is this a branded show or is this a real show?
FloQast wanted the latter. “It just happens to be produced by an accounting company,” said Gallagher, as if that was an ordinary thing to say. “They wanted to make something that is just as good as any other comedy out today, and they wanted that to be the thing that would make people curious to say, ‘Hey, who made this show? FloQast? What’s FloQast?’ and then go further.” (He added that “PBC” has also served as an inadvertent FloQast recruiting tool.)
Kate Flannery on “PBC”
Courtesy of FloQast Studios
Comparisons to “The Office” are easy, if not intentional: “PBC” is a mockumentary set in a mundane workplace, and in addition to Flannery, there’s fellow “Office” alum Creed Bratton. Gardner portrays the office’s bumbling boss Dave, who is not wholly unlike Steve Carell’s Michael Scott. Like Carell, Gardner is a standout.
“PBC” is a scripted series that also looks to its actors for improv, with Gallagher subscribing to the Adam McKay school of directing: Get one from the page, then let your performers loose. Populating those pages, the “PBC” writers’ room includes several CPAs (certified public accountants), including series creator and FloQast CEO Mike Whitmire, the inspiration for series-lead Sarah (Flaum). She’s an auditor who switched sides, just like Whitmire before he let his certification lapse and went into software. Whitmire’s initial pitch, a quote that made it into a script and unofficially serves as the show’s logline, went like this: “No accountant ever grew up wanting to be an accountant.”
This reporter, a former mutual fund accountant and senior financial analyst, can attest to that. Whitmire may not feel unsatisfied with his career path, definitely felt unsatisfied with the “representation” for accountants in mainstream entertainment and, Gallagher said, wanted “to make this every accountant’s favorite show.” We’re not sure how high that bar is — “Ozark” has money laundering! — but it’s certainly resonated with the profession.
That’s because accountants write the setups and comedians hit the punchlines. For example, “How would [the character] actually uncover fraud? What are the real ways?” Gallagher recalled one spirited Q&A session. “Once we have the details, then we can create the outrageous scenario.” (Just how nerdy are these nerds? They wrote the “PBC” pilot in Microsoft Excel.)
Details are crucial to keeping it real with the discerning demo — just read the comments on YouTube or the accounting subreddit, where Season 1 went viral. “PBC” has also been passed around the Big Four accounting firms Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Just hopefully not too much between January and April.
Danny Trejo in “PBC”
Courtesy of FloQast Studios
“PBC” was the first show from FloQast Studios and they plan to make more… as long as it’s about accountants. “Maybe they’ll do a crime drama or a true-crime story on accounting,” Gallagher said. Sounds crazy, until you consider there’s yet another docuseries about Bernie Madoff due out shortly on Netflix — or until you’ve consumed some “PBC.”
We don’t want to go overboard here; we’ll leave that to Gallagher, who referred to accountants during our telephone interview as “the bees of the global economy.”
“If you lose the bees, then everything goes to shit,” he said. Give this man an honorary CPA — or at least, an extra deduction.
Seasons 1 and 2 of “PBC” are available for free on the FloQast Studios YouTube channel.
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