A colleague of mine, J. Scott Trubey , reported last week that executives at Norcross-based Bright Eyes Entertainment were charged with securities fraud and other related infringements, costing investors at least $2 million. The company created two sitcoms, “My Parents, My Sister & Me,” featuring actress Robin Givens, and “The Chin Chens.” Neither program made it on a major network.
William Hollins, chief executive of Bright Ideas Entertainment LLC; the firm’s president, Daniel High; and a lawyer, Tene Davis, are accused of soliciting investments in the company by making false assertions in contracts to convince investors their money was fully guaranteed against loss.
The Georgia Secretary of State said more than 30 investors had invested in the original project.
Ric Reitz, an actor who played the dad in ten episodes of “My Parents, My Sister and Me,” said he wasn’t surprised by the accusations in retrospect. “While it’s bad news for our local industry,” he wrote me Sunday, “it will serve as a good warning to others.”
Last fall, in a story I wrote about “The Chin Chens,” one of the actors and an investor Tom Nyugen told me that more than $3 million has been raised to fund the first 13 episodes, mostly from Chinese and Vietnamese investors. That was a separate pool of investors from those of “My Parents, My Sister and Me.”
Nyguen said his attorney limited what he could say. But he still supports Hollins. “I feel good about Will,” he said. “I believe in the guy. He’s been very transparent to me. There’s nothing I have to worry about.”
When I talked to Hollins last year, he seemed very earnest but he had zero track record in terms of creating successful TV shows. He said he had done TV production in the past but cited nothing of substance. I also questioned the use of the title “The Chin Chens,” which is close to the mocking phrase “ching chong” Asian-Americans have heard in the past.
The plotline wasn’t bad: a Vietnamese and Chinese married couple own a nail salon/Chinese restaurant combo, with three kids and a grandmother under one roof. Stereotypes? Yes. But Hollins justified it by noting that the family unit was strong and they were clearly well off.
A couple months later, Nyugen brought me to the studios to screen two finished episodes. While some of the actors were okay, others clearly had no experience or comic timing. The writing was subpar and it felt dated. When I spoke with Hollins, who was also there, about current sitcoms, he didn’t give me the impression he knew much about “Modern Family,” The Big Bang Theory” or even Tyler Perry’s sitcoms. The most sitcom reference he made to me was “Seinfeld,” which ended 14 years ago.
I wished them luck but had a feeling nothing would ever come of this.
One of the lead “Chin Chens” actors Vince Canlas said last week another company earlier this year had purchased Bright Ideas, called OWOW Studios. Canlas still hopes the show will be revived in some way, shape or form.
For “The Chin Chens,” Hollins used only non-union actors, which limited his pool of people he could hire. At the same time, actress Vicki Eng – who played Canlas’ wife, said since it was non-union (as opposed to his “My Sister, My Parents and Me” project), she was told it would never air on a regular network. She did it for the experience, she said. She knew nothing about the investors. She said she was paid. In the end, only 2.5 episodes of “The Chin Chens” were shot.
Eight months ago, OWOW Studios released a demo reel of “The Chin Chens.” Check it out:
The theme song featured these lyrics:
Waking up in a world through different eyes
Believing we could swim against the crimson tide
Using love, we hitched a ride on the rising sun
Off to start our lives anew
Girls for him, for me a son
We’re Americans in heart, Asians by blood
Red white and blue, mixed with yellow-colored [can't quite figure out the word-- mud?]
With our faith,we embrace the dream
Through our heritage, we cling
The world as one, big family
Oh, yes, we’re one big family
Comments on YouTube were not kind. An example: “The beginning song was bad taste. It was laughable in a bad way. As an Asian American, it was probable the lyrics might not have been written by an Asian American. They all talk a bit too slow, no comedic timing, it sounds like they went to a recording studio & dubbed over their parts.”
OWOW has a website which features “The Chin Chens.” The phone number listed on the site, though, does not work.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk