Television executives know what it is to work for horrible bosses. Then there’s Niles. 2,261 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
The electronic display on his alarm clock read 4:13 a.m. when Peter Hallerman awoke in his heavily mortgaged home in Encino Hills. The emptiness in his stomach, the kind you get when someone breaks up with you or the doctor gives you bad news, made trying to go back to sleep futile. Careful not to wake his wife, Peter grabbed his grey terrycloth Polo robe and walked downstairs to the dining room.
He pulled a deck of cards out of a drawer in the dining room table and began to play solitaire. The ritualistic quality of the game, red on black, black on red, one match leading to another, lulled him into a contented stupor. His father had always told him that playing cards was a great way to relax. “And remember,” his dad, thirty one years a bus driver in New Jersey used to tell him, “it’s not the hand you’re dealt. It’s the way you play it. You make your own luck.”
Peter paused, not sure which pile to pick. And then it occurred to him: what did it matter? He let the card drop to the table. He would be at GPTV in four hours. That was all that really mattered.
GPTV was the brainchild of Auguste Gaumont, a French billionaire who had moved into broadcasting when he bought a second rate cable channel and decided to turn it into an American television network. Like Steve Ross and Sumner Redstone, Auguste had made his original fortune in another business. That business was urinals, which accounted for his company’s name, Gaumont Pissoirs. Naming the network GPTV seemed a way around that, and the marketing department went further, dubbing GPTV “the sixth network.” That backfired when many people in the industry began to call it “the sixth sense,” implying that GPTV was dead as a business only it didn’t know it yet.
TV FICTION PACKAGE: Politically incorrect comedian Tommy Dash horrifies the panelists on a cable news show about the Presidential primary race. 2,759 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.
Okay, enough chit-chat. Here are the jokes I never got to on the air:
- I’m now taking orders for my new t-shirt: “TRUMP: He’s David Duke, But With A Higher Thread Count.”
- Ted Cruz may win Indiana. It all depends on whether he can get the heavy Gestapo turnout.
- If you don’t count Ohio, the only time John Kasich has finished first is when he was jerking off
- Bernie Sanders spent $46 million in the month of March. And half of that was on fiber.
- Remember, the Hillary Clinton email scandal started because she didn’t want to carry around an extra device. It’s the same thing that happened with Bruce Jenner.
Before we continue, I have several philosophical questions:
If someone is on cable television news and is under the impression that it’s okay to curse because it is cable television, is that person wrong for cursing? Strictly speaking, is the phrase “cock yahtzee” cursing? Okay, what about “turd parade”? Okay, what about “muff” or “snatch”?
Okay, I know you’re going to say “snatch” is a bit vulgar. And perhaps that’s what got me hustled back onto Sixth Avenue. I was vulgar. And you can’t be vulgar on television. You can be dirty. You can be suggestive. You can be naughty, and we hope you are. But you can’t be vulgar on TV. It’s a public trust, or whatever other hypocritical oxymoronic term you can come up with, like “rectal itching” at the end of a pharmaceutical commercial.
Gee, I hope I’m not giving away what happened last Friday when I got booked to appear on the cable news political roundtable, Right Cross.
TV FICTION PACKAGE: A reality executive gives the presentation of his career. 2,201 words. Story and illustration by Mark Fearing.
Marty Nordin was sweating at his desk. He had a presentation due in 10 minutes and it wasn’t just unfinished but he hadn’t even begun to write it. It would be his last opportunity to keep his job. Because he couldn’t count on the shows he had developed to save him.
Some 13-year-old boy in Norway was getting 19 million views per week on a YouTube video while Marty’s series on the Watch-it! Network were lucky to attract 35,000. Fuck. And what was the kid doing that was so goddamned compelling? Playing a kazoo and simultaneously playing a video game. Crap.
Marty was 48 years old and had spent his entire adult life trying to create a hit TV series. To be honest, he’d really spent most of that time just trying to stay employed. But making a hit was the goal. He had tried at one point to develop quality dramas, but he had ended up in reality shows just like everybody else with half a brain. Scripted TV was deemed too formal. Viewers no longer wanted beginnings, middles and ends. They wanted chaotic stuff stitched together.
He could thank the cable industry’s package pricing for the proliferation of channels like the Watch-it! Network that get less than 50,000 viewers. Marty was responsible for developing Eat-it! where several people ate gross stuff and made each other eat gross stuff and then talked about eating gross stuff. And he launched Play-it!, a show with a room of “famous” people with very different POVs on life playing board games until it disintegrated into name calling and brawling. Shove-it! didn’t even make it past pilot but Marty felt it had more dramatic arc than anything on YouTube, dammit.
Now the pressure was on. New bosses. Ratings that sucked. A media landscape that just didn’t make sense anymore. The channel was being shopped to whichever buyer took control of a chunk of Congruent which was the giant corporation that owned the corporation that owned the Watch-it! Network. Between the corporate bullshit and the kids on YouTube, Marty was starting to think it time to get a real estate license. How long did that take?