Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In which we are Constructively Criticized

Oh, that rascal Bill, the scamp. He didn't like it.

Too busy, too fast, Millicent is too big, too harsh, too ugly, too unlikable ...

All the guys are sitting around the table with us. The happy folks who sure looked like they were into it just a couple of days ago are sinking back into themselves. They were sporting what I have since learned to recognize as the BOHICA sulk (Bend Over, Here It Comes for you wee ones who should be reading Treasure Island). And while our own review of the show, watched Sunday night instead of loyally watching Amazing Stories or whatever the fine first-run NBC product was that particular Sunday night, told us that we weren't anywhere near the right balance of chaos and organization that we wanted to be, on the whole the show was entertaining enough ... there were some parts that were laugh-out-loud funny ... and the bits that fell flat fell flat because they were poorly thought-out.

The nice thing about being tagged as the Uncooperative Outsider is that once in a while you can live up to the tag. And this was as good a time as any, so Bad Intense Steve asked a few questions: Wasn't the brief to produce ... an improvised show? An unrehearsed show? An anything goes show? That was pitched to a cult audience who would discover the show, not a mass audience that needed to be unchallenged? Haven't we just finished up a month of being told that WLEX did not want a polished show? Or a structured show? And didn't we have your approval to produce a show that pretty much played the way it was scripted? Did we not just deliver the show that you asked for, nay insisted on?

And by the way, did we get any mail?

Turns out we did get a couple of letters. Which were, in fact, two more than anybody thought we would get, including ourselves.

And we looked at the letters -- fan mail, from some flounders. Postmarked Sunday.

So ... these folks dropped letters in the mail the day after the show aired. And sent it to the fake address. And they appear to be, not to put too fine a point on it, complimentary.

Well, pardon th' rant n all, and truth to tell when we look at the tape as a standalone record of the performance there is a fair amount of work to be done to polish this show, so we are inclined to agree with th' gist of your comments. But if polish is what's required, then we're going to have to have the kind of structure that a polished show requires.

Which means a script. And rehearsals. And an overall vision. And a crew who's willing to push things a little. And we have all that, at least in embryonic form. What we need is time for the pieces to come together. We made a quantum leap in a week. Now that we have one show down, and we know what we have to work on, whatever needs fixing is easy to fix.

Besides, the unspoken thought hangs in the air, what else ya got?

One thing we learned at good ol' Ruckus Arenus was arrogance and in-your-face-itude. We had a Master teaching us, our cranky old Head Rat. It was not the normal language of business or the arts in good ol' Lexington KY circa 1985, and it likely was not the normal discourse in that little boardroom. It was also not the way to win executive friends and influence people; it was the big fat pride talking, the noise of a young arrogant snot.

But it won the point. Bill backed down.

Keith fills the void. We asked for way too much teevee stuff on such short notice; we really needed to pull back on the video stuff. Let's do one thing a week and solve the production problems; then we can work in the actor stuff for the floor guys. We wanted crawls, animations, quick cut-ins, blue screen, sound effects, moving cameras, location shots -- all at once. Let's just do one or two of those a week for a few weeks.

Good point. No problem. What do you think we should work on this week? We decide that we'll only do crawls and cut-ins this week, we'll use some of the set stuff during the bits so there won't be any camera whippeteria, we'll camera rehearse everything before we air it, we'll only have one (well, maybe two) brief exchanges between Millie and Keith, and if we have downtime we'll try out an idea or two for solving the bluescreen.

Bill doesn't understand this bluescreen fixation. Why can't we just stand up there and tell jokes? Because as long as we do unexpected stuff, we'll have an audience. As soon as the audience can predict what we're going to do, they'll stop watching. Because why would they need to watch? if they can make up just as good a show in their minds, they don't need us. We don't want to do bluescreen for the sake of bluescreen, we'll always have a reason: we want to do a teevee show, so why shouldn't we take advantage of teevee technology?

Well, OK ... but no coming in early, or cutting meals short, to solve production problems. How long do you think it will take for this ... show ... to come together.

Four weeks, I say. Don't know where that comes from, but I know it's right.

What are you thinking about for this week's show? Turns out we watched the movie the night before -- an unfortunate and shabby piece of 70s faux deviltry called The Sentinel, which we hated hated hated -- and Barb and I do a quick rundown of our impressions. "So you're basically going to trash the movie," Bill says. We think about that for a second, and Barb says, "Yeah, pretty much."

Bill likes that. Go figure; it's closer to a classic monster movie host act, maybe it's closer to what he really wanted.

Keith still wants a theme song and a fixed opening. How about the theme from Masterpiece Theatre, played on kazoos? Bill thinks that's pretty funny. Where are we going to get the theme from Masterpiece Theatre played on kazoos? I has an idea, but it won't be ready this week. Keith will come up with something.

Well, all righty then. If things are slowed down a little, Millicent is pulled back a little, it's more jokey a little, then let's try that and see how it looks. Script for Thursday, see you Saturday night. Executive decisions executed decisively.

Barb and I hang back with Keith a second: thanks for the support and the constructive comments, much appreciated. Keith thanks us for the pizza -- nobody ever bought them pizza after a shoot before. Huh.

So ... honestly, now ... did you like the show?

"Now that we're past it ... yeah. Parts of it were pretty good. Others ..."

Same for us. We've got to do what we've got to do this week, but ... do you want to do a sitdown joke show, or do you want to do more like Saturday?

No hesitation. "More like Saturday, only better."



  1. I remember the kazoo music. Man, I wish there was a copy of that first show out there somewhere. It'd be fun to see how it was in the beginning as opposed to how polished it was towards the end.

  2. Stand by for the Story of the Kazoo.