Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In which we meet the A-Team. Twice.

So here come Barb, Steve n Bob to do the show one Saturday night, pressing our phizzes against the studio door window to break up Mike Mindy n Keith, aaaand it's not Keith in the control room.

No Keiths. No Jeffs (big or little). No Dougies, Traceys, Howies, Richies, or any other familiar phiz. A noticeable lack of Keiths et alia. Instead, we have ... other persons. Who are not amused by our ritual hijinks.

The Alpha Male Director explains: It Has Been Decided that we shall be favored by the A-Team studio crew this week. To straighten out some of the shabbiness of the production. Which hasn't met WLEX's particular snuff of late. And since this so-called show does seem to be attracting some note out there in teevee land, we can't have product going out that's not, so to speak, up to WLEX Snuff.

Hmm. Well, we were kinda of the opinion that the so-called shabbiness of the production was not only part of its endearing n winsome charm, but was also kind of the point of the enterprise. But hey ho as Barb n Bob go off to makeup and wardrobe, we am nothing if not flexible. So I start running down the script with our alpha male putative director

Who will have none of it. We are dealing with a precision unit. They need no stinking scripts.

Au contraire, I point out, they will need stinking scripts because there is a particular bluescreen gag that has to coordinate with Barb's speech in Position 1 --

AMD cuts me off right there, because there isn't going to be a bluescreen shot tonight. The raggedy mattes are not acceptable; the costume was not designed for bluescreen, and we are not going to put shabby bluescreen on the air.

All righty, then. Well, they will still need the stinking script, and the AMD's name, because the Millie/Keith exchange in Position 2 --

AMD cuts me off right there again, because there isn't going to be any of this Acting foolishness done by the crew. It will affect their concentration in doing their real job. Which is producing the show. Which is one of the reasons why the show's production needs help. This talking to the crew stuff is Out. It distracts the Crew. Crew is not Talent.

This is the point in the discussion where you could swing a 2x4 across the back of my neck and shatter said 2x4 into toothpicks. This is the point in the discussion where I should go nuclear and have a good ol' cathartic Rant. Which would accomplish less than nothing, not even purge the gorge rising in my throat, and would result most likely in dead air where the Insert Mille Here sequences should be. Instead, I turn and stride forth purposely down the corridor to have a conversation with the Real Talent.

Barb does not have a diva bone in her body (still doesn't); but an actor's makeup time is the actor's private time and is not to be interrupted. It is the Time Honored Tradition of the Service. So for me to interrupt is a signal that something much like the apocalypse is upon us. And while the gutting of a live teevee show with less than an hour to air is not on a par with, say, Nicolas Cage's utter failure to prevent a solar flare from destroying all life on the planet even unto incinerating a CGI moose, it does introduce unnecessary stress that is not included in the $50/week show fee.

We're not going to pull the Not Coming Out of My Trailer stunt. The Show Must Go On, we guess. We figure out a couple of ways to work around, but hearts are not in it. We kick around putting me in the control room and using the talkback, figure that will get shot down anyway (I have no desire to spend one minute in what is now clearly hostile territory) and reassign the Keith dialogue to me on an off-camera VOG mic; it won't be the same, but it's the best we can come up with. I hate it a lot, I do not have a reverberant VOG voice, but we got nothing else -- it's me or Bob, and ... We pare some other dialogue down; it will be OK, we guess. We go into the studio -- a cold, dead room -- and do a cold, dead show.

Aaaand of course there's no tape for next week. I can come in Monday and pick it up.

We thank everyone for their effort (it's called acting), and get home as fast as possible. Don't even look at the playback; still haven't, to this day.

When I come in Monday to pick up the tape, who should want to see me but the formerly invisible Bill. Who wastes no pleasantries in telling me how Disappointed he was in Saturday's show; it wasn't up to the standards we have set, and he hopes this isn't the direction that we planned to take such a Promising Show. It was especially disappointing because of all the liberties we had taken with the Approved Script. What was the point of submitting a script for approval if we weren't going to do it? especially when we were the ones so adamant about a scripted show in the first place?

This is too much. I point out to Bill that this was His New Crew's decision, not ours; and that he didn't have the courtesy of telling us in advance that we were getting a New Crew, or that we were going to have to conform the show to the New Crew's standards. I told him that it seemed rather shabby treatment, and that if it was his intent to 86 us off the show then he could at least have had us turned away at the door Saturday night instead of putting us through foolishness that would be unacceptable for a high school production.

Bill stops me right there. What New Crew?

I told him that our regular crew had been replaced by the day shift, and the show had to be repurposed to suit the day shift's production requirements -- and that we had thirty minutes before air to do that repurposing -- which he would have known if he had been there with us, as our producer. As far as we knew or assumed, this was done either at his direction or with his blessing; what else were we to assume?

Bill's face changes. We are not shouting at each other, but we haven't minced words, either; even so, this is New Information and it's not computing. He tells me that he needs to check something, and asks -- ! -- if I wouldn't mind waiting for a few minutes. Then he heads, if my understanding of the internal geography is correct, towards the Production offices. Voices are soon raised, and I figure that there's very likely a pot of coffee and an unused coffee cup at the other end of the corridor.

Heading down that way, I meet a short, courtly man in a natty suit, who introduces himself as Larry. He seems familiar with me, Barb and MT. I ask if we've met before, and he chuckles no; he doesn't come down to the station when we do, and he's a little surprised to see me during office hours. He asks how things are going with the show, I make pleasant enough noises, and ask what his interest is.

"Oh, I own the station. I just want to know if we're treating you folks all right."

All righty, then. "Well, gee, thanks for asking. Things have been going pretty well the last couple of months. Had a couple of glitches this weekend, I think they're being taken care of ..."

Larry stops me there. He's a Southern Gentleman, and he knows a stinking fetid pile of polite crap when he hears it. "You had some troubles with your show Saturday night. Anything you want to tell me about?"

All righty, then. "I've just spoken with Bill about it. I think he's handling it. That's why I'm down on this end of the hall."

Larry nods. "Good. If that doesn't work out" he writes something on a card and hands it to me "this is my private number. You call me."

All righty, then. "Well ... thanks."

Larry looks me in the eye. "You call me about anything you think I might need to know about."

All righty, then. And as long as we're on the subject, "You know, sir ..."


" ... Larry, I know that the show is not exactly what people here thought it would be, and I'm sure that some of the stuff we're doing on the show probably upsets some folks a little ..."

Larry smiles. "You don't see every letter about that show. I do."

All righty, then. "Well, if we're doing anything that upsets you, please tell me. It's just a show. Sometimes we get a little too wrapped up in our selves, and we don't see how we're coming across ..."

Larry continues to smile. "You've got people talking about us. Some people will complain no matter what you do. I'm not bothered by that. If you ever do anything that I think is a little too far, I'll let you know. But I know you won't do that."

Well, I might not be the most perceptive pickle in the barrel, but I know when I have been given a Clear Directive. So I thank Larry for his advice and his help, and he smiles a little broader and tells me I must bring my charming wife around, and reminds me that I am to call if I need anything, and then disappears into one of the offices.

Bill calls from down the hall. It would appear that there was a little ... confusion ... in the Production Department's scheduling last weekend. Which will not be repeated again. Ever. And he gives me a piece of paper with his home number on it and tells me that if I ever run into a studio problem like that again, which would be highly unlikely, I should not hesitate to call him at home and he will straighten them out. Immediately. I note to self the use of the pronoun "them," not "it". Bill by the ways why did I come down today anyway? I had forgotten; it was to pick up the tape of the movie; we had already lost a day in planning out this week's show, and I didn't want to lose any more.

Bill disappears into the Mail Room, comes out with a cassette that has a Post-It note with my name on it stuck on the label. "Is this it?" The label sez that it is in fact this week's movie, so I thank him for it and head for home before things get any weirder.

When I walk through the door, Barb observes that this took longer than she thought, and asks "Did anything interesting happen?"

"You would not believe ..."


  1. double HAWs for this post... who hasn't had this happen at their job? At least at a job where they're doing okay, I mean.

    I visited WLEX in a few years after as a one-day intern (I don't think they understood my intern application... I knew how to edit video back then) and the owner of the station took me out to lunch and he was a very nice guy, all around. Sue Wylie sat in the chair Millie and Bob sat in (I think) during that one Fangs/Living Dead show (and she had a miniskirt on which frankly she was WORKING) and it was a fun day, but I had no idea that all this kind of stuff went on. Of course, I was a kid back then... if I'd been in my job at WKQQ when MT went on the air, I'd probably have anticipated such stuff.

    Luckily, on air, it didn't seem to subtract from your entertainment factor, or if it did, it wasn't for long.

    Can I suggest a memory? One week you guys literally "phoned in" a show. I thought this was hysterically funny and wish I could remember more than that, but if you do, you know which one I'm talking about. Just a thought...

  2. Why, the phoned-in show is (chronologically and in the plan), the Next Story asamadderafact.

  3. Oh, well that's awesome! I always wondered about the real story behind that show...