Sunday, June 28, 2009

In which the Ground Shifts Yet Again.

So we did the next show as a sit-down, bad pun, nothingburger show. Our wonderings whether the guys had received the same talk were answered: the studio mood was glum, with lots of questions of "What are you going to do?" We did think about doing the show so snarkily bad as to Make a Point, but to who? Conceptual n artistic purity uber alles is a nice 19th century concept, along with the lack of room for commerce in art, and for that matter naivete trumping cynicism because it's naicer (well, that might be Rousseau, the creature); but we thought that indulging in a public display of temper tantrum would be neither productive nor entertaining. Best to disengage without regrets -- we got to play with a teevee station, test out whether our ideas of structuring an entertainment program would in fact be entertaining in the inhospitable environs of Central Kentucky, and got paid for it. Good enough, and time to start working on our personal future plans.

BTW, Bill loved that particular show. He left an ebullient message that he knew we had it in us, and looked forward to this week's show and more of the same. Definitely time to walk away. So along with the script, we prepared a letter that advised Bill that this would be our last MT, thanks for the use of the hall, etc.

The weekly script drop-off routine was to visit Keith and Doug in the master control room, talk with them about the overall plan, point out particular segments that would need attention, sometimes they'd have some reactions or ideas that we'd incorporate into the final polish, and visit a bit about this and that. They were more surprised that we'd be back for a last week than they were that we'd be gone after this week. Somebody was hollering down the hallway, which was unusual. I stuck my head out to see who was hollering, because it seemed to be esaclating.

It was JD. And he was hollering at me, trying to get my attention. Now what?

I knew JD from my college days in the early 70s. He was one of three noobs who were engaged by the Harvard of the Midwest as the managers charged with the daily management of student life n activities. JD's activities oversights included the campus filmmakers' group and the theatrical groups unaffiliated with the formal theatre program, which groups I passed the time and effort left over after the formal theatre program's demands. In this exalted position, JD got to be one of the boots-on-the-ground managers of the great university's response to the stoont activitists who took over the campus at the height of the antiwar protests. Not fun times, didn't do much for his sunny outlook on life, the university's crisis management was ineffective at best, no one was crowned with glory, and generally anyone part of all that probly leaves it off their curriculum vitae. So I was less than sanguine about engaging with JD on any level -- who knew how raw all that 70s foolishness still was?

Anyway, here's JD calling out "How ya doin got a minute come on in let's talk got some things to catch up on" in a good ol' Midwestern run-on sentence that was not a question. Ah well, not like there was anything else to do. So into JD's office we go.

"So what's up with your show. It stunk." Good old Midwestern directness, haven't heard that in years, but I am very weary of this particular trope from management. "John, we've been over this with Bill and we responded to the issues he raised, and yada yada yada managementbabblespeak and ..."

JD cut me off. "What show are you talking about? I'm talking about last week's show. It stunk. What happened?"

WTF? "John, we were led to believe that WLEX management hated the show we were doing. We were given a directive to do the show in the standard monster movie host format. We disagreed with the directive, we did it anyway. We were told to do this week's show the same way, that this was what WLEX wanted and if we didn't do it you would engage someone who would."

JD nodded. "Bill told you this." It was not a question.

The mental alarm bells start going off that this is not about our silly little show. "Bill is our official contact with WLEX. He speaks for management."

"I'm WLEX management. He doesn't speak for me." Ah. "So Bill changed your show and you didn't call Larry." Deeper and deeper WTF.

"John, I had a very nice chat with Larry a couple of months ago, but this is Kentucky. There was no reason to think that was anything deeper than the Boss being polite to the Help."

"That's what I told him you'd say." I don't like where this is going. "What's that?" pointing to the envelop I was carrying.

"This week's script. Bill wants to see the script before broadcast."

JD nodded. "You're quitting, right." That also was not a question.

"This will be our last week." JD nodded. Then --

"I don't think we've been entirely clear with you, so let me clear things up for you.

We like what you did with the show. Keep it up.

Don't talk to Bill anymore. Don't talk to anyone but me about the show. Don't talk to me unless you're doing something you think I need to know about. I'm not worried about you, never have been, I know your work." And he tore up the script and the letter.

Well, this puts a different light on things. "So what are we paying you?"

"Fifty a week for Barb, up to twenty-five a week in reimbursable hard costs."

"Seventy-five a week. You invoice us? Redo your invoice for last week and leave it for me. Is there anything that you want to do different?"

"Well, we'd like to get away from the live show and do it live-to-tape. "

"I thought live was your idea."

"Um, no. Bill thought it would keep us spontaneous ..."

"Forget that. What do you want?"

"I want to tape it."

"Done. Tell your guy Keith to set it up. No, I'll handle that. By the way, we're going to do a second run of movies. Here's a list of titles we're looking at -- pick out the ones you want to do. Anything else?"

Well, there were two things. Let's do the easier one first. "John, I don't think Bill told you that our intentions are to leave Lexington this year."

Pause. "No, he didn't. How soon?"

"Don't know. It depends on how things work out. Could be as early as August, could be later."

Pause. "Well, we'll deal with that when we need to. Doesn't change anything now. Anything else?"

Into the deep waters, folks. "John, you know we've been poking fun at a studio suit on the show that we call 'JD' ..."

JD laughed. "Yeah, that's pretty funny. My friends kid me about it. I think it's a hoot. What about it?"

"I hope you're okay with that."

"Why wouldn't I be? You going to do more like that?"

"Now we are."

With that, the interview ended. I poked my head in master control on my way out. Barb was visiting with Keith and Doug, wondering where I was. "I think we're going to punch that script up a lot." And told them what happened. Barb, Keith and Doug were very happy. I told Doug that I had one request for music that week, and I'd bring it with us. It was a Ry Cooder version of an old jass tune -- (Big Bad Bill) is Sweet Willie Now.

Now the real fun began.


  1. HAH-this is your best recup!

    My former comedy partner (he'd deny that tag) now does mornings at WLEX... since I'm dragging the VCR out of the Closet of Dead Things, he might be able to help me to liberate MT eps... not crossing fingers on it though.