February was sweeps month, and we had big plans for building on the momentum of the Carpet Monster show. Although we didn't have a say in the selection of the first run of movies, we did have a say in assigning the air dates; so we had selected what we thought was a strong selection of the available cheese, building up to Plan 9 from Outer Space at the end of the month. We knew that we could pull off the kind of show that we wanted to do; the production fixes were relatively minor, and would be nailed if we could move to live-to-tape. And we were convinced that the Carpet Monster show would yield a shower of praise from the teeming masses, covering us in glory and convincing Bill to approve the minor production shift.
Well, wrong on one count and right on the other, but not the way we expected. Nary a peep from the Teeming Masses on the Carpet Monster show. A quite large peep from Bill on Monday, instructing Barb and me to come over to the station tout de suite about last weekend's show. We came in on Tuesday, to learn that Bill was Not Amused by the show.
Not Amused At All.
Appalled, outraged, dismayed, consternated, dumbfounded, aghast, stupefied, and enraged would be closer to the mark.
For him, the Carpet Monster show displayed everything that was wrong about our concept of the show. It moved too fast, it was too in-jokey, the characters were unappealing, it was impossible to follow, the production values were so sub-par as to be unacceptable for student work let alone the output of a professional major market teevee station. In case we hadn't noticed, this was a business and not a playground; and WLEX had made a sizable investment that he was not going to jeopardize during the all-important ratings sweeps month.
And while he was at it, where did we get off making public fun of station management? Didn't we realize that this undercut their position in the marketplace? It was embarassing for him and the rest of the senior management to constantly have to defend a foolish little show every time they showed their faces publicly. One thing was certain: nobody in the higher echelons of Lexington media had any clue what MT was about, and that reflected badly on WLEX management, of which he was one.
And so henceforth, not to be deviated from one jot or tittle, by order of the Supreme High Command of WLEX, and without mercy or hope of appeal:
- No more crew interaction
- No more snarky dialogue
- No more Bobs, Nathans, studio visitors, pizza deliveries, phone calls fake or otherwise
- No more puppets
- No more references to anything outside of the movie
- No more reading viewer letters on the air
- No more run on graphics, crawls, or animation
- No more roaming around the studio on air
- No more sound FX, visual FX, or any other FX
- No more nothing that wasn't funny jokes and puns about the actual movie
- The show will be Millie in a chair talking about the movie. Period. And if we didn't care to offer that, somebody else was available and waiting for the opportunity.
Out in the parking lot we noted that this was Tuesday, which was our crew's day off; so we figured they didn't know that the hammer was coming down. We talked about what we wanted to do about this; neither of us wanted to put any time into anything that wasn't fun, and staying up to 3AM Sunday to recite bad puns was not high on our list of fun things to do. Besides, Barb had out-of-town auditions coming up for grad schools; that would be our future life, far far away from Lexington. This foolishness was now a distraction that was jeopardizing our plans for our particular and immediate future.
OTOH, we did have a loyal audience of some unknown size; and we did have a studio crew that we had convinced to become part of what now appeared to be a fiasco of epic proportions, which would surely make their particular short-term careers hell. We would be gone anyway in a few months, we were going to write off our Lexington reputations as dust in the wind anyway. But we had some responsibility to them, to try to ensure that there was no lasting professional fallout poisoning their livelihoods.
So we decided: we'd give Bill the show he wanted. For two weeks. And then we'd leave. Obviously it was time to go. The Future Beckoned!