They come into my office. Two of them, young things. It’s all young things these days. He’s dressed in a suit that would make a Ken doll cringe in sympathy, she looks like she was gutted up and remade by one of those reality shows that offers to make women amazing – by cutting up their bodies and making them pretty because that’s all that counts these days. Even the kids like this that come pitching ideas to the studio look like they belong as extras in some teenage soap opera. I bet they even know what boxes they’d tick for demographics.
That’s the world these days. More and more old people, but we pander to the kids. Getting to the point now where it’s easier to find an ethnic on TV than an old person, at least not one who isn’t ethnic. Or something-or-other ticking some boxes. Me? I’m balding, fat, and I would be smoking if Beryl hadn’t made me quite for the fourth time in two years last month. I’m drinking coffee. It doesn’t help, but it probably counts as a diet.
“You have a pitch?”
“Yes, sir.” She simpers, smiles. Probably expects to get something out of it, but I haven’t had anything to give in at least two years. Stress gets you every damn time in this business. “We have a new project in –.”
I wave away the papers and cd rom and usb crap the kid offers me. He looks younger than he is: there’s nothing hard in his eyes. Her, I’m not as sure about. “Talk to me. Tell me your idea.” I smile. “Sell it to the network.”
He blinks, opens his mouth, closes it. “The show is called Waking Up. That’s the working title. We’ll need to figure out a real one closer to transmission, but it’s going to be very hard to advertise and needs to be hidden from the public. Ideally we do an entire short series – say, 13 episodes? – have them in the box and then begin showing the show, advertising it after. Let word of mouth build, social media light it up and see what happens.”
She takes over. “Waking Up is about a patients in hospital who have to undergo surgery. The surgery happens as normal, but we have a stage set up – a vast one with actors, a whole town, extras. You name it, we go all out. They wake up in it, and we convince they they really died and went to Heaven. And the audience sees how long it takes them to work this out.”
I stare at her. Then him. Then back to her. They both offer up their eager smiles. “You’re not joking.”
“Why would we be joking?”
I remind myself how the reality TV fad started. There is a bottle in my desk. I don’t reach for it. “Because people believe in Heaven?”
“Oh, no one who is serious does,” he says. “Old people, yes. Not you, but old people. That will help the show since every radio type and most of the talking heads on TV will rant against it, letters get written and it becomes the sort of show where watching it is an act of rebellion. You don’t get shows like that anymore. If it has to go all-digital, so much the better. We pepper it with ads, find companies willing to gamble on product placement and we’re off!”
“And the lawsuits?” I say, because I have to say something sane or reach for the bottle.
“Oh, we’ll clear it with the regulatory bodies and the lawyers,” she says. “The network has deep pockets and that is what wins court cases. We simply outspend, emphasize the publicity they gain – I’m sure some will get book deals and chat show tours out of it. It’s money we lose, but it goes toward less lawsuits in the end. Of course, we’d need to change it up come the second season. All new actors, new sets, probably begin filming it while the first one is airing so less of the patients catch onto what we’re doing. And we add in the twist.”
“In the second season, ‘Heaven’ is really Hell.” She smiles.
I don’t smile back. I stare at her, and him, and hand the usb and cd rom and papers back to the kid. “Get out of my office.”
They get. Part of me wonders if Fox or HBO will take up the show. The rest of me doesn’t give a damn, and it’s been a long time since I did that. I turn off my computer and head outside for an early lunch. Maybe today wasn’t going to have as much stress as I’d thought.