Monday, November 05, 2007

No Tripe Left Behind

Dear Penthouse...With the Hollywood Writers’ strike in full swing, I can barely find the strength to log on. After all, what will happen if all those TV shows I never watch run out of fresh pablum to foist on the American people? Could public libraries see a sudden spike in book checkouts? Not until everyone’s Tivo runs dry. That’s a shame too, since 98 percent of what passes for network programming is derivative spittle, anyway. But you certainly don’t need me to tell you that. Just look at shows like Prison Break. Successful, yes but the damn thing’s been on for a couple of seasons now -- amd it's still called Prison Break! Get a plan, fellas! The very second episode should’ve been called On The Run, followed closely by Shot In the Back, or Night In The Box. And don’t get me started on shows like Heroes or Lost! I knew drama students at ECU who could knock smother mushrooms in peanut butter and come up with more plausible storylines. Best yet, they’d only charge ‘friend prices‘. Focus, people!

A-HEM ... Rather than rage all night against the dark and silent flattie in the corner of my den, I’ve cracked open my laptop and performed a hard-target search of every string of broken prose, each deserted bromide and all the half-baked topic starters I wisely abandoned so many moons ago. Thus, the following random verbiage, apropos of, well - nothing…
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from almost twenty years of harvesting video, it’s not to get your foot caught in the hopper. Hey, accidents happen, but nobody wants to see your bloody stump lodged between the sports block and the 5 day forecast. Not anyone with a ratings diary, anyway.

My very first TV camera was struck down in a horrible industrial accident. That’s right, an intern by the name of Art pulled it off its tripod at a tractor warehouse. As a dusty particle cloud of plastic and glass wafted up from the concrete floor, he actually asked me if it was broken. It was and six months later, Art was named weekend anchor at the competition.

Because of the marked news unit that occasionally sits in my driveway, my neighbors automatically assume I harbor insights and opinions on local crime sprees, low pressure systems and city politics. Imagine their surprise when all I can speak intelligently on are fresh centenarians, scavenger hunts and dogs in funny hats.

Some adults remember their first bicycle, their childhood tree house or that really big game in little league. Not me. I recall pouring over my family’s World Book encyclopedia set, collecting garbage bags full of little green army men and watching ABC reporter Bill Stewart get shot in the head. Maybe that’s why I ain’t rightl…

Nothing will cause every bulb in your light kit to spontaneously shatter like the onset of Daylight Savings Time - when even 5 o clock live shots need extra illumination. Likewise, spot monsoons and advertised hurricanes will cause your camera’s rain-cover to slip into the very same vortex that contains mankind’s collection of mismatched athletic socks.

Everything I know about TV news I learned from Roy Hardee - the crotchety old News Director at my first TV station. Never one to speak of divas, diaries of demographics. Roy’s only interest was covering the news. Though a registered punk-ass at the time, I knew even then that chasing breakers for ole Roy was a privilege, the newsgathering equivalent of running moonshine for your Uncle Jesse.

Some of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with in TV News found a way to wrap this business around their particular strength, be it the photog who writes, the manager who shoots or the second string sports guy who fancied himself a political reporter. The really intelligent ones, however, ran away screaming, never to return.

On the other end of that spectrum, somewhere outside of Chocowinity, a vintage dentist chair sits rusting, an aging Piranha sulks from neglect and an unimportant man named Mike Weeks wonders where it all went wrong. Perhaps I'll fax him an itemized list.


turdpolisher said...

you've got at least an episode or two of the next great sit-com in here. get to writin' somebody needs to crank out the pablum.

STAG said...