Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Teevee 'n' Me, the neverending love-hate story

I spent Friday morning in a cable television studio, trying to speak cogently while my host captained my co-guests in caroming from topic to topic with an ease that can only be compared to the "multi-ball" feature of an old pinball machine. I do not blame them. I do not blame our host. I have decided to not indulge in blame ever again.
Or I'll just be a lonely, angry, frustrated jerk.
And I've given up talk radio, so where does that leave me?
Why, with my old chum, television.
Who has, like Merle Haggard's bottle, "let me down."
In the past, I spent hours in television production meetings with other producers , writers, and crew. We called these meetings "bull sessions" or "idea storms" or "topic bounce" and we would come up with subject matter and direction for the show. You would say something, folks would comment freely, and we would decide whether it should be in the program's agenda or script.
Although these meetings were by no means orderly, there was an understanding that the meeting had at least established a timbre for the show. An over-all mood had been installed, and everyone would work at their various roles for the next thirty minutes or hour or three to maintain that particular tone.
Friday morning, the extent of that sort of prep was the host saying, "Let's keep it light."
And then he introduced me as "the funniest man in New Bedford, possibly the world."
Which is a lot like sneaking up behind someone in a dark room, shining a flashlight into their face and screaming, "Read these directions! They're in German! HURRY! In Spanish!!"
Having left me there for the time, our host's very authoritative voice advanced, in some detail, various disparate and vaguely related topics. I found myself sputtering -- in two or three phrases at a time -- on the history of vaudeville... architecture... city planning... creative economy...
We were all trying to address diverse and dissimilar and random topics as they were presented and forgotten about. A half-hour into the show, my blood sugar plummeted and I became a nodding, smiling, non sequitur machine. Which was okay. Since the "thread" of the conversation was nowhere to be found anyway.
Luckily Chuck Hauck and Colin Williams both received proper introductions and were capable of filling the hour with history and hope, which was the whole idea.
That. And publicize the Second Annual Gong Show to Benefit the Orpheum Theatre in New Bedford to be held at Gallery X on May 11.
And knowing the people involved in the television show, I'm sure once production is through, it will appear on the air, a "professional-quality" result.

Which only serves to remind me of my discomfort with The Amateur.
The SouthCoast is full of people who accept the landfill pass of "Volunteer" as though it were the union card of "Trained Professional."
It would seem that the mate has skipped a vital step on his way to master. A couple of letters to the editor, a printer, and a few scammed advertisers gets you a magazine. A few hours at the cable station and a hat with your show's logo on it and you're a television producer. Or, film-maker.
I know people who started in cable and moved to local stations and now work at network or at their own facilities. Back when we worked together, a lot was made of local access and its capacity for self-indulgent, mawkish, unstudied, and artless product. But, like any pastime, there are people who excel at their beloved hobby. I've been told.
I have, however, met her and trust that the producer of this program is conscientious and talented. I wish her luck, and apologize for not doing three minutes of stand-up that she could use to somehow prove the host's claims.
Or pad out the show. Whatever.
I'll probably never know, because my cable system doesn't carry that channel.

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