Monday, August 9, 2010

"We don't watch the television machine, Mr. Petrie."

And glad of it.
This video was shot by one of the people who affixed a long banner which called out into the bay near Homer Alaska "WORST GOVERNOR EVER" during the filming of "Sarah Palin's Alaska," a Discovery Channel thing starring that woman.
Since it's not misspelled, and the lettering appears to be fairly even, I assumed that the sign was not that of a Tea Party patriot. One can never be sure, in these days of rabid distaste for government. I am also cynical enough to believe that this could easily have been what we used to call "a publicity stunt," now referred to as "indeterminate crossbranding" or "transmedia storyboarded eventing" -- a set-up for the YouTubers who would no doubt turn it into the most viral thing since that cat one and everyone will tune in to the actual show to see how it's handled. I'm sure the professionals' cameras were civilly inactive while "the talent" addressed her fans' concerns.I tried cable teevee long before that woman. It was community cable, but I needed to rebuild my CV after a rotten breakup with a dream job, so...
I was required, in some instances, to expound on camera for a minute or two in what were called "flying stand-ups" by the Community College Adult Ed video class dropout who fancied himself "producer." (I fancied myself "talent" so you see how teevee is a snakepit of rank self-delusion.) Evenings and weekends, I was working in dinner theater for actual money, so I brought my theater background to the set, hit my marks, remembered all of the words, delivered them competently. I cannot now remember a single thing that I once said.
When I could keep myself from making snide comments under my breath just off-mike, I got pretty good at ad-libbing these things, "flying" as I often did in those days, "by the seat of my pants."
Once, I was enlisted to "interview" a politician. By "interview," I mean "nod and smile -- or nod and frown when appropriate -- while the guy did his yakkety-yak." I knew the guy, and fed him the proper cues and he hit his mark, remembered his words, delivered them competently. I was impressed that we both seemed to be proficient improv artists.
A few days later, I saw the pol on a real teevee station, saying precisely the same thing that he had said to me: same inflections, same expressive eye motions, same practiced gestures.
To this day, I recognize the expression of those who prepare themselves for performance and I wait for my friends who are actors or politicians to "drop character" before proceeding in honest conversation, which they do. Because they are nice people.
I left broadcasting when my career path took another tack. But I mention all of this reminiscence because I feel a kinship with people who have lived and studied and trained and worked to become actors, newsers, talkers.
I feel sorry for them, as they eke out their livings working two or three jobs to make the rent while spectacularly stupid and unprepared morons take the stage, defacing the entertainment industry with their utter connivance or -- more accurately -- publicly subsidized guesswork at what is or isn't entertaining.
I wonder if "reality teevee stars" have to join the Screen Actors' Guild or the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists?
Is Discovery a union shop?

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