Saturday, August 07, 2004


Interfering With Reality

In the continuing effort to market my wares, I spent a large part of an afternoon in Central Park this week. Taking a bag of postcards for "Tales On Tap" (and a bag of books in case I met anyone who wanted to buy a copy), I got on the W train to 57th Street, and ventured into the park on my shoe-leather P.R. campaign. Handing out postcards to anyone with a book that would take one from me while I took a three hour long zig-zag walk from Central Park South up to 86th Street. I was confronted by reality. Fiction is a tough sell. I was also confronted with another reality.

At the southwest corner of the Metropolitan Museum of Art were two small teams of people gathered around maps, frantically deciding where to go next. As each group had two camera crews following their every move, each with its own boom operator trailing an umbilical cord to a sound recordist, I elected not to step forward and offer directions.

I turned to my right and noticed I was standing next to a production assistant with a clipboard holding release forms for people who got on camera that weren't part of the production.

"What are you shooting?"

"I'm not allowed to tell you," came an extremely superior sneer from the clipboard carrier.

Another production assistant whispered to me that it was a reality show.

I turned and started handing out postcards to people standing nearby and watching. A woman from the crew loudly "shushed" me. She glared at me with a look that told me in no uncertain terms that I was interfering with reality.

The two teams on whatever scavenger hunt or race or whatever, shreaked and ran off down the pathway to another section of the park. The camera and sound crews dashed off after them, trying to keep up and avoid running into pedestrians in a tightly run slalom with junior crew members dashing, panicking, struggling to keep the cables from tangling.

The production assistant that treated me decently took a postcard as they moved on. The superior clipboard carrier said to the P.A., in a loud whisper, his back to me but only three feet away so that I will have no difficulty hearing- "Don't take that shit from him."

This person who doesn't know me from Adam. This person who makes a living off a format that shuns creative thought not only has no interest in writers, he displays active hostility to one.

Long ago I formulated a low opinion of the Reality TV format. This slammed it home with a carnival sledge hammer, breaking the bell at the top of the strongman attraction. The artifice of the reality show was being choreographed with the delicate finesse of a rugby scrum.

It dawned on me that they shoot these shows in public settings while the public is kept out of frame in a manufactured world based loosely on our own. A glossed over ficticious reality, incredibly cheap to make that sells for an incredibly high price on network television. No stars to pay. No need for writers. No need for thought.

Apprentice bachelor interior decorators racing a huge cross-country death-defying fear factor obstacle course riding American Choppers made on the Discovery Channel while eating living eels.

Now that we already have supposed wife-swapping shows I expect the next matchmaking effort that gets on the air will be "Who Wants to Butt-Fuck My Brother," now in development and being submitted to the Bravo Channel.

Here I go again. Biting the hand that will never feed me. I loathe them all. They should all eat spoiled devilled eggs at the craft service table and be felled by a long-term horrible intestinal distress.

Except the American Chopper guys. They can stay.

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