SUNDAY MORNING used to be on my watchlist, emphasis on ‘used to’. It’s no secret that magazine shows are mostly publicity vehicles for people, events, companies etc. You’ll always see them do a piece on somebody (actor, author, singer etc.) right before (s)he has something coming out, has come out but needs a little push, or came out a while ago and no one’s buying it so needs a different approach to sell. Well, no secret there really. Everyone watching TV knows how promotion works. But the programs will sometimes promote someone or something by cleverly fusing it with a ‘light news’ piece.For example, if I write a book titled, “The Polar Bear In Us: Achieving Great Physical Feats” and unless I’m Dr. Phil or something (good God, no) than I won’t likely get any publicity based on my name. I’ll need help. Instead they’ll do a show on how human beings can endure extreme…’temperature,’ for example. ‘We need more,’ the show’s 20-year old producer will say. ‘How about we tell the story of an 80-year old man who achieves the impossible with the Polar Bear Club by going for his 1000th swim? We can start the show with a close-up of his great grand child who says in her cute voice, “I love gran-grampa” and then the concerned mother continues, “He just won’t listen to us (wipes a tear)…I don’t want him to die. But he needs to do this.” The host comes on and says, “Will Stan Waterman live to see his great-granddaughter’s 3rd birthday? More on the story later.”‘ Fuck…the producer is right, I’d be hooked if I was watching!
Now the segment begins, they do a little bit on Stan and his younger days as the reject who couldn’t swim and who used to wear heavy sweater during summer until one day he failed to rescue his pet dolphin from drowning because he refused to take off his cashmere sweater and jump in the bath-tub to save the poor mammal. Stan, on camera, with a quivering voice says, “I knew things had to change for me. I knew I couldn’t let water and cold weather cripple me.” Cut to: Polar Bear Club’s CIO/Lawyer/Polar Bear, Jim Beach. “I knew Stan was special the first day he came by. I was concerned, however, knowing his medical condition, but he amazes us every year by showing up.” Oh, the twist…medical condition. The segment got a lot more interesting. “A medical condition that gets riskier with age. Brilliant!” screams the 20-year old producer. “I smell the New York chapter ‘Emmy’,” and maybe a ‘Telly’ or two.” Her cameraman lets out a laugh. But ignore him for this story. He’s a frustrated director taking shelter in cinematography because it lets him ‘observe the real people’ for his latest 3-part screenplay, “Mermaids of Coney Island.” Ignoring. Ignoring.
So the medical condition part is where my book gently makes an entrance. The show’s host will drop in a voice over on a b-roll of me walking towards my home-office space. They’ll show me typing some shit on my computer (but all I’m doing is pressing ‘enter’ and ‘backspace’ as they record different angle takes of it while the cameraman and producer argue over 180 degree rule, the only bullshit they’ve retained from their 4-year film school.) I’ll finally appear on camera going, “The human body is an amazing work of mystery, isn’t it? It defies reason and logic.” During my interview I move my hands a lot and pretend my book will reveal something about human body no one else has already read about in high school and send a message of hope to all who can’t seem to recognize the Polar Bear in themselves. The interviewer helps too. He looks fascinated, curious, and Actors Studio worthy. He comes in with questions like, “What is it about Stan’s case that makes your book poignant in the Scientific world? Do you feel people underestimate their own potential…is it nature or nurture?” I’ll reply, “There’s a Stan in all of us, Mike. We just fail to appreciate it.” I thought this would make a great ending to the piece. I’ve rehearsed the line in front of the mirror many times. The producer hates it, though. She wants to end the piece with Stan. Stan ends with, “If my story helps one, just one, person overcome their fear and take that plunge, I’ll gladly go for another 1000.” Before fading out, Stan is seen wearing a birthday cone hat and picking up his great-grand kid.
So you see, the show was able to keep you watching, giving you the impression it was about Stan whereas it really was about my stupid book. My PR people figured everytime you’ll hear ‘Stan’ or ‘Polar Bear’ from then on you may remember my book. But the goal is to buy the book right away and drive up the sales so it makes NY Times Bestseller list pretty quickly. Maybe some ‘Polar Bear’ fan/film producer will feel inspired by my book and use me as a consultant for his ‘Chariots of Fire meets Polar Bear Club while Driving Miss Daisy’ pitch to major studios who’ve stopped returning his calls. And, if he really really likes me, hire me to adapt it for the screen. Maybe I’ll save up to pay for screenwriting classes by Robert McKee only to learn how he’s always wanted to have sex with the final draft of the ‘Chinatown’ screenplay.
But I digress. I really meant to do this post about BREAKFAST WITH THE ARTS, a show I’ve come to love on A&E, sunday mornings. It’s on at 8am and runs for two hours. Karina Huber (hot!) is the host and the show mixes interviews and lotsa music performances. Just this past week, and I don’t know if it was a repeat, it had interviews and performances by Roseanne Cash, Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris, Los Lobos, and the Black-Eyed Peas. Pretty good line-up for one morning, I’d say. Huber is a good interviewer. But I keep looking at her more than the subjects. I know what the Black-Eyed Peas look like. Anyway, check out the show. You’ll like it. Au revoir!
UPDATE: Februrary 21st – Check out my latest post on BWTA.