Monday, July 26, 2010

Reality TV: Why Not Us?

Chefs. Fashion designers. Visual artists. Comedians. Even hair stylists.

They’ve all had competition shows on cable television. Why not us writers? Why don't we have our own reality TV competition thingy?

I realize this would pose a challenge, especially in terms of creating "riveting" TV that viewers will "want to watch." I realize that writing is just, you know, sitting and thinking a lot and then writing stuff down. In other words, not a whole lot of action. But if we put our minds together, we could do it. I mean, we’re the ones who write all these shows for other people, after all. Surely we can script some compelling TV for ourselves.

All we need is a panel of celebrity judges, the promise of a book deal for the winner, and a cast of quirky contestants (God knows that last one wouldn't be hard to put together). Check it out. I’ve already pounded out  ideas for twelve full episodes. Took me all of twenty minutes:

Episode 1: The contestants struggle to produce 1000 words a day for five consecutive days while staying in a small, seedy hotel next to an elevated subway track, all the while subsisting on a steady diet of ramen noodles, Red Bull, and bourbon.

Episode 2: The writers cope with rejection.

Episode 3: The writers cope with rejection.

Episode 4: Four writers quit the competition. Then unquit. Then quit again. All will beg the producers to return to the competition by the following morning, like the sniveling gluttons for punishment that they are. Marie, who writes paranormal horror romance, is the first contestant to utter, “I’m not here to make friends.” The other writers roll their eyes because this is just the sort of predictable dialogue she creates.

Episode 5: One of the contestants is found slumped over his laptop, dead. No one realizes he's missing until after the scheduled outing to the headquarters of a clearly dying traditional publishing conglomerate (this episode sponsored by Amazon’s Kindle DX). The others try to conceal their glee at the smaller pool of contestants while Gerald, 81, a former staff writer for “Gunsmoke,” is heard to say, “Poor bastard’s probably better off.”

Episode 6: Tempers flare as the remaining contestants wait sixteen weeks for a response from the judge’s panel on the outcome of the previous challenge. Chuck accuses Melanie of stealing his idea for a modern update of King Lear, featuring all vampire characters. A torrid affair develops between one writer and the imaginary heroine he has created.

Episode 7: The contestants must condense descriptions of their novels into twenty words or less in order to please a panel of A-list agents. A popular uprising occurs, however, when several writers reject the panel’s authority, claiming agents have no idea what good writing is. The rest of the contestants then nervously rush to assure the agents of their ever-lasting fealty by posting fawning comments on each of the agent’s blogs. Gerald gets word that his sixth wife has passed away. He elects to stay in the competition, saying, "She was going to leave me anyway. Just like the rest of them."

Episode 8: Each contestant is tasked with creating a writing blog that does not feature the words, I, me, frustrated, or sucks in any the posts. They are thrown an additional curve ball when the judges disallow the use of any cartoon from “I Can Has Cheezburger."

Episode 9: The contestants are divided into two teams, and each team is given $50. With this limited budget, each team must create a book trailer that doesn't look like something whipped up by a junior high AV club. Debbie struggles to balance the demands of the competition with her guilt about leaving her twelve disabled cats, all of whom she's left in the care of her unsupportive spouse, who keeps calling her and asking when she's coming back home and also where she thinks he might have left the remote. David suffers from writer's block. As do Marjorie, Emile, and Tom.

Episode 10: Contestants battle each other to see whose grammar and proofreading skills are preeminent. The loser is tossed from the competition after being beaten with a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style in a modern interpretation of the 17th-century rite known as “grammatical stoning.”

Episode 11: Simmering resentments come to a full boil. After one too many mojitos, Anthony blurts out, “Everyone here is laughing at your stupid novel premise, Miguel. I’ve seen mold spores generate better ideas.” Meanwhile, 58-year-old Ramona tells the other writers, “If you haven’t got a substance abuse problem by the time you’re my age, consider yourself lucky.” Debbie tearfully bids farewell to return home to her cats, four of whom have suffered health set-backs in her absence because her husband forgot to give them food and water and medication.

Episode 12: A winner is chosen by the expert panel of judges and awarded a book deal. Half the contestants insist the winner totally sucks and the other half think the winner is totally the bomb.

I’ll admit there are still some kinks to be worked out, but this is just a first draft. I’m certainly willing to revise based on feedback. (Bravo TV, if you’re reading this, call me.)