Tuesday Writing Prompt

“If I hear one more pitch for a reality show, someone is getting fired.”

Larry’s head was hanging low and his hands were placed on both sides of his balding head. He hoped that by applying enough pressure to his temples he might stave off the inevitable headache that arrived with every Tuesday meeting of his ‘creative team’.  How did things get this bad?

Larry had begun his professional life as a credentialed historian. After completing his undergrad at William & Mary and then a Master’s at the University of Chicago, he had spent a year as the personal assistant to famed biographer Theodore Chamberlain. His work with Chamberlain had been educational, even if not professionally gratifying. The press had no idea that it was Larry, not Chamberlain who wrote the final three chapters in his acclaimed biography of George Robinson, first mayor of Pittsburgh. Chamberlain was going through a messy divorce at the time and his trust of Larry had been so complete that he asked his young assistant to put together ‘first drafts’ of the closing chapters. After a year with his mentor, Larry had mastered Chamberlain’s writing style. The result was so well done that Chamberlain submitted them to the publisher unchanged.

“It will be our little secret,” Chamberlain had told him.

Over the next 10 years, on the anniversary of the publishing date,  Chamberlain would send Larry a bottle of champagne and a handwritten note. When Chamberlain died in 2005, Larry was glad to put the whole thing behind him. By that time he had somehow found himself at the History Network. After taking a consulting job on a miniseries about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Larry had impressed the network executives so much that they brought him onboard. Now he was the Head of Programming, with an impressive salary to match the title, but he felt like he had entered the 5th Circle of Hell.

While the network had never been known for its strict adherence to methodology when producing its shows, a generous critic could say that they got the general facts correct and also promoted the field of history, always a good thing in Larry’s mind. Somewhere along the way though, they fell off track. This morning Larry had heard three show pitches each worse than the last. As his head began to pound, he began to mentally review the insane proposals…

(continue the story in the comments)


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7 thoughts on “Tuesday Writing Prompt

  1. First up was Randy or Randolph William Hearst as he had to be called to his face. As a great grandson of the founder of A+E Networks, Randy had been immovably installed in his position on the creative team by the pure market forces of good old fashioned American nepotism. Randy’s family tree had more loops in it than a box of fruity breakfast cereal; he was so inbred that his eye sockets angled inward giving him an air that he was intensely trying to peer up his own nostrils. Despite this Randy was keenly sensitive about his dignity and anything that RWH construed as a slight could result in furious phone calls from his boss and bosses boss. As such Larry had to listen with respectful attentiveness to the pearls that would drop from Randy’s drooping lips and then come up with a plausible reason to not use them.
    “I was thinking…” Randy trailed off for a moment as the rest of his brain manfully tried to catch up. The creative committee exhaled slowly, Randy would reliably jump in early to defend his prerogative of making first pitch but sometimes he’d trail off into nowhere and normal business could resume in short order. Larry counted his heartbeats up to fifteen and then cleared his throat.
    “Yes very interesting Mr. Hearst,” he intoned respectfully, “moving on.” Randy interrupted, his eyes lighting up as two of the lonely neurons inside his head managed, by sheer providence, to connect and he suggested…


    • “…Hypatia the Hidden Hero. Hypatia of Alexandria, right? She escapes the fire at the Great Library with a trunk full of scrolls. She’s landed at the court of the King of the Songhai in present-day Nigeria, so boom, we’ve got diversity there. And every week, she reads the King a different scroll, and the King uses that knowledge to better the welfare of his people!”

      Larry swallowed the lump of terror in his throat. “The diversity angle is good, but you do remember that the Songhai didn’t form as an organized kingdom until the mid-fourteenth century, right? So they’re at least thousand years anachronistic for Hypatia, Mr. Hearst.”

      “Oh, so does someone have a better idea?” Randy arched his eyebrows and Larry, with trepidation, opened up the next folder.

      “Aztec Gladiators.” He couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “Mark?”

      Mark Andrew Howard, a third cousin once removed of writer-and-director-with-actual-talent Ron Howard, incorrectly believed that ability ran in the family the same way that did red hair subject to male pattern baldness. So he boldly jumped into the pitch:

      “We’re set in ancient Mexico. In the jungle. In the pyramids. Every week, slaves and dishonored Aztec warriors are cast into the arena, to fight for glory — the winner gets redemption, the loser is sacrificed to their cruel gods!”

      “You do know this is basic cable, Mark? As in, little kids are watching this stuff?”

      “Kids dig it! My kids loved that Mel Gibson movie about the Aztec.”

      “Your kids were in college, Mark. Next?”


    • It lost my willing suspension of disbelief with the claim that The History Channel had ever “got the general facts correct and also promoted the field of history.” At least that’s not my recollection. As I remember it, even back when it de facto was the World War II Channel it had a propensity for alien sightings and the like. But perhaps my memory is compressing the timing, and that at first they were just doing WWII, getting it right that Hitler lost, and only later brought in the alien involvement.


      • Ah Richard, you’ll notice I said the History Network. A subtle play on words, but my hope was to avoid the obvious criticism of the History Channel. I agree with your critique though I found it to be tolerable in its early days.


  2. By the way, , was the feature picture for this post chosen because it shows a bunch of white dudes building an Easter Island Moai? Or because they’re lifting it to face inland rather than out to the ocean?


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