“So what you’re telling me is that the show will be a diving competition featuring a bunch of has-been celebrities.” While the old man’s voice had developed a slight quiver, he still spoke with authority. This was a man who was used to people listening intently to whatever he had to say because it was something worth listening to. “You’re pulling my chain, right?”
“No, Dad. I’m not pulling your chain.” The other man at the table had much less conviction in his voice. This was a man who was used to people listening intently to whatever he had to say because they were paid to. “We’ve got a bunch of people signed on to do the first season.”
“Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me. Those pariahs will do anything to get their faces on TV. I just can’t believe you’re going to make that into a show. Why would anyone watch it?”
“I keep telling you, Dad, you overestimate the American television-watching audience. They’ll watch whatever trash we put on.”
My date arrived at this point. She was way too thin and I could see a bellybutton ring. The clothes she had on would have been more appropriate on a seventeen-year-old girl. She started to introduce herself and I put a finger to my lips and motioned for her to sit down. She looked confused and apprehensive, but put her purse in the booth and took her seat. I held up a finger to ask for a minute and leaned back with my ear to the table behind me.
“I just don’t know where you come up with this stuff. I taught you better than that. Are you on drugs?”
“Yeah, but everyone in the business is on drugs. Why don’t we drop this. We’re never going to see eye to eye on how things are done now.”
“Everyone doesn’t do it that way. There are still good shows on television. The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, The…”
“Yeah, screw AMC,” he interrupted his father, making me dislike him more. “I hate that ‘story matters here’ garbage! What a bunch of crap. Those guys need to get with the program. No one…”
“Are you eavesdropping on those people,” my date leaned in and whispered. I nodded. “Great, another weirdo,” she said under her breath. At least I don’t buy my clothes at Hot Topic or wherever it is that teenagers shop these days. I tried to get back in on the conversation.
“…probably shouldn’t be telling you this,” the son said. He paused, as if debating whether or not he should continue. “It’s all just drunken bets now. That’s all we do- go to work, get drunk, and try to come up with the dumbest, most intellectually offensive crap we can put on TV. Then we take bets on whether we’ll be allowed to air the shows or if the viewers will have enough self-respect to reject them. When we came up with Toddlers and Tiaras, guys were betting that anyone involved in the production process would do jail-time. That’s when I knew it would be a hit.”
“What? Are you…” The old man was flabbergasted. I could tell he didn’t want to believe it, but knew that it was sadly true. “If you don’t want to have an adult conversation, maybe I should just leave.”
“I’m being honest, Dad. It all started years ago when some MTV exec came to work black-out drunk. He told his team to get the most vapid, erratic, ignorant people they could find, make them live together, and film it. He didn’t remember giving the order, and no one wanted to question him. They created a show that they thought would be a huge flop but turned out to be a giant hit. Ever since then, almost everyone in the industry has been trying to replicate the process. I kid you not, at most networks, if you’re not drunk by ten-thirty, you’re unemployed by noon.”
“So that’s what you do now? You go to work and start drinking? Is that what I should tell my friends when they ask about you?”
“Well, no, Dad. I’m not some peon. I’m already drunk when I get to the office. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in.”
“What a jerk. I’m outta here,” I heard a woman say. I assumed it was my date. Oh well.
I turned my attention back to the father-son dinner going on behind me. There was a strange gurgling noise coming from that direction and the sound of someone slapping a table in pain.
“Jesus, Dad! Are you alright? DAD!” I heard the crunch of crisp lettuce and the clang of a bowl as the old man’s face went into the salad. Guessing that the conversation was at least temporarily over, I turned my attention back to the table I occupied. As I had suspected, I was alone.
I decided to finish my drink and maybe flirt with the waitress some more, but didn’t see her by the time my glass was empty. I looked around and saw that she was preoccupied with some commotion that was going on at the table behind me. I went over and handed her a ten.
“Keep the change, gorgeous.”
“Thanks.” She smiled and pointed at the man being given C.P.R. behind her. “I’m sorry, but…”
I waved her off. “No worries. I understand.”
“What happened to that girl who came in and sat with you?”
“Oh, her.” I tried to think quickly. “That was my… cousin. The babysitter called. Damn kids locked her out of the house.”
She laughed. “Kids. What a hassle.” I wondered if this might be the woman I’d spend the rest of my life with.
“Do you like TV,” I asked her.
“God, yeah,” she said. “I love TV. Whenever I’m not at work I just veg on the couch and watch whatever’s on.” Oh well.
“Hey, have a great night,” I told her and left.