Tuesday, October 16, 2012
“What the hell was that?!” Angela Beckford shrieked as the ‘on-air’ light flicked off.
Walter was clearly biting his tongue to hide the laughter. The show was barely 5 minutes old and it was already a disaster. He turned to Lucy, his accomplice in mischief, “Thanks,” he said sincerely.
“Anytime,” she replied, still getting out the last few laughs of her own. “You know everybody gets nervous, Walter, you just need to pretend. Everybody pretends, we fake it – but maybe that’s what makes you...different.”
Angela cleared her throat, “Umm, excuse me but I’m trying to reprimand you two before the commercial break ends. Do you have any idea how hard it is to structure a schedule to a live telecast? Usually the first half hour is OK but now we are thrown out for the rest of the show. AND IT’S ONLY BEEN THREE MINUTES!”
Angela had neither the lungs nor the temperament for screaming. Her screams became squeaks and it was almost cute to see her face flare up. But what she lacked in traditional leadership skills she made up for with her general niceness.
“Sorry Angela,” Walter said guiltily.
Angela felt a lump in her throat, which was not what she needed right now. This was her first live to air production. It wasn’t the highest brow of the Walter Wallace specials but you had to start somewhere. She jokingly likened it to a football star being substituted on with three minutes left on the clock with the team already up 3-0 in a trial match. But the reality was that Walter Wallace meant double figure millions and 50% shares even at 11am. She was nervous and the last thing she needed right now was to cry.
“We’ve got 30 seconds,” she said, her voice wavering slightly, “Walter, can you remember your lines? I can make cards.”
“No it should be alright. I’ll just pretend,” he smiled at Lucy; she smiled back. Angela felt extremely uneasy about this advice but at least the two could share a conversation again. Previously it had been such an extreme lack of chemistry that people were tuning in just to watch the train wreck unfold.
“OK,” she said uneasily, her lack of faith in Walter causing her to take greater stock in herself, “We’re back in ten seconds guys.” In her pocket Angela’s phone buzzed again. She had so far avoided three calls but she decided to take this one as she counted Walter and Lucy in with her free hand. “Hello,” she said in a sharp whisper.
A calm, smug voice spoke, “Get it together, Angela.”
Angela’s face flushed a piercing hot red. Brian Smithwaite had called. “Uhh, sorry sir. Everything should be under control now.”
“You know there are many, many people watching this show, Angela. Walter Wallace is not just a person of interest, not some celebrity special featuring for the day; he is an asset to the network. An asset of the network. We own him; we invested in him; more than you can imagine we invested in him and we are only recently getting him to pay off. It would be a shame if people lost faith in him. It would be a shame if you were the one overlooking his downfall. Can you imagine what happens to an asset that stops paying? So get a grip, Angela or you’ll be lucky to be running drinks on an afternoon game show.”
The phone went to a dial tone as Angela stood frozen. She was sweating and her gut was aching. Nobody fared well when Smithwaite singled them out. She was doomed.
“Angela!” a distant voice called out to her. She was running away, running down the sand dunes just like they were running away from the sea. She jumped into the water. It was deep and crystal blue. She swam down into its depths, free forever from the pressures of the world. “Angela!” She felt a kick at her leg. Nathan, the cameraman, was desperately trying to get her attention. He jinked his head in the direction of that wonderfully vast ocean. Angela was about to smile and nod in appreciation when she realised he was directing her attention to Walter.
As she narrowed her focus to the immediate, Angela saw Walter with his back to the camera, pointing at the sand and mumbling about how there is less sand today than there ever was before, “Yep. Not much sand here,” he finished.
“Walter!” Angela hissed. Lucy was standing awkwardly, trying to face the camera and Walter at the same time. She also looked to be edging away from him slightly, the way one would if they were standing next to someone who just made a loud racist remark. Angela caught her gaze and she shrugged hopelessly. Angela spun her finger around aggressively, telling Lucy to get Walter facing the camera again. At this point he was crouched down, digging into the sand, perhaps aiming to get a sample – who the fuck knew at this point?
“Er, Walter,” Lucy said softly. He looked up at her and offered his handful of sand. “Why don’t you show this to the camera?” Lucy suggested.
Walter turned towards the camera and Angela skitted at him as though he were a stray cat. “Tssst!” she stamped her foot. He looked at her, his innocent smile melting off his face. Angela realised he thought he was doing a good job. She felt a little sorry for him. Then her phone buzzed again. “First guest!” she hissed, before setting off to grab the first guest from the green room – or green tent as it happened to be when on location.
She reached the tent, her phone buzzing with a fresh call. “You!” she said, pointing at the comedian, Spriggs Casket.
“This is a fucking trainwreck,” he said in a terrible attempt at cockney or mockney or whatever the hell his hipster fanbase called it.
“You’re on. Now.”
“But love, I-”
She grabbed his collar and dragged him out of the tent and towards the camera.
“Alright, take it easy,” he said, falling out of character. He adjusted his shirt as they power walked to the camera. “I’m supposed to be last,” he whinged.
“And here comes Spriggs Casket,” Angela could here Lucy saying in desperately false enthusiasm.
They reached the camera and Angela turned and faced Spriggs, “Aren’t you ‘sposed’ to be last?” she said sarcastically, the stress now darkening her tolerance, “listen, you go out there and you make fun of Walter Wallace for the moron he is and maybe they will think it is a bit we are doing. Berate him, ge’ it?”
“But I’m a prop comic.”
“He is your prop.” And with that she shoved him into the scene.
“Ahh, there you are,” Lucy said with obvious relief.
“’Ere I am,” Spriggs jested. Angela rolled her eyes. She could feel herself subconsciously detaching from these people. She had heard it spoken about by people like Tony Holdsworth that to make in television you need to be an asshole. Selfish, cynical, unrelenting. Angela hadn’t liked the idea but at present it was effective. Her phone buzzed again.
“What!” she shot into the receiver.
“Angela, we’re going into commercial. I’ve organised for Tamara to come down and sort this mess out. She’ll be there before you the commercials finish.” Smithwaite spoke coolly, as though he enjoyed her failure.
“No, Brian. This is mine. I’ve got it unde-”
“10 seconds, honey.”
“Brian, I’ve got it-
“Count them in.”
-under control!” Angela finished into a dial tone. “Fuck!” she spun round and hissed at the three bumbling idiots in front of the camera, “Commercial!”She held up her hand and began ticking off one finger each second.
“Again?” Walter said, like a child unable to conduct lateral thought.
“Er, we’ll be right back after this commercial break,” Lucy rushed.
“Well this is a ripe old joke, innit?” Spriggs said, as the ‘on air’ signal clicked off.