The only thing worse than finding out your TV show’s ratings are in the toilet (well, except for, you know, a massive hurricane destroying your city or an earthquake that kills tens of thousands of people or getting the bird flu or whatever happened in Iraq today or about a billion other things) is finding out your TV show’s ratings are in the toilet and then realizing you still have six more episodes to produce. That’s seven weeks of exhausting, depleting, stress-filled work that consumes you from dawn to dusk and then, thanks to anxiety-induced nightmares, until dawn again. All for a show no one’s watching.
You start telling yourself things like, “Well, the experience has still been amazing” and “Hey, the money’s good” and “If nothing else, I got to meet Omarosa”. She was friendly and funny and she didn’t abuse me like she abused the producer on “The Surreal Life”. She brought a digital camera because she wanted pictures, and she even asked for a picture with me — me! She took down my email address so she could send me a copy. Sure, she never sent it, but the point is: Omarosa has my email address! What could be better than that? Then those thoughts pass and you think about getting your resume ready — fast. And then you wonder if you should even bother putting this show on it.
You google your show for hours hoping for some kind of validation on the internets, thinking somehow it might all be worth it if some cult band of loser kooks were obsessing over the product of your endless, soul-depleting labor. After hundreds of hyperlinks lead to nothing more than a TV listing rehash of the network’s last press release, you treasure a post like this. Tell me more, random craigslist poster from Beijing. Please expound on the word “masterpiece”. Please tell me why you’re “betting on this one”. Please tell me where you saw Kathy Griffin. I’m sure she was in there if you say she was, but I sure don’t remember her ever coming to the set. Maybe the Beijing version of the show is somehow different than the one they show over here. I’m sure that’s it.
You wonder what you can do to change things. If I get all my friends to watch, and they get all their friends to watch and they all have their parents watch, too… nah, it won’t work. Joe’s parents don’t even get cable.
I got excited when I saw that my show was on savemyshow.com. Then I realized that every show was on savemyshow.com, and that we only had one vote to save us — mine. No one even cared enough to vote “I don’t care either way”.
It’s gotten so bad that I’ve started to cringe whenever one of my friends tells me how much they like the show — not because it’s so tough to tell them how poorly it’s been doing, but because every time I find out someone in our audience is a friend of mine, our ratings seem even less impressive. Isn’t anyone besides my friends watching?
Then, last week, I found out what was worse than finding out the ratings were in the toilet and realizing there were still six shows left to produce: finding out the ratings were in the toilet and being told there were no shows left to produce. We’ve been cancelled. I thought I’d never again feel as bad about a TV show being cancelled as I did with “It’s Your Move” in 1985. But as it turns out, when you’re earning a paycheck from it, it’s worse.
It’s not like I really spent a lot of time dreaming that the show would run for ten years or that they’d have lavishly-produced DVD box sets where I could reveal backstage tidbits on the commentary tracks like, “They put bars on the contestant benches to keep them from sitting comfortably” or “Originally, those mannequins on stage were naked, and it looked really creepy”. The only daydreaming I ever did was about selling the format overseas, and that was only because I wanted to see what weird twisted things other countries would do with it, like a soft-core flesh parade in Belgium or a sadistic game show in Japan where losers were administered electric shocks. If I hadn’t come up with this idea, I’d tell myself proudly, the flesh on Natomi’s arm would never have been singed by 900 volts and she wouldn’t have won that six pounds of crab meat.
Sure, it could be worse. My show will live on in a drastically scaled-down form on the internet for the next six weeks, which is more than most cancelled shows get. But it’s sad to see how fast all the work we did could be undone. The set has been broken down, the contestants won’t be flying back to LA again, most of the staff has been fired (though thankfully, not me — yet). Maybe next time I read that a TV show gets cancelled, I won’t be so snarky about it. And along those lines, might I offer my deepest, most sincere condolences to everyone at “Just Legal”.
I need some cheering up. Omarosa, if you’re out there, send the picture, please!