In the panic of trying to find a way to get the internet to connect tonight’s guests to the show, the bright lights and colourful video wall appeared to over power the dark carpet more than usual. Turning a set that often felt a little gothic into a wall of light that left Tony looking as exposed as he felt.
He wasn't to know that Mark, the lighting and set designer had been overly eager in his bet over Gerald's desk. Even though there were four weeks of the bet left to run, Mark felt it had settled into Gerald's office nicely. He had decided to spend the money on the latest ultra powerful lighting rig, the Blinder 800. The merest hint of plugging it in caused the energy consumption meters at the National Grid to spike dangerously. It bathed the set in such a gigantic amount of light that it left Tony looking pale, or at least it would have done had he not looked a little pale already. Across the nation, millions of viewers were about to reach for their remote controls to increase the contrast setting.
Tony was sat in his black chair, behind his desk on the right of the stage, as the cue came from Nigel to start the show. This was unfortunate as his cue point was the small x at the front of the set.
The first thirty seconds of the show consisted of Tony realising he was in the wrong place, stumbling out of his chair, walking as quickly as he could without looking as if he was exerting himself, tripping slightly as he stepped off the main stage onto the grey laminate floor at the front of the set, picking himself up, and eventually reaching his cue point.
“It's.” He said. Before realising that the audience for his show were unlikely to get a 44 year old reference.
“Welcome to the Tony James Show.” he started with a bluster as he tried to catch his breath and calm his nerves. “We have a special show for you today. With three fantastic surprise guests coming up soon.”
The audience applauded, whilst looking slightly confused. “I thought the line-up was announced earlier?” one woman questioned to her friend in the next seat. “Maybe they were all killed?” the woman sat next to her replied. The first woman turned and looked uneasily at her friend.
“But first.” Tony was getting ready to stall for all he was worth. “I'd like to tell you a little story.”
Back in the control room, Nigel was back under the mixing desk desperately trying to figure out what was wrong with the feed from Manchester. He heard Tony's words, and quietly whispered to himself, “Come on Tony, channel your inner Ronnie Corbett.”
“I was talking this week to the head of LTV, Gerald Morley.” Tony paused briefly. “He's a rather stout old gentleman who loves his cigars and whiskey. Now, talking to Gerald isn't always easy. I'm not saying he is bad tempered, but the leaders of Israel and Palestine signed a new peace deal just to avoid having to meet him.”
The audience chuckled.
“So yes. I walked into his office to have a chat. Or as we refer to it at LTV, a blitz. As I walked in, being careful to avoid the landmines, I prepared myself for bad news.
“You see, Gerald doesn't do good news. He doesn't like it at all. In fact, good news is bad news for him, although that doesn't mean he likes to deliver it to himself.
“I sat down on the sofa ready. Gerald likes us to sit on a soil brown sofa, that's soil as in the earth I should clarify. He had it lowered so that we always have to look up to him, which is ironic because even when standing he looks down on us.
“Apparently the reason for the meeting was my contract, or Terms of Surrender as they are better known. The Court Marshal had decided that I was guilty of a minor infraction, namely failing to salute a senior officer. Technically I did salute, just not in the manner they were expecting.
“The punishment was apparently three days of solitary confinement in a dark holding cell. 'Have you not seen my dressing room?' I said. It's so small it makes the broom cupboard look Claridges.'
“I pleaded my case, which didn't do much good, as the weight of evidence was firmly against me. For a start, my creative salute wasn't only caught on the LTV security cameras, I was also doing it in the meeting as well. I thought about telling them I was counting, and had yet to get to three, but decided against it.
“In the end I accepted my punishment, and spent the three days in the brig. But I learned a valuable lesson. Apparently if you include a cigar in your salute, it doesn't count. Or at least it appears that way.”
A slightly puzzled audience slowly started to clap a bit.
“Now, it's time for a quick break.” Tony said, sighing in partial relief as the show cut to a break.
Nigel emerged from the desk to comment. “Where the hell did that come from Tony?”
“I have no idea Nigel.” Tony replied. “Now all I need are 7 more of those and maybe we'll get through the show.”