Sunday, January 13, 2013

29. Episode Six (Part one)


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.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

27. Undercover


Nigel had turned up early to the studio for the next episode of the Tony James Show. After the chaos of the previous week, he had decided to take the time to enjoy the whole show. If Tony managed to pull off the success, of a sort, of last week it would be well worth watching.

Nigel walked through the studio, without the usual show lights and video screens switched on the combination of black carpet and dark d├ęcor gave it a shadowy, creepy atmosphere. He walked over to the blue carpet of the music area of the set, and sat quietly down, looking around the set in contemplation.

Though he was relatively new to working at LTV, Nigel had more than enough experience to look forward to watching Tony get one over on them, eventually, he hoped.

He thought to himself. This whole studio, this channel, the whole thing, just churns out the lowest quality rubbish seven days a week. It has been years since this station produced anything intelligent. When he started working with Steve on the Tony James Show, the belief that Tony would finally change that long hole in the schedules was his key motivation. Sadly, he thought, that belief didn't survive very long with Gerald.

"Let's make some shit television gentlemen."

Bah.

"How can we make this more asinine? I know, dancing dogs, gentlemen."

What an arsehole.

Nigel frowned, Gerald was everything he hated about TV, everything he hated about the media, and everything he hated about business. He was eternally grateful to Tony for giving him an opportunity to take him down a peg or two.

Just at that moment, Tony walked into the studio, and noticed Nigel sat on the blue square over on the far left of the set. However Tony was not feeling particularly in the mood to talk, he walked past Nigel who followed him silently with his eyes, and wondered if he had been missed in the darkness.

"Tony?" Nigel queried.

"Not now Nigel."

"Oh, er, ok." Nigel shrugged and started looking around again, but his train of thought had departed from the station. Then he figured that he should find out what was up with Tony.

Nigel got up from the blue carpet, walked off the set and through the black corridor to Tony's dressing room. He walked up to the bright white door with the cheap plastic star, and knocked.

"Go away." Tony shouted.

"Are you in character or really annoyed?" Nigel asked.

"Really annoyed."

"Oh." Nigel went to walk away, before realising that was probably more of a reason to stay. "What's the matter Tony?"

"Well aside from the fact that my career is being slowly destroyed, I'm being forced to work out a stupid contract on a terrible show, oh, and my girlfriend has left, everything is fucking rosie posie Nigel."

"We're working on the show, your reputation will be okay, and what about Abbie?" Nigel responded quickly.

"It's hardly fair is it?" Tony replied despondently. "I do love Alison but something isn't right, and then this whole situation with Abbie just adds to it."

"Tony. Do what is going to make you happy." Nigel replied with a maturity that surprised him.

"I wish I knew what that was." Tony sighed. "I wish I knew that I could."

"What do you mean?"

"Why on earth would Abbie want to be with someone like me?"

"Why would she not?"

"For a start, she's gorgeous, and I'm quite a few years older than she is."

"Tony. What happened to you?"

"Me?"

"You are always so confident, so assured of who you are and what you do. Where the hell is this coming from?"

"You clearly haven't known me long Nigel." Tony remarked.

"No. But..." Nigel pondered. "I guess I just figured you were always that way."

"First rule of television and theatre Nigel." Tony explained. "Most actors, most presenters, most comedians, they have ups and downs, and they need the reassurance of being applauded and being liked.

"I know Tony." Nigel replied. "You just seemed different, better."

"Sadly I'm not Nigel. I am just the same, I might be a great actor, but I am not the Tony James you see on screen all the time."

"Given your current character, that's probably a good thing."

"What does it matter anyway? After this show ends I'm never going to work again. I might as well just get into character and trash this piece of shit so I can get on with finding something better to do that no one will ever watch."

Nigel gently turned the door handle and pushed open the door to find Tony sat on his black leather chair with his head resting in his hands. He carefully approached Tony, rested a reassuring hand on his back, and said. "You're Tony James man. You'll be fine."

"Thanks, but not bloody likely." Tony sighed.

“Tony. Did you not see how the people in that club reacted to you?” Nigel explained.

“They were happy I slagged Chillgame off.”

“Well yes, weren't we all. But you know it was more than that. You put something out there in public that no one else was daring to do.” Nigel continued. “Maybe that is something to take forwards when this crazy series ends.”

“Hmm.”

“We'll chat about it tomorrow, we will find a way Tony.”

Tony thought to himself. “I actually feel a bit better now, thanks Nigel.”

Nigel bowed. “You're welcome. Let's get Gerald and work you out of this contract first though yes?”

“Yes. I have an idea too.” Tony plotted.

“Excellent.” Nigel nodded and left the dressing room.