Friday, April 6, 2012

Interview with a TV star who didn't pay her dues

(Recently, the television news industry has raised eyebrows by hiring people who, shall we say, have a somewhat checkered past. People who haven't paid any dues at all and are best known for showing up in the police blotter, courtroom dockets, rehab, or supermarket tabloids. So we decided to sit down with the latest addition to the industry, Barb E. Cue. As always, the meeting takes place in a New Jersey diner. The Grape, like all smart Sicilians, is already seated at the back booth when Ms. Cue walks in wearing a green wig, extremely short skirt and seven-inch red platforms. Every person in the place watches as she struts by and sits down.)

Grape: Nice outfit.

Barb: You like?

Grape: You look like you need a bail bondsman and a public defender.

Barb: You're so funny! But everyone noticed me, right?

Grape: You don't exactly blend. So, tell me about the new gig.

Barb: Oh, I'm so excited. Million bucks a year, nightly talk show, national cable. I'm getting promotion like you wouldn't believe.

Grape: May I ask how you landed this job?

Barb: I'm Barb E. Cue.

Grape: Excuse me?

Barb: I'm gonna tell you a little secret. The best way to get a job in news... is to be in the news.

Grape: That doesn't make any sense.

Barb: I'm sorry. By in the news I mean you have to make news. Be outrageous, be embarassing, turn yourself into a national train wreck. Hell, I make those Kardashian sisters look shy.

Grape: So, how exactly does this work?

Barb: First, you start with the basic fifteen minutes of fame trifecta: sleep with a famous politician, appear on a reality show, do something so outrageous you get a ton of news coverage.

Grape: And in your case, what was that third thing?

Barb: I used to be a librarian. Showed up for work looking like this. The reporters were tripping over themselves after all the citizens complained. I sued the city and claimed my outfit was free speech. Went to the Supreme Court and I won. My name was everywhere. Then I make the rounds of the talk shows, ratings go up, executives see that I've got a fun personality. The key is name recognition.

Grape: Speaking of which, that can't be your real name.

Barb: Of course not. But I'm hot, and I needed a name that says I'm hot. Barb E. Cue. Get it? Barbecue! Barbecues are hot! Any guest on my show is gonna get grilled! Get it?

Grape: Yeah, I got it. What about journalism experience?

Barb: Pfffft! Please.

Grape: No news experience at all? Maybe even as a newsroom secretary?

Barb: I read a book once.

Grape: So what qualifies you to be paid a million bucks a year when there are tons of hard working people out there who have paid dues?

Barb: As we say in the library, honey, dues are for overdue books.

The waitress arrives. Her eyes widen in recognition as she recognizes our guest.

Waitress: Hey, you're the barbecue girl!

Barb: That's me!

Waitress: I just love your outfits. I read that you got your own show.

Barb: Starts Monday at seven.

Waitress: I'll set my DVR!

The waitress leaves without taking our order.

Barb: Ya see?

Grape: Yeah, but I don't believe it.

Barb: Look, somebody told me about you. How you believe in working hard, being ethical, old school, unbiased. And where does that get most of the people in your business? Look at me! No school, no experience, and I've got a network gig! What have you got that I don't?

Grape: The ability to look myself in the mirror.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Help for sportscasters

Long time readers of this blog know I'm a big baseball and football fan, and, tomorrow being opening day, that my six months of agita (Italian for heartburn) provided by the New York Mets will begin.

I've also mentioned that of all the jobs in broadcasting, the most fun, the one with the biggest rush, is doing play-by-play.

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to call a lot of games with an incredibly talented partner named Chris Coraggio. Chris, also a long suffering Mets fan from New York, eventually took his talent to a major market, spending a decade as a sports anchor in Phoenix.

Anyway, Chris has started a mentoring business and written a book (I know, this sounds familiar) for sportscasters. He, like me, believes there's a ton of stuff they don't teach you in college.

If you're already doing sports or in college hoping for a career, check out his website.

Chris is a great guy I've known for nearly twenty years and he could teach you a lot. Besides, his last name ends in a vowel.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Stunt casting

So, Eliot Spitzer got another TV gig.

My question for those who hired him: Was Anthony Weiner unavailable?

In Hollywood, it's known as "stunt casting." You've got a show that's starting to fade, so you book big name guest stars to hopefully boost ratings. Will & Grace was famous for doing it when that show started to lose steam. Ultimately, though, viewers see through that. They simply want good content.

But stunt casting is very prevalent in the news business as well.

Back to the hiring of New York's love gov. Instead of hiring a professional journalist, they went for a recognizable name. Doesn't matter that said name makes every woman in America go "ewwwwww" and cringe. I'm surprised they didn't schedule the show at 9pm. Imagine the promo: Watch Client Nine at Nine.

But this is nothing new. I've run into stunt casting at local stations. Some places will bring back a legendary name in the hopes of luring back older viewers. Some will hire a novelty act. I remember several people in our newsroom getting passed over for the latter on one occasion. The novelty act got a few curious viewers in the beginning, but then the public saw it for what it was worth.

This might happen to you at some point in your career. You might be the most qualified person for the job, but someone in management goes the stunt casting route. In the long run, it rarely works. In the short run, it leaves you feeling like the victim. Yes, it's unfair. But it happens. The other person has a "name" and you don't.

Like viewers, you must see this for what it's worth.