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Sunday, May 2, 2010
And a Merry Frickin' Christmas in April to you too...
Didn't we just have Christmas four months ago? Aren't we supposed to have the rest of Spring, Summer, and Fall to enjoy before once again wading into the orgy of personal guilt and compensatory commercial excess our society collectively celebrates as "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year??"
Isn’t it way too early to cue up the Johnny Mathis???
Indeed, but the Gods of Television move in mysterious ways, which is how I recently found myself on a sit-com stage that a hard-working art department had spent hours dressing for Christmas. Each set -- and there were many -- was jammed with fully decked-out Christmas trees and plastic snow on the windows, along with tinsel and strings of Xmas lights everywhere. It was the Christmas episode, to state the obvious. I can't tell you what show, of course -- as the non-disclosure agreements I had to sign (and those lame "No BRATS" posters plastered all around the sound stage) will attest, I cannot name, identify, or otherwise describe this particular show at peril of having corporate legal thugs kick down my door and drag me off to blogger's prison. Thus my sqishy vagueness here, because even though this job paid the odious cable rate, 2010 remains a year of begging rather than choosing. A job’s a job, and if the best boy needs an extra hand down the line, I’d like to remain on the short list so I can return for more punishment.
Such is the lot of a free-lance juicer in these troubled times.
Oh, and remember what I said about how the no-doubletime-'til-14-hours provision under cable-rate doesn't really hurt sit-com crews since multi-camera shows almost never shoot that long? Wrong again. We went all 14 of those hours, right up 'til the magic moment when the producers would have had to start paying us fifty-six blood-money dollars per hour for our trouble, whereupon the schedule (and the fact that we hadn’t come close to "making our day") suddenly didn't matter anymore. That’s all folks -- turn out the lights and go home.
They didn’t have to tell me twice. I pulled that damned walkie-talkie out of my ear, dropped my tool belt, and was gone, baby, gone...
Given the lead-time required in television, doing Christmas shows in July or August is normal, but April? That’s a new one on me. Making this long day all the more trying was a young guest star I’d barely heard of, who -- it seems -- is huge among the tweener set. There were two bodyguards standing by during every scene to make sure all those screeching little fans in our live studio audience didn’t jump the rail in a human tsunami of over-amped tween hormones. And oh did they screech... Remember those old black and white tapes of The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, playing in front of an audience jammed with screaming young girls?* Trust me, the combined shrieking of several hundred tweens is a lot louder in person. I gained a world of sympathy for Mr. Ed (may he rest in peace), and in the end, resorted to using an earplug in my non-walkie-talkie ear to salvage both my hearing and my sanity.
But like I said, work is work, and this year we take what we can get.
* I saw this legendary performance at the time it was first televised in glorious black and white, not decades later on tape. Yes, it was a long time ago...