A prologue to a short story I’m writing. Happy Short Story Saturday!!! (I just made that up). Warning: Rough language.
Prologue: Reality Ace
There’s no such thing as reality. Reality TV, that is. Viewers assume—we want them to; if not, we’d be on welfare—cameramen show up and start following strangers, like assholes.
No, no, honey. There’s contracts and lighting, and scripts. Have you ever seen a producer without a script? Me neither. When a producer’s involved you can bet there’s going to be a script. It’s going to be fake; that’s what you pay for—entertainment. It’s an industry, baby, and we don’t leave shit to chance.
A jungle, a deserted island, a cooking contest, it doesn’t matter. Reality TV is no better, no different than professional wrestling (sometimes, wrestlers wear more clothes); we know the winner (you know we do), and we know the outcome (you’ve got to know).
That’s what I do. Ace Jordan. I produce outcomes.
CBS, I started there. Every two years some new hotshot out of UCLA film studies guns for your job. So I ended up at NBC, but what did they know? Nothing, it turns out. A year later I moved on to basic cable with two offers: “Heels on the Hills,” (for lovers of rich, white suburban wife drama), and “Ghost Walk,” a run of the mill ghost hunters program.
I chose “Heels” for the paycheck, but it cancelled after three episodes. Pulling some strings, I found myself on the set of “Ghost Walk” as a location scout.
The show’s main producer, Jerry, told me the first season was filmed entirely in a studio. By season two the network asked him to branch out.
“A real circus act,” says Jerry and it’s true. We’ve filmed in abandoned state hospitals and creaky old cabins—the locations, I find them all. It’s a shit job, but it’s mine, and I take it seriously. That’s the only way to get ahead: take your shit-job seriously.
Our indomitable hosts, Michael, Brad, and Aisla, are as good as any I’ve seen. On TV they’re touched, thrown down, and spoken to by entities. People ask me if I ever get scared while filming on location. I tell them that, often, we retake cuts due to crew laughter. Everything’s staged.
And honestly? Brad deserves an Oscar.
Tomorrow we head to Upstate New York, a little town outside of Rochester. (The worst part of canceling “Heels” and gaining “Walk” was the move from Los Angeles to New York. I’ve got a mouse-hole for an apartment, costing me what a three bedroom in the Valley did). There’s this old abandoned house in Pittsford I found—empty for nearly thirty years, the city is tearing it down—it’s perfect. We’re claiming it as the site of a 1942 family murder in Pennsylvania (that never happened) and interviewing fake neighbors for hire.
Ghosts are as fake as a Food Network cooking contest and I know the winner, the outcome. All I need is a paycheck and a way out, a way back to the Emmys.
Just give me a way out.