Okay, I’m on the last leg of my flight back to Los Angeles. I’ll fill you in on all that’s been happening so far, at least the highlights.
Got into LA Tuesday. Actually pretty hilarious arrival since director Sally and shoot assistant Melanie (aka “the Hotness”) managed to miss the connecting flight due to a sudden thirst for Jamba Juice. No damage done, they got the next flight and were only a few hours behind us and now I get to make fun of them constantly — “hey, anyone thirsty for some juice?”
Wed. morning we were off to an interview with David Lyle, the head of FoxReality. He’s an acerbic straight talking Australian — very very funny. I showed him the 2 minute casting tape I made, and he absolutely cracked us up critiquing what are apparently my many many flaws. We’ve got to get my casting video up online, that’s on my to do list today.
We had a great discussion with David about Reality TV. When we got around to talking about some of the negative consequences of Reality Tv – ie. distorting the shape of people’s lives for the sake of entertainment — things got particularly interesting. David maintains that while there is some distortion, you can’t turn, as he puts it, “a princess into a witch.” In other words, while certain events may be distorted, a person’s essential nature is at the core of the narrative, and that ultimately can’t be made up or manipulated. As for the ethical question of what a reality tv show creator’s responsibility is to the people they have on the show, well, David, again, asserted the hardly surprising idea that people sign up for this stuff and they know what they are getting into. And if they don’t, well, it’s nobody’s fault but their own.
Later on, we headed over to the set of Solitary, a Fox Reality show that was in production. Solitary is this show where they put contestants into solitary confinement pods and then subject them to various mental and physical trials — they call them “treatments”. Whoever lasts longest in their pod wins the 50k prize. It was fascinating to watch the producers of the show put the contestants through their paces. The control room was truly like a scene from The Truman Show. I got to chat with the producers who were pretty cool about having us invade their set. Sally thought I got a little too hung up on the whole torture aspect, but she wasn’t the one who ended up sitting on a torture chair made up of hundreds of blunt screws, while wearing a giant metal crown with more blunt screws pressing down into her frontal lobe. For the record, that was me. The producers compared the show to a sporting event and argued that it’s more like being part of a rigorous athletic challenge than being subjected to torture. They talked about the “triumph of the human spirit.”
Finally I got to go into one of the pods and experience Solitary. My sole companion was the computerized voice known as Val. I’m planning on doing a vlog at some point today on what I felt and learned from my time in the pod. Stay tuned.
After that, I took the red eye to Washington DC. I did two interviews there and a talk Thursday evening. Next morning, this morning, the 7am flight back to LA, which brings you up to date on my activities and whereabouts. I’m a bit groggy from the constant activity punctuated by lengthy plane rides. But I’m excited about the material we got at FoxReality — to their credit, they were totally cool about letting us film on the set and asking whatever questions we wanted. I was also really pleased about the reception the Peep event in DC got. Checked in with W. who reported an incident involving 3 year-olds and fecal matter (enough said) but otherwise seemed in good spirits. We’re both really looking forward to our upcoming holiday, about a week away. Normally the thought of going on a vacation annoys me — vacation from what exactly? is my usual line — but this time around, I’m ready for some serious chill out and family time. I’m sitting next to a little 4 year-old and her dad, so naturally I’m thinking of E. I wonder what she’ll make of this whole project in ten years. She’ll be a teenager and probably wish they’d left me locked in the pod.