If It’s TV Staffing Season, Keep Your Rx Card Handy
I signed with my agent because he had a sexy voice. The kind of voice you expect to hear broadcasting the news or, at the least, the weather. I imagined myself picking up the phone, pouring a glass of wine and listening to concise, well-scripted updates on my astonishingly successful writing career.
Six months later, I was in the doctor’s office, asking for a drug that would not only erase the sound of that voice in my head but also remind my body how to digest food.
“Are you experiencing any undue stress that might be contributing to these problems you’re having?”
“Well, I’m a writer and it’s staffing season.”
“Of course. Let me prescribe something.”
Apparently, television staffing season is an identifiable, diagnosable medical risk. The state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment should make the networks post warning signs.
When I started my quest for a job in television, I loved staffing season. Accumulating water bottles on the floor of my car along with parking passes from various studio lots was thrilling. Tangible proof that I was going places. I couldn’t wait for my agent to call after every meeting and tell me how much everybody loved me and how much he loved that they loved me. When he proudly announced that I had landed a meeting with an important showrunner, I gleefully circled the date on my calendar in red ink. Another date with someone who was sure to love me.
My first showrunner was a gorgeous Boy Wonder, and I had to stop myself from reaching out to pet his smooth, perfectly tanned arm. I accepted his effusive praise of my writing with, I thought, considerable grace. He laughed at my jokes and hugged me at the end of the meeting. I called my agent and told him I had the job. We discussed when and where we would have a celebratory cocktail.
Cut to the next day.
“What were you doing in there?” my agent demanded.
“What do you mean?”
“He thought you were arrogant, OK? You screwed this up.”
“I tried to explain that you had no idea what you were doing, that maybe he could give you another chance.”
“Right, yes, um, thanks. So what did he say?”
“It’s not going to happen.”
The next time I met with a Boy Wonder showrunner, I was better prepared. I prostrated myself before him, calling him the best writer of his generation. Without a trace of irony. It worked. My agent called to give me the good news: Boy Wonder Two (BW2) loved me.
In fact, BW2 loved me so much that he called me directly to offer a writer’s assistant job, with a guaranteed staff position if the show got picked up.
BW2 wasn’t around much my first day on the job, but the experienced writer who had been appointed showrunner-for-a-day quickly put me at ease. When BW2 stopped by, showrunner-for-a-day pitched my ideas and gave me credit. BW2 was clearly impressed. I was in.
That night I called my agent and we ventured into a heady intimacy, whispering vows of enduring fidelity over our cellphones. This, he told me, was the reason he’d gotten into the business in the first place. To make dreams come true.
The next day I was fired. “It’s not going to happen,” my agent told me, explaining that showrunner-for-a-day had found me presumptuous and overbearing.
Desperate to redeem myself, I locked myself in a room and wrote a pilot script. It was a last stab at saving the career I’d never had. My agent unenthusiastically agreed to read it. A couple weeks later, he phoned. He loved the script and he loved me.
I didn’t even try to eat the day of my meeting with my third Boy Wonder. I complimented everything from his writing to his shoes. Soon, an offer was on its way, and my agent was thrilled.
“You did a great job in there.”
“Wow, it’s finally going to happen.”
“You and I are going to be together for a long, long time.”
The next day, one of the show’s producers announced that he had promised my job to the son of a friend. I was out. Again.
When my agent called to break up with me, his voice had that same pharmaceutical rep professionalism I’d loved from the start. I reached for my bottle of pills and popped it open for what I knew would be the last time. He hoped we could still be friends.
“That,” I said, “is not going to happen.”
Sharon Bordas is a writer for the VH1 comedy “so noTORIous.”
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