Show Running through Snowflakes

It has been a long winter, in more ways than one. For me, Morris Crimpanfortis V, my long winter started in the heaving vortex of terror that was the Burbank studio where my ill-timed infomercial misfired. You know . . . the one where contestants came clean with their brutal organic cleanse. On-camera of course. Don’t remind me, I should have cleared the product with the FDA first. Come to think of it, that should have included the EPA. So I spent the last 12-plus months in this woebegone specter of a once-thriving bastion of industry – until now. As I shovel my hundredth load of flakes this hour, I suddenly stop, pause . . . and realize that a whole new day is dawning.

A Snowy – Yet Earthshaking – Day in Coal Country

What Should I Do: Shovel Snow or Pitch Shows?

A day of celebration begins. Or should I say a whole new lifetime of celebrating?

I’m back! I’ve come roaring back and I’m untamable! Unstoppable! The pitch juices are flowing once again. Like hot saliva through a tiger’s fangs, I’m ready to jump back into the fray and not stop pitching until I have an entire network’s worth of shows.

The floodgates are wide open, and all the pent-up emotion and frustration building over the last year is suddenly released. I haven’t felt this way since strolling through the boiler room at the Burbank studios. All the shame I felt over the debacle of my last production suddenly vanishes. That’s all in the past, totally forgotten. The creative juices roar through me again. I am put on earth to create TV shows. And there’s no time like the present to jump back in the ballgame.

The light, airy snow flutters all around me. I joyfully shovel the powder into piles. I pretend that I’m shoveling “shows” not snow. I have so many shows to pitch I barely know where to start! Weird how the words “show” and “snow” are so similar, separated only by the letters “h” and “n.” Remove the “s” at the front of them and the words spell “how” and “now,” as in…”how now brown cow…”

Wow! Sometimes I impress even myself!

Beaver Knows Best

Instead of a cow, I’m staring at a gigantic beaver in the middle of town square. I see in its two prominent front teeth reflections of the pivotal letters being scrutinized: “h” and “n.” How are these letters tied together in words other than “snow” and “show?” “Shone” and “honey” are two that come to mind. Maybe the next show I pitch should contain elements of etymology and sentence structure. My host will be a prominent grammar coach, or an English prof, and contestants will go on word safaris to the bowels of literary hell. Prizes will be awarded to the most proficient and domineering etymological sleuth.

Show proposals spiral through my mind like dazzling snowflakes. Everything is swirling around so fast, I feel weak on my feet, I feel dizzy, like I’m going to pass out and make a clumsy snow angel right in the middle of town square. I dance with my snow shovel, waltzing through the springtime blizzard. I catch snowflakes on my tongue, reveling in my newfound optimism, my hope that springs eternally. I think of the talk show I want to produce, a, late-night entry that really explores the issues, a show that is as hard-hitting as it is provocative but most of all entertaining.

Are These People Jealous Enough to Kill Me?

I stop dancing and stare at the beaver. I brush snow off its bronzed back. I don’t know it at the time, but I have quite an audience. People watch curiously from the shops and storefronts lining the quaint town square. As well they should. This is a great day of awakening, and I won’t stop until Daddy’s network is filled with my shows, shows of every nature and description including sitcoms, primetime dramas, game shows, outdoors shows and children’s shows–and of course my talk show.

The Apparition of Verona Kendermants

Turning from the beaver to continue my celebration, I am suddenly distracted. Verona Kendermants appears at the front door in antiquated goggles, a worn rubber apron, thick latex gloves up to her elbows and a grateful smile. “Mr. Crimpanfortis,” she declares, “I think I’ve finally arrived at a hand soap that will take the market by storm: patchouli oil and garlic. You really need to try this.” She holds up a little rectangular block in a brown wrapper, tied off with a pretty green ribbon and a matching bow.

Applauding the Graphite County Opera House

It’s no secret that Daddy doesn’t play small-ball. No matter what, he swings for the fences. Case in point: he owns this dysfunctional TV station in a wayward, backwater region carved out of the industrial wasteland of our American past, hidden from the rigors and realities of modern-day commerce. But you’d never know the pissant nature of this station by looking at its sales brochure. Daddy managed to score the 4,500-seat Graphite County Opera House as part of the deal. This means that Morris and his enterprising assistant, Verona Kendermants, office in a sprawling Art-Deco landmark with a lobby that never ends. They close off the auditorium to save on heating and maintain rodent control, but there are times that Morris sneaks up to the balcony and leans back in a sumptuous padded seat and imagines the greats that have graced the oiled planks below. Even for Daddy, this is extravagant brilliance.   

The World-class Wonders of the Graphite County Opera House

Officing in the Splendor of a Major Attraction

Before moving on to the important business at hand, here’s a word about where we office. For such a small, insignificant station, WVBB has a substantial presence in the community. The TV station owns the former civic opera house that seats more than 4,500 spectators, plus all the trappings of a former world-class Deco-themed theatrical venue.

Most of the building is closed down to save on heating costs and to facilitate pest control. On special occasions, for instance when we have traveling dignitaries coming through town, we open it up for a tour. I find some of the loge seats rather comfortable in stretching out for a mid-afternoon nap. I try not to freak out when packs of mice attach themselves to the cuffs of my pinstripe suit pants.

Owning this Hulking Place is So Typical of Daddy

The building itself has quite a history. All the greats have passed through, from vaudeville to jazz, offering a treasure trove of memorable performances. We office just above street level. The reason our corporate bathrooms are so imposing is because they were built for large crowds getting in and out during intermissions. Daddy couldn’t pass up the opportunity to own the building when it hit the market. The city could no longer hold onto it and Daddy got it for a steal. He has used it to his advantage, dressing the joint up and taking all kinds of photographs. Of all Daddy’s TV stations, this is the most unique physical plant. It’s just like Daddy…doing things big–and differently.

Sometimes when I’m all alone I imagine hearing voices and loud noises from the stage, hearkening back to previous blockbuster performances. I sometimes drop what I’m doing and patrol the environs like I’m a stage manager checking up on a production. Thankfully, no one has yet to talk back to me–though I will be ready for that one night should it become an eventuality.

A Lobby that Doesn’t Stop

Daddy is such a tough nut to crack: on the one hand, he’s always out to cut costs, but on the other hand he goes gaga over properties like the civic opera house.  So long as it doesn’t take additional funds to run, he’s fine with that. There is even talk in the future of fixing the place up and leasing it out for a slate of current events including plays and concerts. There is a fully functioning commercial kitchen, where Verona Kendermants does all of her cooking for her fancy scented soaps and candles.

This is clearly the biggest asset the station owns, bigger even than its broadcast facility atop Skagit Peak in the Appalachian range. People at Daddy’s huge stations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are all impressed whenever they see a photo of the opera house and think that somehow the station is reflective of its physical plant.

They don’t know how wrong they are, but I’m not about to dispel the myth. For a station as small, insignificant and dysfunctional as WVBB, it may have the most extravagant lobby and historic theatrical majesty in all of America.

A Strange New Locale

For better or worse, Silt Ridge is the new home of Morris Crimpanfortis V. His chief goal is to get back to Burbank in order to start producing TV shows again, which is what he does best. But having spent months in this backwater market, he’s beginning to wonder if he’ll ever bust loose again. Things could be a lot worse though. Silt Ridge is built on hills and ridges, a lot like San Francisco. Only it lacks the water, the bridges, North Beach, Pacific Heights, cypress trees and the Marina District . . . well, you get the picture.  Morris has a lot of friends who are very supportive, so that’s a plus. He’s also got a group of people who want to kill him.

Getting that Old-timey Silt Ridge Feeling

Home Sweet Home … Really?

It’s snowing intermittently in the abandoned coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania. It is growing dark, though it is still quite early in the afternoon.

My feet are propped atop my desk in the old will-call ticket office of the Graphite County Opera House. I stare at town square down a sweeping marble stairway through a multi-paned window. Smack dab in the middle of downtown is a fifteen-foot bronze beaver, now collecting a mantel of snow. The beaver wears a miner’s hat, complete with lamp. Lore has it that the beaver dug up the brittle rocks that were later determined to be the elusive Oyster coal, prized for its superior propulsion properties and ultra-clean burn rate, perfect for starships and interplanetary factories. The discovery fueled America’s Pre-Sunspot “Propulsion Revolution,” and the intergalactic land rush was on . . . until the sunspot storms turned everything into rack and ruin.

Disastrous Live Game Show Still Raising Eyebrows

It’s been over a year since I arrived on the scene with little or no fanfare. This came on the heels of my disastrous live game show at the Burbank studios where contestants competed for cash and prizes and exotic vacations based on an untested herbal cleanse protocol–do I have to go into it again? The concept was doomed from the get-go, and I’ll just leave it at that. Okay?

While everyone in the family was having a cow about how I disgraced the Crimpanfortis name,, they got me a one-way ticket from LAX to JFK, and my new life began. I rented a car for the last leg of my sojourn to Graphite County and dropped it off at a little local office that wasn’t open more than four hours a week. Our TV station mirrors that small-town mentality.

Silt Ridge Resembles San Francisco . . . Minus Just about Everything

Silt Ridge has a number of districts and neighborhoods. It is laid out on steep hills, much like San Francisco but without the water–or the bridges; or the Haight; or North Beach; or the Marina District; or Pacific Heights; or . . . well, you get the picture.

There are remnants of Victorian homes and a few stately albeit rundown stone mansions. I reside in the fourth-floor garden apartment of one such estate. The name of the property is Buttoned-down Acres. It is the home of the family who made its fortune weaving quality coats and jackets–first for the miners and then for discerning men and women around the world. Sixty-three-year-old Francesca LoZelle is the sole heiress of the estate after everyone else bailed for South Carolina and points offshore. The only time there’s friction is when I’m late with rent because Daddy withheld my paycheck for one reason or another–just because he can and just to see me sweat. Francesca has a pet dog named Buttons that is part-Pekinese, part-poodle. We get along fine, even when I’m late on rent.

A Passel of Desolate Zip Codes

There’s not much to do in Silt Ridge. They’re still trying to restore satellite service following the last sunspot attack. The mountains keep out signals from TV stations in New York City, Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Philly and Baltimore. Our station, WBVV, tries its best to stand out in the quality of merchandise offered on its shopping platform. But with the disposable income at an all-time low in the struggling burg, there aren’t many orders made from our surrounding zip codes.

Revving Up the Old Desire to Pitch Again

A thought suddenly hits me: I’m just wasting away here, feeling sorry for myself. I sit up at my desk; the world stops spinning and I attain a clarity of focus rarely felt. It has been too long since I pitched Noreen on my show concepts. What was I thinking the last two years? I’ve been suspended in a malaise that has completely throttled my creativity. This is a new dawn, a new awakening. It’s time to rise and shine and start pitching again!

I glance at the phone. This is my chance to call Noreen and start the process that will get me back to Burbank. Concepts whiz around in my head. I can’t believe this; I’m actually excited about pitching again.

Before I call, I do something of preeminent importance: I go outside and shovel the wide marble stairway