As mayhem breaks out on the set of the Silt Ridge Midnight News, Morris has a gut-wrenching flashback to the pandemonium that erupted on the set of the infomercial in Burbank. This was the last show he produced for Daddy’s network, and the repercussions are still being felt. Fast-forward from that fiasco to tonight: the way people are screaming at Morris and pounding his back reminds him of the confusion in the Burbank soundstage when his contest featuring the powerful herbal cleanse went horribly awry. Tonight’s culprit is the station’s lead anchor, Buster Monroe Madison, who comes on set with a sizable chip on his bib-overall shoulder based on a bad day at the construction site. And if he keeps up his profanity-laced rant, the Federal Communications Commission will shut down the operation immediately, no questions asked. But there is a silver lining in this raging scenario – if people can just keep calm for two seconds . . .

The Banshees of Burbank

Line Monitor Lament

“…Three…two…and…“ Bruce Shellerdahl finishes the countdown. “…action!

Frozen at the massive switcher console. I fail to punch up the line monitor. On the news set, Buster Monroe Madison, our distressed lead anchor, continues to deliver a profanity-laced diatribe aimed at a building contractor who did him wrong earlier in the day. The swearing sounds tinny and vile through the studio IFB, yet nothing goes out over the air – which is a major victory for me.

People in the control room scream at me, punch me, nudge me, smack me and put me in a full nelson. They sound like a gaggle of demons, shrieking at me to punch up the live feed on the line monitor.

Cue the Generator!

“Punch us up, boss! What’s the problem?” Exasperated, Bruce Shellerdahl leans past me and stabs the button that takes us to air.

Suddenly, the place plunges into darkness. Everything stops running, even the fans. People panic, running around, screaming, knocking into equipment, running into each other. They shriek and carry on like banshees.

“Generator!” Bruce shouts. “Where’s the backup generator? Why hasn’t it kicked in yet?”

“Is there any gas in it?” Jerry, our sports director, snaps. “Has anybody checked it lately…Mr. Crimpanfortis?”

“Call the engineer!” B-double-M thunders, with that ONE CERTAIN WORD liberally interspersed for maximum impact. “This is totally (INSERT ONE CERTAIN –ING WORD) unacceptable!”

Angry, disjointed voices ring out in the pitch dark. Then the incessant lighters start flicking. I just hope no one takes the opportunity to light up a butt or a stogie.

Big Revelation Occurs in the Dark

I chuckle to myself as I figure out what just happened. I sit at the darkened console with a sheepish grin that no one can see. The electric bill hasn’t been paid. I’d sent a fax of the past-due notice to Noreen and told her to pay them or else there were going to be problems. I guess she didn’t follow through. Or maybe Daddy nixed the deal in just one more way of making me into a man. Be that as it may, it saved me a whole lot of problems tonight. The station will thankfully survive another day.

I suddenly feel very confident. “Take it outside people. We’ve obviously got some massive technical problems that I–and only I–can clean up.”

They wander out the rear stage door for fish tacos and cigarettes.

But That’s What the Lighting Tech is Supposed to Do

I have rarely felt so totally in control. The adrenaline courses through me, making everything real and alive. I haven’t felt this close to the edge since the night in Burbank when everything tanked. I somehow feel oddly back on my game. After everyone leaves it is totally quiet. I hear tinkering in the studio and wonder if someone is back there trying to sabotage things. I get up from the board and peer into the studio.

Dooley, the chief lighting tech and my erstwhile mechanic, has my Corvair Monza up on risers and is changing the oil.

Like any good lighting guy, he clenches the end of the flashlight in his teeth.