Well, that didn’t go well, did it? Last night’s BBC thing, I mean.
If you were listening, you’ll know that a relatively light-hearted chit-chat about the quirkery of American television devolved within no time at all into a quagmire of dead dogs, multiple rapists, broken legs on Dancing with the Stars, and Rachel Bilson’s marriage (which, by the way, I put on the same level, interest-wise, as the previous three.)
As a result, I fear my stint on Up All Night may be over. Or, if not over, then drawing to a premature end. One of those premature ends that, quite honestly, is probably long overdue.
After all, it’s been eleven years. In fact, the eleventh anniversary was this very week, though I forgot to mention that in my haste to talk about not one, but seventeen dogs being burned alive in a propane explosion.
Doing TV reviews was not a job I applied for, by the way. I got it by nepotism. A friend of mine used to host the show in the mid-90s and he called me up one day with sad news: the previous guy had died. Or absconded. Or simply not shown up for work and proved himself unreliable. “Will you fill in this week for three minutes? You can do it on the phone.” He made it sound easy, which to me is important, so I said yes, despite the fact that I didn’t watch any television and had to get all my information from magazines in our local supermarket. And when the guy failed to show up the following Monday (the Slot used to be on Mondays) I filled in then, too. And it just grew from there, as these things tend to if you let them. Eleven years later, it’s now half an hour long and broadcast from a real studio in downtown Los Angeles with music and sound-bites and everything. Only one thing hasn’t changed: I still don’t watch television. Well, who has the time?
However, last night’s outing may be, if not the last, then the red flag that signals the beginning of the end. There’s nothing funny about rape or dogs being burned alive. Nothing at all. It just came out that way.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had problems either. Back in January, when I embarked on the Master Cleanser and fasted on maple syrup and fresh lemons for two weeks (the movie of this debacle is on my Facebook page, if you’re interested!), I dared go on the BBC and gush about the benefits of fasting, and the following day almost drowned beneath a tsunami of complaints, one or two of them from doctors who claimed it was irresponsible of me to talk about such ridiculous and dangerous things on air, and thoroughly irresponsible of the BBC to broadcast that kind of holistic drivel. The same doctors who will be dying of blocked arteries, distended colons, and damaged livers years from now, I predict. Though of course you can’t tell them that. Bloody know-it-alls.
Quite frankly, I thought my number was up then. But we soldiered on. Last night, though, was another low, and honestly I’m worried.
My Slot could so easily go the way of the rest of the economy. Cutbacks, downsizing. “Sorry, but we’re taking the show in a new direction, one that involves accuracy and sticking to the topic and not distressing listeners.” At which point that will be it. I’ll be no different to a laid-off mill worker in Ohio or a kennel owner in Pennsylvania whose business just burned down in a propane explosion.
Not that I need to worry. I’m plenty busy. New book coming out in April, another book just completed, a TV travel show to shoot in May, plus all the American radio stuff I do. Still, after eleven whole years of showing up for something week after week – I mean, man, that’s like an addiction. It locks you into a groove you can’t easily snap out of, even though I know the day must come at some point.
One of the reviewers of my new book Naked in Dangerous Places wrote, “Cash Peters is our generation’s Alistair Cook…” Seriously? Didn’t he report from America for the BBC for 48 years or something preposterous like that and die at the microphone during a propane delivery? I’m hazy on the exact details.
Last night, I came home after the show with a heavy heart. You can tell how affected I was: I remained completely unconcerned for the safety of the blind contestant on American Idol. Walk too far in the wrong direction, drop into the orchestra pit – I didn’t care. (He’s going to be voted off soon anyway; he’s outclassed by almost every one of his sighted rivals) And I wasn’t even as downright appalled as I should have been by a trailer for the upcoming Osbournes Reloaded, a variety show that promises to be a trashy, calamitous disaster, hosted by Ozzy and Sharon, and which seems to involve Sharon being strident and irritating for an hour and Ozzy shaking and being incoherent. What’s reloaded about that? That’s exactly how I remember them from last time.
No, last night, not even the sparkly baubles on American TV could make me feel superior and better about myself. I turned it off, dimmer and even more depressed.
Now at last I know how the Up All Night audience feels after my Slot.
NOTE: Inside Out, the short movie I made about the Master Cleanser is available to watch on my Facebook page, and only on my Facebook page.
The BBC Slot is available to hear again on http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00j2dr7/Up_All_Night_11_03_2009/. Have painkillers ready.