My Descent Into and Out of Reality Television – Part 1

What follows is a behind the scenes story about the development of a reality television show. I personally experienced everything I’m about to describe. I’ve changed some names to protect the guilty. My observations are from an “accidental executive producer” point of view.This experience is much funnier to me now than when I lived through it.

Our TV show was in full production mode. Since the green light, producers had been hired, the sets designed, the model search was on, the celebrity panelists were being interviewed, and, most improtantly, the legal side was sewn up. If we get an order for series, it will mean hundreds of thousands of dollars, net, to my partner and I. If not, at least we’ll nab a kill fee running in the tens of thousands. If you would have told me 2 years ago that I would be executive producing a semi-reality television show for a major cable channel, I’d have thought you nuts-O. But, out of the thousands of pitches by some of the biggest names in TV production, they were going with our property. This was a once in a lifetime shot. At least that’s what I thought at the time.

This wasn’t bad, for Plan B.

I’d spent the 1990s as an advertising art director and software creative director. By decade’s end, I’d won almost every award in my field and decided to started my own firm in March 2000. My space was on 102nd and Broadway in Manhattan. My clients included AOL, HBOFamily, United Way, and several high-end media design firms. Broadband interactive design for every client. We expected, at the time, that broadband would soon be so ubiquitous, we’d be lining up subscribers and taking advantage of Seven years of internet infrastucture pipe laying, finally! Things were looking good. Except for the date. March 2000 was the beginning of the dot-com bust.

For those younger than 26, the impact of the bust is hard to fathom. For those of us invested in broadband content development, in New York City, it was “The Great Depression”. We went from futurist euphoria, egged on by the broadband ubiquity we are only now experiencing in 2008, to the absolute bottom of some unseen well of digital dankness. For those of us who had enough cash to survive those first dozen months, there was 911. This deeply disorientingly other world event put an end to hopes of business in broadband.

Then a call came from a sometimes creative partner. “I’ve got a meeting with some TV guys next week, can you come and do some creative for the pitch.” Hmmm. Television was still around. Perhaps that could keep me busy until broadband recovers.

Worst decision of my life…


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