Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Waiting to Go On
I'm sitting in the bowels of the BBC building. It is an impressive structure with a grand entrance and courtyard, but inside it is a confusion of corridors and would look like an ordinary office building if it weren't for the banks of TV monitors and rooms with red "On Air" signs outside of them.
Richard Madeley just walked past where my wife and I are sitting, but he appeared not to recognize me. I can understand that; a lot of people are nervous when meeting me for the first time. I'm sure he'll warm up later, during the show.
In case you're wondering, I have time to write because we got here stupid early, but I prefer that to intelligently late. And, really, what's the worst that could happen? We get to have a good nose around the BBC and a cup of commissary coffee that is almost (but not quite) the worst cup of coffee I have ever tasted.
Even this late at night, it is bustling with activity. There are other people waiting here with us (but none of them as long as us) to go on to other shows. Young people with security tags around their necks stride purposefully up and down the corridors and urge lost looking people like me to follow them. It wasn't quite so frantic in the BBC Southern Counties studio last year; there were only three people there.
Richard is on the air now. He's doing an hour on his own before having the two of us inflicted upon him. I just hope I'm still awake by midnight, much less perky and interesting. I wonder how ExpatMum is doing.
The strange thing is, after being told what they expect from me and briefed on the premise of the program, I still have no idea what I'm going to do. Or say. I don't think it would be wise to over analyze it, however; I'll just go one and say whatever comes to mind. What's the worst that could happen, aside from having to wear a paper bag over my head for the rest of my life?
Next time, I'm going to have my agent get me a slot sometime during the day.
Well, at least I don't have to wear a paper bag.
The studio itself was no less hectic and not at all what I expected. There were six people in the booth (myself included) and all of us were vying for airtime. All the while those aforementioned earnest young people scurried in and out with papers or messages, and there were a lot of hand signals going on for the benefit of the producers on the other side of the soundproof glass.
First the good:
It was, as I had hoped, great fun, and I like to think I held my own. I have already received several e-mails from people in the States who say I did a good job. And I did not have to savage Britain – which is something I did not want to do. As it turns out, I didn't have the opportunity; I was too busy defending America!
ExpatMum and I provided, I hope, the requisite entertainment and actually got into a few lively exchanges. I recall at one point actually raising my voice and saying something like, "Are you telling me there are people dying in the streets over there? What did you do to that country while I've been gone?" (This was about health care.)
Overall I think we came across as well as anyone else and, as I said, it was good fun.
Now the bad:
Let's face it; I had an agenda. I'm an author. I've just published a book. I want-- no, I NEED-- people to know about that. I was told by the producers that this would be a panel format, but was assured they would mention my book.
They did not.
I'm not even sure if he introduced me as an author. After he said I was some guy from America with a blog, my mind went numb. Everyone has a blog; that hardly makes me special.
When I realized he had no intention of mentioning my book, I began frantically devising ways to start out a sentence with, "I cover that topic in my book, "Postcards From Across the Pond, and in it I say,…"
Ham-fisted, perhaps, but this was a golden opportunity, as if someone had handed me the winning lottery ticket, and I was not going to let it slip from my fingers and flutter into the storm drain. I was thinking so hard on ways to work the book in that a few times, when Richard directed a question at me, I realized I had no idea what the topic was and I felt like I was back in geography class being asked to explain the implications of the Peloponnesian war.
The next thing I new, the hour was up and I was unceremoniously ushered from the room, and the building.
I can't be too down about this because, as I well know, good things can come from the strangest of places. It just would have been nice to be introduced as an author.