Barton Chesterpiro’s jaw dropped when he saw the TV set.
When he first looked at the wall of TVs, he gave a warm, knowing smile while drawing from his Chesterfield.
All smoke breaks from writer’s guild strikes should be so poignant.
The knowing smile evinced his beatific understanding of how vital television was; of how TV would never be replaced by the ugly, deformed twin of TV that was YouTube.
But when he focused his eyes on the news story, his jaw dropped.
The Improvisers had taken over.
Every good-looking improv student was cast on every narrative show on television. What’s more, networks did not conceal the automatic, unconscious nature of the programming. There was CSI: Improv. Lost: Improv Island. 24: A Day For Improv was a runaway success; callers would give Lower East Side celebrity Reefer Mutherland improv suggestions. One week, he wrestled a crestfallen, morbidly obese dingo nestled in a sequoia.
People loved this more than reality TV.
Reality TV had confessionals, which were a relatively distancing device. I Love New York looked more and more like a cold, Teutonic, Brechtian drama.
Improv involved the audience. It meant spontaneity; being in the moment; audience control.
There was even American Idol Improv, where singers had to sing whatever callers requested. Or even make up songs based on viewer suggestions. Like the one time Amber Bambrella sang an impromptu ditty about cancer cells metastasizing. So awkward (the camera cut to an 8-year-old chemo victim with a “Tommy, Can You Hear Me?” sign), yet so addicting.
Hellfire and damnation, I am sick of writing for free; I’m going on strike.