So I was “spitballing” with a commissioner the other day.
God I hate that word – it’s a euphemism for knocking ideas around of course, but in fact, in TV talk, it’s a term thats used to cover up a totally sh*t idea. So for instance, “why don’t we put a honeymoon on the moon?” (by the way – this was real concept I actually once heard being pitched) – look of disbelief by me – commissioner then says (in defensive tone) “I was just spitballing” as if I’m the bad one for looking incredulous at such a terrible notion.
Anyway, there I was, in a virtual meeting with a commissioning wraith, knocking around an idea and, holy sh*t, I saw a glimmer of interest in its normally deadened eyes. It could have been that or just the flicker of candlelight bouncing off the coffin in its crypt but, nevertheless, I went for it!
The commissioner got more enthusiastic as I went on – really buying into the idea, the chamber visibly lightening as its creative juices finally started pumping around its undead body.
But then, the kiss of death. “I know,” the commissioner said, “why don’t we get some A list talent involved?”
At this point, I want to make clear that I wasn’t talking to an Amazon commissioner, Disney commissioner or even a Netflix commissioner.
No, I was talking to a gatekeeper who worked for a company that knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing (as if that’s narrowed down the field for you, dear reader). Love their own content they did not.
But I digress. Back to the ‘A-list talent’.
“I’m thinking Hollywood. Do you think Ryan Gosling would do it?”
You might have choked on your cornflakes at this point – I would have done if I was eating them. But to realise just how ludicrous this suggestion was you will need a little more context.
Again, although the idea was great (I’m not above blowing my own trumpet here) we’re not talking The Crown, or even The Grand Tour.
No, I was pitching a pretty simple (but ingenious) science show – but that was clearly not enough for this minor channel with no money.
“God how low had I fallen to even be having this conversation” I thought.
“OK,” I replied. “So, we could look at that”.
“One thing, do you think think that we could get Ryan as a long running, returning host?”
“I’m not sure his extensive filming schedule would allow it. Also, the money that you are currently offering means that I could barely hire Jimmy Krankie and we have to get some kind of economy of scale YOU F*CKING IDIOT!”
Obviously I didn’t say the last bit but it’s how I felt.
I tentatively asked “What budget and run are we looking at here?”
“£80k p.h. TOP END for a MAX of 6 eps” I was told.
My face, even over the grainy screen of Zoom, said everything.
“I was just spitballing” said the commissioner.