Think about it: in the realm of American TV, we have reality contest shows for just about everything, whether it’s cooking, modeling, singing, or navigating ridiculous obstacle courses and falling into giant tubs of mud and/or shaving cream. And that’s not even mentioning the realm of non-competitive reality programming à la the Kardashians. Here’s my question–why don’t we have anything for writing? My solution is “America’s Next Top Author.”
Cue the dramatic soundtrack, and let’s get started. We meet our twelve contestants, each and every one burning with the desire to be a published author. There are a few really intelligent and likable ones, a few with completely overblown senses of their own skills, a nasty one (because we all know there has to be someone for viewers to gripe about and say, “Why don’t they get rid of him/her?”), the wide-eyed, innocent one straight out of school, and a tattooed black sheep or two with avant-garde sensibilities who will grow on judges and viewers alike.
Each week our contestants face challenges designed to test their abilities to market, give readings, pitch to agents, and, above all, write a novel that will sell. This week they have to keep the attention of an auditorium full of sugar-loaded middle schoolers! Now you have to rewrite your novel by dictating to an assistant while working out to maintain that fit figure for the upcoming talk show! The panel of judges will comprise top editors, agents, and authors from all over the country. There’ll be special surprise guest judges for theme challenges–Dave Barry can make an appearance on Humor Week and keep everyone laughing with off-the-cuff shoot-’em-downs, probably at the expense of the contestants.
“Behind-the-scenes” looks at what life is like for the hopefuls outside of regular filming will feature late-night arguments and the contestants sitting pensively at their word processors. The nasty one, who has to hold on until the third-to-last week at least for drama’s sake, can delete pieces from fellow contestants’ PCs, trying his or her hardest not to make it look as if it were staged (which, of course, it is). Later, the victims can cry and call home and act like they didn’t know it was coming as the perpetrator looks on smugly. Viewers will clutch at their TV dinner trays in utter horror.
When the final contestant is crowned America’s Next Top Author (there can only be one winner…), he or she will receive the ultimate prize: a book deal with a major New York publishing house, a personal agent for the rest of his or her publishing days, a fifteen-city book tour, $10,000, and a movie contract. The other hopefuls can make a cameo appearance in the final scenes showing off the winner’s new fame and fortune as assistants and housekeepers.
Heck, if we have “America’s Next Top Author,” why not have a whole channel of programming for the bibliophile in all of us? How does “The Book Network” sound? (Well, if there’s a food channel…) Here are some ideas for other shows designed to boost ratings and sell advertisements for cars, Pop Tarts, and anti-aging cream:
- “The House”: a sitcom featuring life working at a major publishing house. The antics of dim-witted coworkers, inter-house rights disputes, and submissions of bad romance novels will induce the laugh track.
- “Keeping Up with the Big Names”: a reality program showcasing what it’s like to be a billionaire bestselling author. The film crew might have to hire the swarms of paparazzi depending on the actual fame of authors bribed to appear.
- “16 and Published”: an ongoing dramatic documentary on the life of teen authors. Will being an author interfere with the literary teens’ school and social lives? Is it considered libel and slander to portray acquaintances unflatteringly as characters in novels?
- “Extreme Write-Over”: a select group of wannabe novelists whose manuscripts are frankly terrible go to an extreme writing boot camp and learn how to improve their works. There’ll be plenty of close-ups of the trainees in tears as the trainers bark orders–amid much bleeped-out cussing– and tear the works in progress to figurative pieces.
- “True Books”: a group of ordinary people discover that they are the reincarnations of late and great authors in this hugely convoluted fantasy series. The characters fight for the right to use the storylines of their past selves in novels as they come together in epic clashes between the good authors of light and the demon editors.
- “Creative Writing”: a teen-oriented drama series following the lives of the members of a high school creative writing club. Stereotypical characters, torrid love triangles, and declaimed interpretations of well-known works of literature are staples of the show.
There’ll also be a live news hour featuring the latest in the world of books, from debut authors and book tours to famous book blogs shutting down and book store chains going bankrupt. We’ll be in need of newscasters who can do the “mildly concerned” look.
Hey, I’d tune in to a “Book Network.” I’m tired of watching folks discuss literature on the local access channel to get my bookish kicks over the airwaves, and it can’t be much worse than everything else on TV these days.
**EDIT: 8/12/2011: For the love of Shakespeare! I’ve been Freshly Pressed! Thank you, one and all, for your wonderful comments, likes, and subscriptions. As much as I would love to respond to every comment, I’d be sitting here all day if I did. So, suffice it to say that I’m here at my computer grinning like an idiot and tearing up like the mother of the bride at a wedding. Thank you.**