A Connecticut Yankee In Bob Barker's Court
As Seen On TV
My image, burned onto videotape, will soon be beamed into the skies all over the world, shot out at unsuspecting housewives, personal injury lawyers and other assorted daytime loafers. Via broadcast television, I will become a part of Hollywood - a brief flash in the pan in a kitchen full of pyromaniac chefs.
"So, where do you think you'll put this TV if you win it?" he asked.
I was standing, stunned, on the soundstage for the television game show "The Price Is Right," face to face with the immortal Bob Barker and an enormous HDTV set. I didn't know how I got there, why I - out of hundreds of possible contestants - was picked, or if this was reality or some kind of twisted dream, born from my endless hours of reading about television shows and my odd fascination with the asterisk.
I enrolled in the new Los Angeles Film and Television Internship Program offered by the College of Communication. I had no idea what to expect when I got to Los Angeles - a result of the combination of never having traveled west of Chicago and the unsettlingly light amount of concrete details provided about the actual program. "It's our first semester doing this," they told us. "So there's bound to be a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out." They kept telling us we were pioneers. Picture a befuddled Vasco Da Gama on a television soundstage that hasn't been updated since 1972.
"I'm living in Los Angeles right now," he says.
"You say that like you're not going to be here for long," the great Barker responds.
"Well, I go to school at Boston University."
"So will you be bringing this back to Boston?"
A pause for thought. Then, "Well, maybe I'll bring it back to my house in Connecticut."
Bob Barker looked at me like I didn't know what I was talking about. And I didn't know what I was talking about, because I was trying too hard to figure out if what was happening was real. There I was, living my own personal American Dream. I had a (nonpaying) job in the entertainment industry, was staying in a swank (looking) apartment in view of the Hollywood Sign, and I was thousands of miles away from our (beloved) Chancellor's (malicious, power-tripping) administration. Also, Bob Barker was standing less than three feet away from me. You can understand, then, if I appear a little disoriented on video.
As Mr. Barker was preparing to reveal the actual retail price of that giant television, drawing out a conversation with comedic pauses in a shtick it would take anyone else 30 years to perfect, I couldn't help but think about things. Important things, like "I wonder how my video games would look on that," "I hope people don't mock me forever if I screw this up," and "My God, this place looks like a high school woodshop project." I guess I really can find fault with anything. Even when I'm on a game show.
One of the most common reactions you'll hear from people after they meet someone famous or see an actual TV soundstage for the first time is a combination of disbelief and disappointment. Everything's smaller, uglier, balder than it looks on TV. Does this basically mean that we're being lied to every time we turn on a television? Is there anyone out there that still doesn't know that? More importantly, when I turn on the television on Wednesday, will I look like myself or will I be magically transformed into a Beautiful Person? If so, will people want to date me?
The answer, I guess, is "I don't know." It's a phrase that's re-entered my vocabulary at an alarming rate since I've gotten into the Pacific Time Zone. If there's one thing that laid-back California has taught me so far it's that you don't always need to have an answer for things. I'm not sure how well that's going to hold up once I get back into "real classes" in Boston, but for the time being, it's working quite nicely.
But "I don't know" isn't an acceptable answer on "The Price Is Right," and eventually I had to make a decision. Maybe there's another life lesson metaphor in there, somewhere. Probably about graduation or something. But if you see me smiling in a sea of scowling students come January, it's not because I'm happy to be reunited with the cold weather, or my friends, or that guy who rides around on a bicycle making honking noises all day. It's because I am absolutely thrilled that, in whatever tiny, tangential way, the university that refuses to let me watch cable TV is responsible for my new ostentatious, state-of-the-art entertainment system.
Party in my room.