From time to time, as you have seen, we at the Substandard Sitcom are able to get our hands on transcripts of private conversations. Don’t ask us how. That’s not important. We’ve recently been fortunate enough to acquire the transcript of a pitch meeting for a reality series featuring the Last family. Maria, JVL’s devoted intern, has a distant cousin whose daughter goes to the same preschool as someone who once sat on a plane with a development executive for TLC and she has leveraged this “relationship” into a pitch meeting. Without further ado, here it is:
Executive #1: So who do we have next?
Executive #2: We’re taking this meeting as a favor to (pauses and looks at notes and can’t find the relevant info)…it doesn’t matter. Let’s just hear her out and see if there is potential here. I mean come on. It can’t be worse than what we already are putting out there.
Executive #1 has just taken a sip of coffee which, upon hearing this, spits coffee all over the table. They call in an assistant to deal with the spill because they’re TLC executives. They have someone to do everything for them: get coffee, clean up coffee, drive, and cut up their food. In fact, there is a distinct culture of bullying at TLC. This is one of the few real spills that an assistant has had to clean up. Executives often leave trails of food or coffee just to show their underlings who’s in charge.
Maria is ushered into the conference room. When she is offered something to drink she asks for some expensive, fancy-pants drink that costs $20 a bottle. No one has ever heard of but JVL drinks it daily. When she is shocked to hear that they don’t have it she says she’s fine, but she’s really not. She’s shocked that these rubes don’t know how to live the good life. She also notes that no one in the office is wearing American Giant, prAna, or Lost brands. Idiots. They exchange pleasantries and move on to the meat of the conversation.
Executive #1: How are you doing today? Would you like to relax and put your feet up? We could get one of our executive assistants to kneel on the ground and be your Ottoman.
Maria: No thanks. I’m fine.
Executive #1: So, you’re pitching a reality show about a family in the DC Metro.
Executive #2: Hmmm. Sounds tame. You do know what we do here at TLC. We’re not interested in regular families.
Maria: Oh, this family isn’t your ordinary family.
Executive #2: Go on. Is one of the parents 600 pounds? A little person? Is this a sister wives scenario? Wait, are you telling me we may have our first brother husbands situation?
Maria: (a little shocked by his enthusiasm) Well, none of those things.
Executive #2: Oooo, does one of the parents have a peg leg? Do both of them have peg legs? And eye patches? Could they be called a Pirate family? I can see it now: The Last Pirates of the Potomac.
Maria: All of them have their legs. And their eyes.
Executive #2: Did either of the parents come out of an ultra-conservative religious sect? We already have a show about the Amish, but we have room for a show about Hutterites or (looks at clipboard) a 19th century utopian community.
Maria: Well, the dad in the family grew up going to a hippy Quaker school.
Executive #1: Too tame
Maria: But the reason he went was because of his mother’s spite.
Executive #2: (leans forward) Say more.
Maria: There’s a lot of good stuff there. His mother would intentionally buy him off-brand toys knowing it would drive him crazy. She would buy him Gobots instead of Transformers. He wanted an Iron Man figurine and she bought him something called Cadmium Dude instead.
Executive #2: We can work with this. Do they get along now?
Executive #1: Now we’re talking.
Executive #2: Where do they work? Is one of them a firefighter? An emergency room nurse? Or are they villainous sorts of characters? We have a lot of room for that. Is one of them a lobbyist? Or a (his voice raises to a shout so his assistant can hear) MORON EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT?
Executive #1: (laughs uproariously) Good one.
Maria: (getting the conversation back on track) Jonathan works at a right wing magazine.
Executive #1: Got it. A villain. Tell me about Jonathan and (looks at proposal) Shannon. What’s their marriage like?
Maria: Oh, it’s great. (She notices in their faces that this was not good for her pitch) But there’s also a lot of interesting stuff going on in their marriage. For instance Jonathan has this totally normal interest in watches that she openly mocks. (Maria’s face suddenly clouds up with anger) And the wife can get so ridiculous sometimes. Sometimes, when she’s angry at Jonathan for no reason, she’ll start wondering aloud if Pope Francis might be “the breath of fresh air the Catholic church needs right now.” Can you imagine?
Executive #1: (Dryly) I can’t
Executive #2: (losing interest) Tell us about the kids? Any deviant behavior?
Maria: Well, their preschooler dropped the f-bomb at school the other day.
This is met with nods of approval from the executives
Maria: But she’s really the only challenge. The other three are a delight. They like to have dinner together as a family. And put together Legos.
Maria notices them squinting with disapproval
Maria: But when the mom has something in the evenings Jonathan often takes them to Chick-Fil-A for dinner.
Executive #1: Hmmm. What can we work with here? Tell us about his right wing writing? Does he advocate the summary execution of all who don’t have blond hair and blue eyes? Is he into a Handmaid’s Tale sort of thing?
Maria: Nope. Just interested in enforcing the Constitution. He sees our system of government as being designed to protect the people from a tyrannical government and believes that as we grant the government more and more power we have less and less freedom. (Again notices their interest visibly wane and throws up a feeble Hail Mary) They gave away fruit snacks this Halloween instead of candy.
Executive #1: I’ve gotta be honest. I don’t really see a show here.
Executive #2: Me either. This is a hard pass.
Maria: I think we have a lot of places we can go with their last name.
Executive #1: Was that a pun?
Maria: No. I think there is some real potential there. Which Last is First? The First Street Lasts. Lasting Family Values.
Executive #2: The Last King of Scotland? Does he have a murderous, ragey side to him?
Maria: No, but he does have a murderous rage simmering inside him at all times. Justifiably, I might add.
Executive #2: But he’s not physically violent?
Executive #1: Hmmm. I’m still a pass.
Executive #2: Me too. Call us if their fifth child is born with lizard parts. I’d be interested in that.