YOU CAN GO in now," the Secretary told 1977, who was nervously sitting on the couch in the outer office.
He went into the large office where the Chairman of the Board was signing some letters. "I'll be with you in a moment," he said. When he finally looked up his eyes were glacial.
"I regret to inform you, '77, that the board has decided, as of Dec. 31, you will no longer be in charge of the network."
"Then the rumours in The New York Times were true. You're getting rid of me."
"I'm sorry about it appearing in The New York Times before I had a chance to tell you personally. But I assure you the leak did not come from this office."
"I did a good job," '77 protested. "I took a network that was floundering without direction and started to rebuild it. I have a lot of plans for us."
"No one is criticizing you, '77," the Chairman said. "But we have to go by the ratings." He picked up a chart. "In January hopes were high, and we were No. 1. But by March we began to slip. People started tuning out on us all this fall. Now we're at the bottom of the chart. We have to think of the advertisers."
"But I gave you a new President of the United States, a dramatic meeting with Sadat and Begin, a possible SALT Treaty and a blackout in New York City. If that wasn't good programming I don't know what it is."
"It didn't play in Peoria," the Chairman said.
"It had a lot of style, but no substance. Maybe it was in the casting. But except for the World Series and a few football games the public was just bored."
"I tried to keep down the violence." '77 protested. "We had no major wars to speak of. I threw in a drought or two for excitement, and a couple of earthquakes. But you yourself said the people were tired of seeing so much bad news on television."
"Perhaps we were wrong," the Chairman said. "But we gave you the ball and told you to run with it. You didn't score with anybody."
"I had only 12 months," '77 protested. "What can anyone do in 365 days? I thought the South Korean Scandal would take off. But how did I know Tongsun Park would hide in Seoul? If Bert Lance hadn't resigned we might have another Water gate. You can't blame me for things I had no control over."
"You making this very hard on me." the Chairman said. "Personally I like you, '77, and I'm sorry to see you go. But we have to think of the network. Someone has to take the blame for the apathy of the people."
"Just before you called me down I had great idea for a show," '77 pleaded. "You know the old Student Prince uniforms that Nixon bought for the guards at the White House? Well, I was going to have Carter bring them back and revive the Imperial Presidency. Then I thought we might send the U.S. Marines down to Panama and . . . "
"I'm sorry," the Chairman said. "The decision has been made. We already have your replacement."
"Have I a right to ask who it is?"
"The new head of programming will be 1978."
"1978, but he's a baby. He doesn't knowing anything about show business," '77 protested.
"Neither did you when you took over. But our search team is very high on him. If anyone can get us out of the doldrums they think he can."
"I guess that's it," '77 said getting up.
"There's one more thing. We would like you to okay this joint press release. It says you are resigning for personal and health reasons, and you wish your successor, 1978, all the luck in the coming year."
"Isn't that the same press release you issued when I took over from 1976?"
"Coming to think ofit, I believe it is."