From high atop the back seat of the longest limousine in North America, network nabob William S. Silverspoon growled memoranda into his walky-talky dictaphone. His secretary, seated next to him, was staring at the TV set mounted near the bullet-proof tinted windows; it was tuned to the network's daytime soaps.
Miss Pfoofer, will you turn off that meretricious slop? I'm trying to think," Silverspoon growled. "There. Now. Memo to all the boys in corporate planning: 'Way to go, guys, getting that 53rd hostage sprung from Iran! Now I want this one played to beat the band, or to beat "The Waltons" anyway. More features, more interviews, some sobbing relations on camera. Remember, if they don't cry on camera, they're going right on the cutting room floor, and I mean, quickso-fasto.'
"Now, special to Brandon Kiddycar, program director: 'Brandon! What have you got -- eggs in your head? Rocks in your beer? Rats in the belfry? This hostage thing is the biggest bonanza in years and we're not taking utmost advantage of it! The other networks are bleeding it dry while we exhibit all the smarts of Sheriff Lobo!
'I want our programming department to come up with as many series projects as they can based on the hostage crisis. I'm talking shows with quality -- the quality of appealing to all those cluck-clucks out there in television land. Gut-wrenching, heart-pounding, deodorant-selling stuff. I can see it now -- "Charlie's Hostages!" "Fifty-Two's Company!" "Games Militants Play!" We'll turn that Ayatollah Khomeini into a regular J. R. Ewing!
'I want the Love Boat hijacked at sea by Iranian terrorists and held until after the May sweeps.I want Tattoo seized by fanatics and locked in a filing cabinet -- no, make that a picnic basket -- on "Fantasy Island." Get at least one hostage a week on "The Hollywood Squares." Book a few on "Name That Tune." Wait, I've got it: "Name That Hostage!" I'm telling you, America will scarf it down like a Pop-Tart!'
"All right. Now, memo to Crude Yardage, director of news: 'Crude, you've done a wonderful job in milking this thing for all it's worth. I don't have to tell you that the stockholders would kiss your feet if you ever had occasion to slip those elevator Guccis off and relax.
'But Crude, I'm worried about the ratings of our late-night news show, "Wats-Line," now that the crisis is over. So here's what I want you to do. "Starting next Monday, we'll rerun the whole thing, one night at a time. We'll call it "The Best of America-Held-Hostage." My stars and garters, we'll get another 444 nights of terror, heartache and suspense out of this baby and it won't cost us a cent. And Crude, have Ted Topple spend a few more minutes in makeup, will you? That son of a seacock looks like Rootie Kazootie on the air.
'Obviously the competition is going to be snatching up all the hostages and hostage families they can get their hands on.Contact as many hostages as you can and get them to sign exclusive agreements with our "Chins Up, America" show. Have the promotion department make up some ads that say something like, "Our hostages have grislier tales than their hostages" -- you know, something tasteful that'll whack 'em right over the head with the general idea.
'Take a cue from those lousy local stations. Get interviews with shrinks who talked to the hostages, Joe Blows who waved at the hostages, Army types who guarded the hostages. Put anybody on the blooming air who ever even heard of the blankety-blank hostages!
'Oh, by the way, get ahold of Hostage Central and see how many hostages are available during sweep months so we can clobber the competition. I want hostages who know how to project -- especially the ones with weepy relatives and sexy girlfriends. We'll need them on our prestigious news magazine show, "20/40," which as you know, of course, stands for "20 Rating, 40 Share."
'And don't forget, you're supposed to be doing a special report on how the hostages are being hounded and exploited by the media. Follow them everywhere and get as many shots as you can of the other networks following them everywhere. We'll put it on after about a month -- "Day 30, Media Crisis, The Hostages Held Hostage." And if the other guys sign up more hostages than we do, put on another special report -- "Hostage Contracts: The Secret Negotiations."
'And Crude, since you're also head of the sports division, I want you to put together a prime-time special: "Battle of the Network Hostages." I'm telling you, this is what America wants to see. And since there were only two women hostages, throw in a few starlets in wet T-shirts, just to keep things, heh-heh-heh, interesting. Call them "refugees from the ratings wars" or some other crud.
'Oh, and you boys in programming, don't forget about developing TV movies, and not just "Escape From Tehran," "Escape From Algiers", and "Escape From the Network News Boys," either. Turn those German nurses in Wiesbaden into regular Florence Nightingowns. But have there be one kinky Nazi in the group, just for safekeeping. You boys know as well as I do that nothing adds ratings points like a Nazi or two.
'Well I guess that does it. In closing, let me --' Miss Pfoofer, what is that you're watching? A presidential press conference? Turn it off, I've got important business to conduct here! The future of the country? Now don't bother you're pretty little head about the future of the country. We're talking about the future of my contract!
"Kiss me, Miss Pfoofer. I feel lucky. Mmmmmm-wah!"