Technically, the tv show based on Notes From the Underbelly is a comedy, but you would never know it from the drama that’s going on behind the scenes. Here’s what happened this week: Tuesday afternoon, I’m minding my own business, picking my daughter up from preschool, when a dad of one of her classmates stops me in the hallway. He looks grim. He asks me if I’ve heard the news. I’m thinking someone died. Maybe one of the kids got hurt. My heart starts to beat a little faster as I shake my head no. Consolingly, he puts his hand on my shoulder and informs me that Amercian Idol is expanding it’s Wednesday night results show from a half hour to a full hour. It’s going to be on from nine o’clock until ten o’clock. Starting when? I ask him. April eleventh, he says with a sigh. He read about it in Variety just a few minutes ago. Apparently, everyone in LA reads Variety, even if they’re not in entertainment. Except for me.
Now, this is bad news. Really bad news. Notes From the Underbelly is supposed to be on at nine thirty on Wednesday nights, starting April eleventh, which means it will be smack up against American Idol. Every show that’s ever gone up against American Idol has gotten clobbered in the ratings, and then promptly canceled. American Idol is the television equivalent of a nuclear bomb. It’s a WMD – a weapon of media destruction. I needed to know if this was true, and what it would mean for us, so I called the producer of the show, who just had a baby three weeks ago. Her assistant tells me she’s checking in but isn’t in the office, and she’ll have her call me back. Damn. I call my agent, but he’s at lunch. Damn. I take my kids to a playdate at another kids’ house, where I spend half an hour trying to look up the Variety article on my Blackberry while my son, who I am totally ignoring, quietly destroys the living room of this poor woman’s house.
Finally, my phone rings. It’s my agent. Well, technically, it’s my agent’s assistant, calling to tell me that my agent would like to speak to me. At which point my agent gets on the phone, and doesn’t even say hello. They’re making American Idol an hour, he explains. I cut him off mid-sentence to tell him I already know, I’ve been informed by the preschool paparazzi. He starts yelling, like Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire. THEY’RE FRIGGIN’ MOVING YOU TO THURSDAY NIGHTS AFTER GRAY’S ANATOMY. I BET YOU DIDN’T ALREADY KNOW THAT. BACK TO BACK EPISODES AT TEN AND TEN-THIRTY. HOW’S THAT FOR NEWS, HUH? NOW WHY DON’T YOU TELL YOUR WEST SIDE, PRESCHOOL BUZZKILLS TO SHOVE THEIR VARIETY SUBSCRIPTIONS UP THEIR ASSES. I’VE GOTTA’ GO. WE’LL TALK LATER.
If you’ve ever wondered if Hollywood agents are really like Ari in Entourage, the answer is yes.
I bask in the glow of this news for exactly two minutes, at which point the producer calls. I tell her I already know. It’s good, she tells me. It’s great. But it’s a lot of pressure. Before, expectations were low. Now, they’re high. Really high. So now there’s a new stress. Now, if nobody watches the show, it won’t be because nobody saw it. It’ll be because it’s bad. But at least I won’t need to check the ratings the day after it airs. I can just find out when I drop my daughter off at preschool.