Reality Show: “1,000 Lbs of Love”

This project has been funded by a broadcast network, but is awaiting the signing of the two protagonists in the show.

A special RV sits in Van Buren, Maine, in the farthest north-east corner of the continental U.S. Another waits in Imperial Beach, California, south of San Diego and Chula Vista, in the farthest south-west corner of the country. 3,459 miles separate the two vehicles and their human cargos.

On each RV, built to take the load, lies an individual weighing in at 500 lbs exactly. Myrtle and Fred.

Also on-board each RV, an MD specializing in extreme weight loss, and a lab capable of monitoring body chemistry during the weight-loss process.

The two RVs will set out and head for the opposite corner of the country. They’ll pass each other at the half-way point, on the outskirts of Rolla, Missouri, where they will stop briefly while Myrtle and Fred meet first the first time. Up until now, it’s all been email, IM, Facebook, tweets, and Skype.

From the outset, the RVs will progress slowly, because by the time they reach Rolla, Fred and Myrtle will weigh only 300 pounds each.

The skin is the body’s largest organ. Lose several hundred pounds and you will discover your skin organ hanging in folds. In Rolla, a plastic surgeon will tighten up Fred and Myrtle from head to toe. Bariatric surgery. The couple will be doing a lot of pain killers. These will provide their face-to-face interactions at a rustic picnic ground with a dreamlike quality.

The show: many ups and downs. Many highs and lows. Fred looses 80 pounds and realizes that, at 420 pounds, he is still far from his goal of 165. He rebels but his contract with the network is air-tight. The producers can starve him at will, as long as they don’t actually kill him. Four thuglike individuals follow the RV in a Crown Vic all the way across the U.S., for the purpose of strapping Fred down to his bed when necessary.

Myrtle tries to apply makeup for her first appearance on the show. At 500 pounds, she has a lot of face space to fill in with her liquid foundation. She runs out before she gets any lower than her nose.

In Pharisburg, Ohio, Fred sees a part of himself long hidden from direct view. He is impressed.

Time and again, Fred and Myrtle talk about food, but the network must cut away on the basis of good taste.

Reality Show: “Stretch”

I was paid an obscene amount, just for the idea. Let me know if you like the show when it airs.

Ten men, all 6′ 8″ or taller. Single, good looking, and looking. Ten women, all 5′ or shorter, ditto.

The twenty of them are brought together at a luxury resort located in northern Georgia but not too close to Atlanta.

For ten weeks we watch the group in the pool, frolicing. This includes on-the-shoulders team wrestling. We see the gleaming bodies on the lounges at poolside. There is horseback riding. Horseshoes and crocquet and volleyball. Cocktails before dinner. We see couples dancing on the patio under a full moon. Always, onscreen, the women craning their necks, the men peering down at the top of the ladies’ heads, seeing the ladies dramatically foreshortened from crown to toes, with the parts in between, like the women’s noses, for example,  sticking out. If you’ve ever tried to draw foreshortened nudes in a life class, you know what I’m talking about.

The women are a collection of professionals. Doctors, lawyers, and college professors, like that. The men work with their hands. We see that the women often wear wedgies, even in the most casual of settings, but somehow the shoes make them look even shorter, as they’re up on their toes a little. The men go barefoot. One time a guy steps on a rock and one of the women takes his foot in her hands and she can’t begin to get her fingers around the whole thing.

The first “couple” to happen is Louise, a government economist, and Jake, listed as a roustabout. We see them from a distance, out in the garden at dusk. Jake has lifted Louise to stand on the ping-pong table so that they can have a conversation.

The show is really just about how this is going to work. We know that we’re probably not going to get to see it, even if the action goes a little blue at the end, but it’s like a car wreck. Hard to look away.

Reality Show: “The Love Trip”

Five men and five women in a deluxe RV, traveling from New York to Hollywood. Purpose of the trip: Love.

The men and women have been carefully chosen from a pool of thousands of applicants. Although they don’t know it, they share a common characteristic. They are all profoundly disinterested in sex.

They aren’t phobic. There are no psychoses. These are simply the ten least libidinally motivated heterosexuals available in all the general Reality public.

The ten think that the man and woman on this trip who couple up and discover truest, deepest love will “win.” They don’t know that the actual winners will be the first couple to have surreptitious sex – sex that they believe, wrongly, will be off-camera.

How will the physical act creep up on these folks, who never even think about it? Take Nigel, for example. He was in a two-year relationship with a young woman who had no natural lubrication. Nigel didn’t know about lubrication – still doesn’t – and his mate didn’t either. Folks used to go and get a lube job for their cars from time to time, along with an oil change, but nobody knows about that these days. Anyway, after two years of desert-dry, chafing, prickly, raw intercourse, Nigel lost all interest in ever doing it again, with anybody.

Similarly, Enid. She was introduced to the act of love by a fellow so proportionally outsized that once they were done and she could walk normally again, Enid unconsciously removed all further questions, desires, and plans for a repeat from her mental equipment.

Obviously, nothing would happen on this RV trip without a little help from the producers. Without intervention, there would be no winners and, of course, no tape of the winning maneuvers.

Intervention One: Clothing Malfunction in Mt. Giliad, Ohio. The participants are told that body lice have been discovered on the vehicle and every scrap of clothing and bedding must be steam-cleaned immediately. They wheel into the Sunnyside Naturist Garden for their layover. The ten contestents now discover/experience each other on a dermatological level while playing volleyball and swimming in the heated pool. Due to broadcast restrictions, even on Starz, we see most of this from the rear.

Intervention Two: “Getting to know you better” games played from Swayzee, Indiana to Doolittle, Missouri. The games are introduced and played during a quick clothing recall/inspection to confirm that the lice have been truly licked.

Intervention Three: Drugs at the Seama Rest Stop on I40 in New Mexico. The producers throw up their hands at this point and slip powerful drugs into the contestants’ roadside picnic dinner. Within an hour after sunset, five couples are mating like rabbits and the producers must do a frame-by-frame analysis of the tapes to determine who started first and thus “won.”

The mood on the RV is light and anticlimactic from New Mexico to Hollywood.

My First Reality Show

Well, my first reality show, “Walk the Walk,” is in production. It will pay me enough to live well for a year.

It was easy. Just get that initial concept, pitch it to the right guys, and you’re in.

“Walk the Walk” is so simple. Each episode begins with five guys in Central Park. In the first episode, they’re furniture movers, real professional guys, all single or divorced. Each one gets a celebrity. He takes her up in his arms and starts walking north out of the park. Maybe one of the guys gets an Uma Thurman or a Kirstie Alley – you know, a real horse – to provide us with a laugh as we watch the guy lugging her like a couch, but for the rest, it’s just normal-sized women stars. No Calista Flockharts or other lightweights with an obvious eating disorder.

So off go these guys, and they can’t put their woman down. Nature takes its course and the guys get more and more tired. Their arms are falling off, for Pete’s sake. The women try to encourage them, keep them going, because there is a prize involved. One woman might insult her guy, call him weak, impugn his manhood, threaten him, so forth. Another might nuzzle him, make promises, anything to keep him from dropping her.

So this goes on as they leave the park and head north on 7th Avenue. Destination: the Bronx Zoo, which is one hell of a hike. One by one, the guys crap out, until there is only one left with a star in his arms. It’s summer and he’s sweating bullets. But now he doesn’t have to cradle her. Now he can carry her piggyback, or reverse-piggyback in front, or on his shoulders. She’s up there with her thighs around his ears, him trudging along through Harlem at two in the morning. The show isn’t on Starz, so we only go so far with the cheese.

They talk. The show is all about them getting to know each other, their hopes, their dreams. The sweat keeps coming. They get a bathroom break at Yankee Stadium. The guy is a mess, which makes him drop his social defenses and get more animal in his conversation. The celebrity is moved by this on a libidinal level. It’s like a damned movie to her.

If they make it to the zoo, they get a free weekend at a B&B in Mamaroneck, which is up on the way to Stamford. The camera doesn’t follow them but as the show’s credits are rolling, we check back with the guy Monday morning as he goes out with his van to help a retired couple move from their apartment in the East 60s over to Bushwick, to be closer to their grandchildren.

Snacking in front of the TV

Sitting on the couch, watching TV and movies with others, I never snack. Alone, I must snack. Why is this?

I can’t just sit in front of the screen twiddling my thumbs, can I? I don’t knit or crochet or tat or whittle. Sorting and folding the wash doesn’t take very long. I don’t like to iron in front of the tube. Personal grooming is out in the family room. I can pet the cat, but not for an hour. Snacking is the go-to activity. I’m accomplishing something: I’m eating and drinking. Or is this not a habit, but a compulsion? Are my motivations darker? Loneliness? Comfort needed in the dark of night? Sublimation of other appetites? Boredom? Ennui? Is my snacking influenced by what’s on-screen, by whether I’m watching Criterion or zombies?

Ignoring the case where meals are eaten in front of the screen (no longer the tube, except for some of us) – meals are a whole different animal from snacks – I’m figuring that snacking is not an optimally healthful activity. I could be using hand-weights. I could be doing TV yoga. Why eat? And why eat salty snax instead of carrot sticks, almonds, Rye Crisp? Why alcohol instead of whey milk? Why grass instead of tobacco? Ok, that last one is easy.

I took a quick poll around me at work, but rats, it’s not simple. I was hoping for an easy two-kinds-of-people-in-the-world model, populated by those who snack alone and those who snack with others, in front of the screen. Instead, I get is a dichotomous planet inhabited by those who eat popcorn and those who don’t. What kind of a crazy divide is that, anyway? I get some who will snack only when alone, TV or no TV. I’m not that restricted. These loners with their mouths full are today’s version of troglodytous ancestors who, when they brought down the warthog single-handedly, would drag it back to the cave to be converted into jerky and consumed solo while star-watching on summer nights. Star-watching while jerky-eating, but also while listening to the embarassing sounds coming from the caves of others.

Others will snack only when not alone, as when the tribe gathers around the cooking pot wherein the hapless explorer sits up to his neck in soup liqours.

But between these two extreme poles of TV snacking behavior, there lies a multi-dimensioned spectrum of munching viewers. My assistant in the examination of this spectrum posted a query that resulted in these responses.

Later. The results of my extensive polling. I list the snackers in descending order of sanity:

1. Those who snack because they are hungry, or at least a little peckish.
2. Those who snack because friends are over and you’ve got to put something out for them, don’t you?
3. Those who snack for revenge, or out of deep shame, or as a howl of rage at the meaninglessness of Life.
4. Those who snack to improve the quality of their favorite TV sitcom.
5. Those who will only snack while holding a small stuffed animal.


I saw my first movie in HD – well, about 30 seconds of a movie – maybe five years ago when I went over to a guy’s house for a poker game. I got there early and he was sitting in his recliner in front of a huge screen on which Clint Eastwood approached a door and knocked. The wood around the door frame needed paint. I found myself ignoring Clint and studying the frame. Was it part of a set, painted well enough for a regular movie but not for HD? Was it purposely shabby, to make a point? Or was it just what it was because it was, and now I could just see what that was, whereas in the past it would have looked like a plain old vanilla white-painted door frame?… The guy in the recliner had a bookcase full of DVDs next to him, a collection which as we conversed I could tell he directed a serious attitude toward. That is the night when I first realized that there was/were a growing number of folks with DVDcases in the living room instead of bookcases. E.T. instead of Hawthorne. Schindler’s List instead of Dreiser… So now I’ve had my second HD experience, sitting on the couch at my son’s house watching a World Series game with him and my nephew. None of us had sat in front of a sporting event in memory, alone or with other guys, and maybe we were a bit unsure about how to handle the expected manly, yee-hah, Apatow, Rogen aspects of the situation. The HD though: there is a lot of spitting in baseball, of spittle, sunflower-seed shells, tobacco juice. It was all there on the big screen, along with sweat sheen, sweat spray, sweat drips, open pores, and endless shots of morose fans. Note to self: avoid porn in HD at all costs.