The Final Twenty

 This happened to me a little while back.
I think I’m ready to talk about it now…

I looked around the room. There was twenty of us. Quite a lot of them had suits on. And one girl had a briefcase. A BRIEF CASE. I felt a bit ridiculous in my tartan trousers and Beastie Boys t shirt as they were all glaring at me.

But I was there. Too late to worry about that. The last guy to walk in was wearing a pair of jeans so I felt a bit better.

We glanced around at each other. So awkward. A bit of small talk here and there.
Then in walked the four judges.

“Welcome.” one man said, his teeth clenched into an insincere smile. “Let me just start by saying – you are all brilliant.”

“Yes.” Said another man with a ridiculously large pair of plastic framed glasses and a plaid shirt buttoned to the top of his neck and the skinniest jeans I’ve ever seen. “You’ve all done amazingly well to get this far.”
Introductions were made.
We were told how we’d beaten hundreds of others to become the ‘final twenty’.

“We all know how great you are. But there can only be one who will get their dream realised today. It’ll be a hard decision but hey – that’s TV.”

Then came the job description.
Oh yeah, that’s right.
Did I mention this was a job interview?

Yeah… I know…

I was led off for a one-on-one. Everyone else was left waiting. I was stuck in a room with ridiculous-glasses-man and another dude with his shirt buttoned all the way to the top.

“Hi (scans my printed off cv for my name)… Lex. (it says Lexi on my cv. no need to shorten it. we’re not friends)…thanks for coming in. I know we said 15 min for one on one but we’re in a hurry so we only have five minutes.

“Ok thats the small talk done… Hah…(I didn’t laugh) So mate… you want to be a tv researcher?”
No mate, I AM one.
“What would make you a good person to work in TV?”
Probably the same reasons I’ve managed to keep employed in TV for the past decade for. I must be doing something right…
“So – we loved your pitches.”
“Can you talk us through the inspiration for them?”

You gave me a brief. I filled it. An entertainment show. I decided on a dating show. I called it “Do You Still Fancy Me?”.  And here I am.

They asked my favourite shows… after a fanatical speech about ‘Countdown To Murder’ and in amongst others I mentioned ‘Take Me Out’ as a guilty pleasure. This made the pair a bit irritated for some reason.

“It’s not a guilty pleasure. It’s a great show. Amazing format. It’s genius.” (It’s not genius… but OK. Got it. We all *heart* Take Me Out.)

“Cool. Well that’s all we need to know. (Did we learn anything new here?) if you could go and just hang out til midday (it’s 10.05) we will come get you from the room.

So two and a half hours later (Yup. They left us for an extra half hour for some reason) the judge dudes returned.

Some strange lad in a suit turned to me excitedly and said “This is where the competition heats up.”
I thought he was going to wet himself.
The groups were divided into two.
I was led into a glass box with nine others and two ‘judges’.

The next “round” was to pitch an existing tv show to the room like it was our own.
Everyone had cue cards and notes for their pitches. I didn’t. Sh*t…
The first girl got up. She pitched “Deal or No Deal” to us.
She was timed to strictly two minutes. One of the ‘judges’ had a stop watch.
Then – to my horror – we were asked to perform a Q&A session.
One person asked “Who is going to present Deal or No Deal?”
The girl replied “Erm (pausing for faux thought) I think Noel Edmonds is a fantastic choice”

I did not participate in the Q&A.

I sat through several other pitches (six Come Dine With Mes, two Take Me Outs and a rather brilliant one-man re-enactment of Faking It) complete with Q&As.

I still did not participate in the Q&As.

The ‘judges’ seemed very busy on their blackberries for the majority of the presentations. And writing on a notepad and showing the other whilst giggling. It reminded me of myself and my mate Lottie at school during double Maths on Fridays… not listening.

Then it was my turn.
I stood up, coughed and began…

“Real life sucks. The news is always bad and the television is filled with gritty reality. Sometimes we need a release. An adventure.

“I present to you… the phenomenon that is the rise of the lovely time.

“More and more shows are giving us a glimpse of people just having a nice time. Such as Michael Palin and his trains, Ewan McGregor on his motorcycle cruising around and not to mention David Dimbleby and his boats. So now I’d like to take you on another adventure. A sweet and crumbly one. Let’s all escape into the wonderful world of Nigel Slater and his Great British Biscuit!”

I sat down.
What more was there to say?
Nigel Slater and Biscuits.
Job done.
Show booked.
No brainer.

Oh man.
I forgot.
Time for the f*cking Q&A.
A dude in a suit put up his hand.
“Is there potential for this to be a series?”
“No.” I quickly responded. “It’s a one off.”
Then one of the judges slow clapped. The rest of the room clapped.
“Thanks Lex. (where on earth did my ‘i’ go?!) never heard of that show… Nigel Slater is a bit of a creep though.”

Then we were all led back into the holding room and asked to wait while they decided who was going through to the next “round”. That’s right. Only ten of us were going to survive the next chop. I’m most probably not going to be one of them.

They left us for ninety minutes in that room. NINETY minutes.

Is this really what the world of TV employment was becoming? If I wanted to be humiliated and pushed around I’d have applied to be on X Factor. But all I wanted was to be employed. To put food on the table and pay my rent. And do a job I love. This process was starting to make me fall out of love with my career a little bit.

Then the ‘judges’ eventually came in and read out to the whole room (so unnecessarily brutal) the list of names who were through. Everyone else was free to go. Ten years working in television, perhaps thirty or so job interviews and I’ve never been put through anything like that. I was a little bit relieved when my name wasn’t read out. I’ll admit, I did cry a little once I’d left. More out of feeling completely empty and drained after being made to sit around for four hours for a five minute interview and a humiliating two minute pitch. I couldn’t have gone through anymore.

A few days later I got an email. Apologising that the day “hadn’t gone as I would have hoped” and thanked me “again for showing an interest, we’re sure we’ll see you again in TV land sometime…”

Which was just as big a kick in the stomach as the whole process had been anyway, so an apt way to end the ordeal.

So I went back on my merry way through “TV Land”… (who says that?)

Anyway, who’d want to work for anyone who calls Nigel Slater a creep?


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