Oliver Lee Bateman has just invented the greatest TV show in the history of mankind.
If you’re anything like me, you undoubtedly spend most of your waking hours daydreaming about how to earn a lot of money without doing a lot of work — or any work, for that matter. But how, pray tell? There’s the lottery, but only experienced gamblers and number-crunchers ever win that one. What about slam-jamming it home in the NBA? Not if you’re under 8’9″. Professional Madden 2012 player? Nah, you lack the manual dexterity to “juke” all those 99-rated linebackers. Hardgaining and “Hydroxycutting” on the bodybuilding circuit? Sorry, friend — with a puny frame like yours, expect a lifetime of brawny bullies kicking sand into your face whenever you visit one of our nation’s many splendid public beaches.
So what’s left? Are you doomed to a life without such finer things as imported buffalo mozzarella, growlers of stone-ground milkweed beer, and carbon offset credits? Fear not, for there’s still one way to make good on your promise: You can invent the greatest TV show in the history of mankind. Sound difficult? Not in the least. In fact, I’ll walk you through the process.
Step one: You need to pick a plausible “high concept” — something very relatable, very now. Let’s brainstorm for a minute. What’s relatable and now? High school, for one. Almost everybody is trying to emulate those cool kids who comprise our nation’s latest youth movement. And what do those cool high school kids have that the clueless old fogeys in our target demographic want? The latest in advanced technology: iPads, Facebook, Angry Birds, unlaced high-top shoes, do-rags, boomboxes, scooters, neon shades and so much other great stuff. There you have it: Our soon-to-be smash hit “The Tech Boyzz” (the second “z” is for marketing purposes) is ready for development.
Step two: Now it’s time to come up with the aesthetic for our show. Let’s make this one of those “documentary-style” sitcoms that viewers seem to love so much these days, except we’ll give it an incredibly intrusive laugh track that will remind out-of-touch losers like your parents when they need to start guffawing. No one will ever explain, even in passing, why the show is being filmed this way — it’s just a vehicle for our cute-as-a-button lead Tech Boy to wink, wink, wink at the camera and pretend to be a 16-year-old despite the fact that he’s pushing 40. In fact, we want all of the actors playing these characters to be industry veterans, because who better than an established, middle-aged thespian to play a horndog teenager? We’ll give preference to actors who have spent their entire careers playing such horndog teenage roles, because that will make their new, identical roles easier for our realism-obsessed viewers to swallow.
Step three: Okay, it’s time to sketch out the dramatis personae. Based on their preference for well-developed characters like Charlie Harper and that other, wimpier guy from “Two and a Half Men,” it’s clear that our viewers have high expectations in this regard. But don’t worry, because we’re about to render our Tech Boyzz as vividly as if they were recurring players in the beloved daily comic “Gil Thorp” (or, better still, “Mary Worth”).
The four main Boyzz are Lance, Dance, Chance and Rance. They want the same things that all kids in their age group want: to get picked first in gym class, land a hot date for the prom, and have hours of downtime to play Madden 2012. The personalities of these kids are totally unique, which you’ll be able to tell from the clothing they wear.
Rance is real cool and always wears his favorite pair of neon shades. Dance is also extremely cool and doesn’t go anywhere without his favorite skateboard. Chance is a cool-as-a-cucumber customer who wears his favorite electronic keyboard around his waist at all times. And Lance, the so-cool-he’s-cowabungalicious leader of the group, wears his ball cap backwards and carries around his favorite scooter. Thanks to our research in the public schools of tomorrow, their language is “with it” too. They’re always saying cool new phrases like “L-O-L,” “O-M-G,” “S-M-H” and “L-M-F-A-O” to one another. Imagine the catchphrase potential!
Step four: Here’s where we’ll need to come up with some gripping stories to move “The Tech Boyzz” from episode one to episode 22. This can be a bit of a pain, since it involves a modicum of actual work, but our high concept is so good that the show will more or less write itself.
In the first episode, Rance will find himself struggling to finish his term paper in time for the big dance. The paper is about the Pilgrims — see, that means we can rerun this as our Thanksgiving special — and there appears to be no way that he can get it done. But then he decides to use his cellular phone — the kids have “cellys” with which they “hit up” one another — and “hits up” Dance, who comes over and connects his 14.4 bps MAX modem to the World Wide Web. Even with Rance’s mom getting super crabby about their hogging the phone line because she needs to call to make her hair appointment, they manage to use the Mosaic web browser and the Gopher protocol to copy and paste some facts into Rance’s report — just in the nick of time, too.
In another episode, the Tech Boyzz are at a showing of one of those asteroid disaster movies that are all the rage right now. The movie is okay, but the Tech Boyzz want to gossip about school stuff. They try to talk in the theater, only to have a jerky grown-up shush them. Suddenly, Chance has a killer idea: He uses his “celly” to send a text to Lance. OMG! Problem solved. Score another one for the Tech Boyzz.
And the tech-themed plot lines go on and on like that. The pedagogical value of the show is tremendous in terms of teaching kids about the latest technologies, so there shouldn’t be a problem getting it into schools. As far as I can tell, it’s a fantastic idea with huge upside potential and absolutely no downside risk. Once you’ve sold it and made your millions, you can “dial up” the Internet and “electronic-mail” us a thank-you letter.
An earlier version of this post appeared in The Pitt News on October 4, 2011.
Illustration–Danielle Hu, for The Pitt News