TV Party
  Sunday   September 14, 1997




The Usual Suspects

It was party time at my place tonight: several members of my sitcom writers mailing list came over for an Emmy Awards party.

Why here? Satellite TV, baby. There's nothing quite like the excitement of watching the live east coast feed of an awards show instead of the 3-hour delayed west coast feed. It ratchets the suspense up to a nerve-wrenching level, makes all the jokes that much funnier, gives Bryant Gumble a suave and ever so sophisticated air, and lets you feel like you're RIGHT THERE AS IT HAPPENS. Yawn. I knew having DTV would come in handy someday, but I didn't know I'd have to change my definition of "handy" for that to happen.

I didn't mind having everyone over for this, but it's not the kind of thing I'd have gone to if it were at someone else's house. Unless I or someone I know is up for an award, I just can't bring myself to care about it. Sure, tell me what shows won Emmys so I'll know which ones I should spec, but ask me to watch the winners accept their awards? Why?

And yet the airwaves are full of them. Emmys, Oscars, People's Choice, MTV, a different country music affair every two weeks... There must be a market for it; people must be watching them. So I've finally done my duty as an Amurrican citizen: I've watched the Emmys from stem to stern. Now that it's out of the way I will never watch it ever again -- until I'm in the running.

Now I'm left with the detritus of the party. It illustrates for me how much life has changed. Back in my frat days we used to throw parties for purely selfish reasons: leftovers. A good bash could supply us with enough beer and sandwiches and chips to feed us for a week. In those days I used to live on twenty bucks a week -- a few bucks for burritos and the rest for beer -- so that post-party bounty was pure gravy. I look at all the chips and sodas and cake and whatnot cluttering my kitchen tonight and remember that fifteen years ago it would have been Fat City. Now it's just a mess.

I've moved so far from those Thin City days that we were actually begging people to take leftovers home with them: "Please take the cake. Please take the four pound bag of pretzels. Please take this extra package of hot dogs." And they were refusing. None of us wanted any of it for the same reason: we'll eat it and get fat. What used to be the prize is now the hot potato.

Parties are different from the old days, too. Back then the goal was to get drunk and stupid, to play loud music, maybe get in a fight, and definitely to get laid. Now they're all about background mood music, drinking coffee and wine, having actual conversations, getting to bed before midnight for a good night's sleep.

Tonight's party was removed that much more from the old days because it wasn't even about talking. I had gathered a group of aspiring sitcom writers for the sole purpose of watching TV, and that not even for entertainment. We were all, I'm willing to bet, watching as a career move of sorts, trying to soak up random bits of showbiz aura in order to make us feel closer to, perhaps even a part of, the world we want to work in. We sat in front of the tube and didn't really talk to each other and moved only during commercials and everyone went home when the show was over. It was the quietest party I've ever been to.

Young Chuck is appalled at that. If he were here I wouldn't bother trying to explain it to him because he wouldn't understand. What I would do is try to get him to take that damned cake home.





Copyright 1997
Chuck Atkins