You are newly hired as program director at a TV network. Your first assignment is to screen pilot episodes of prospective new series.
The first pilot you see is called "Miss Wellingsworth," an innovative and sophisticated drama series about an urban high school administrator. It is superbly written and acted, and has Emmy potential. However, its intelligence and sophistication makes it rather risky.
To agree to put this series on the air, turn to page 7. To reject it and move on to the next pilot, turn to page 13.
You agree to give "Miss Wellingsworth" a try for a six-week run. You stupidly schedule it to run opposite the hit medical series "Peekaboo ICU", resulting in ratings as low as that of a Jenny Jones guest's IQ. "Miss Wellingsworth" needs some way to have its ratings boosted.
To move "Miss Wellingsworth" to a different time slot, turn to page 33. To keep it in the same time slot but tamper with the its format, turn to page 41.
Having rejected "Miss Wellingsworth" due to its excessive intelligence, you watch a pilot for an action series called "Urban Vigilante," about a gun-touting accountant who, in every episode, blows away several of his city's criminals while evading the law himself. With plenty of action and plots simple enough for even you to understand, you recognize this series has such strong ratings potential that your only decision is what time to put it on.
To put it on at 8 PM, turn to page 78. To place it at 10 PM, turn to page 86.
You move "Miss Wellingsworth" from Tuesday nights to Saturday nights. It is officially in that time slot for four consecutive weeks, although you pre-empt it in the second week to air the president's State of the Union speech, and pre-empt it again the third week to air "The Cuddly Kittycats' Pre-Season Christmas Special."
The ratings of "Miss Wellingsworth" in its fourth and second week in the new slot have dropped a few points since the first week.
To leave it where it is and give it a fair chance, turn to page 56. To move it again, turn to page 70.
You order the producers of the show to fire the lead actress and replace her with Bonni Bombshell, a 21-year-old centerfold model with no acting experience but a great pair of knockers. You tell the producers to have Bonni wear provocative outfits in every episode.
You also insist upon adding a laugh track, despite the fact that it's a drama series.
Turn to page 256.
"Miss Wellingsworth" gets by with ratings just barely high enough to break even. You get a brainstorm; a rare occurrence in the TV industry. It occurs to you that one way to help boost Miss Wellingsworth's ratings is to arrange for your own network's news program to do a "special report" about the series. Of course, integrity would be compromised by allowing advertising to masquerade as news.
On the other hand, it would work.
To do what would work, turn to page 171. To do what wouldn't work, turn to page 215.
You move "Miss Wellingsworth" to Thursdays at 9, then to Sundays at 7, then to Wednesdays at 10, then back to Thursdays at 9; all within the course of two months. After all that shuffling around, even the show's biggest fans can't find it and the ratings plunge.
Now that the ratings have dropped, you decide that the show is a "flop" and promptly axe it.
Turn to page 285.
"Urban Vigilante" becomes an overnight sensation and quickly develops a loyal following among kids of all ages. Your network soon rakes in additional profits from sales of "Urban Vigilante" action figures and lunch boxes.
On the down side, you receive numerous complaints claiming that this series might have contributed to the latest schoolyard shooting.
To ignore the complaints, turn to page 90. To respond by toning down the show's violence, turn to page 102.
Unfortunately, 10 PM is past the bedtimes of most of the viewers who "Urban Vigilante" would have appealed to, and it performs poorly in the slot.
You have no choice but to blow away "Urban Vigilante" and turn to page 113.
"Urban Vigilante" continues to generate top ratings. However, in subsequent months there is an alarming increase in copycat crimes that were obviously inspired by the series.
Because you continued to ignore the complaints, pressure groups contact the FCC. The FCC responds by passing new regulations. They order you to either cancel "Urban Vigilante" immediately or to pay a 6 million dollar fine.
To cancel "Urban Vigilante," turn to page 113. To keep it on and pay the fine, turn to page 124.
You order the producers of "Urban Vigilante" not to do any more episodes involving bombings, shootings, or violence of any sort. Also, you insist that the main character no longer carries a gun.
In all subsequent episodes, Urban Vigilante thwarts criminals by giving them very stern lectures.
Soon, fans notice that "Urban Vigilante" doesn't seem to pack as much punch as it used to. The ratings rapidly plummet and you have no choice but to axe it.
"Urban Vigilante" is sold into syndication, and local stations throughout the country broadcast reruns every day at 4 PM.
Turn to page 113.
Having cancelled "Urban Vigilante," you now need a new series to put in its place. You screen 36 pilot tapes, and narrow your choices down to the only two that you could understand.
One is called "The Maple Clan," a drama about a large, closely-knit family in Vermont struggling to make ends meet in the 1980's. The other is "Truly Criminal," a "reality-based" program featuring graphic re-enactments of violent crimes.
To put on "The Maple Clan," turn to page 145. To put on "Truly Criminal," turn to page 156.
You pay the FCC their 6 million, but continue airing the series. Since the sponsors of "Urban Vigilante" pay your network a combined total of 37 million every week, the FCC fine hardly makes a dent.
A group called "Nice People for the Eradication of Fictional Depictions of Violence" holds a demonstration in front of your station. The police arrive and beat the crap out of them, causing them to forget all about their concerns about fictional violence.
In the meantime, "Urban Vigilante" continues to achieve big ratings, so you put on 18 other shows just like it.
Turn to page 357.
"The Maple Clan" begins airing, and gets panned by TV critics, all of whom think that they're being witty by calling it "syrupy." Nevertheless, it gets fairly good ratings.
However, your network gets flooded with complaints from people who have never seen the show, but have a strong objections to the word "Clan."
To pull the plug on "The Maple Clan," turn to page 285. To change the show's title, turn to page 311.
"Truly Criminal" becomes the network's biggest hit. Although it's just as violent as "Urban Vigilante," the fact that it's a "reality" show gives it an illusion of being "educational," resulting in wide acceptance and few complaints about its bloody content.
You scramble to fill prime time with 27 other reality-based violent crime series and turn to page 357.
You run a "news" story to promote "Miss Wellingsworth."
Not only does this so-called "news story" help the ratings of "Miss Wellingsworth"; it also helps the ratings of your news program.
In fact, you learn that most of those Nielson families are more interested in TV-related stories than in coverage of new congressional bills or foreign wars. As a result, you restructure the news to regularly do "coverage" of your own network's TV shows. This simultaneously helps the ratings of the various TV shows being (ahem) "covered" as well as the so-called "news."
Turn to page 357.
"3600 Seconds" premieres on Thursday nights. You screen an upcoming episode segment exposing life-threatening health and safety violations at the Fonebone Corporation, which happens to be one of your network's biggest sponsors.
The ethical thing to do would be to let the segment air anyway. The profitable thing to do would be to order the segment scrapped, and replaced with an exposé of some other corporation.
To do the ethical thing, turn to page 193. To do the profitable thing, turn to page 208.
After the segment airs, the Fonebone Corporation angrily withdraws their sponsorship and threatens to sue if it ever airs again. The boss calls you into his office, then calls you several other things.
Turn to page 215.
You nix the Fonebone exposé and order the producers to replace it with something else before air time. They quickly throw together an exposé of shady dealings at Rinky-Dink, Inc.
Unfortunately, Rinky-Dink, Inc. merges with the corporation that owns the network the day before the segment airs. To make amends to the new owners, your boss makes a kind gesture of apology: he fires you and everyone connected to the show.
If you want happy endings, watch TV.
Your boss fires you and arranges to have you committed to a psychiatric institution, the only place for a TV network programmer who puts ethics ahead of profits.
The new, dumbed-down version of "Miss Wellingsworth" becomes a big hit. Soon, all the other networks try to emulate its success by producing 11 other shows about provocatively dressed public school personnel.
Alas, it's a sad state of affairs when everyone tries to duplicate a hit series instead of striving for originality.
It would be an even sadder state of affairs if you didn't do the same thing. Turn to page 267.
You buy a series called "Miss Vavoom," which differs from "Miss Wellingsworth" only in that it stars a different centerfold model in the lead, and is set in a different city.
"Miss Vavoom" becomes a huge hit, so you promptly decide to air 14 additional series that also star voluptuous bimbos as school administrators. A nation of horny single guys helps 8 of these 14 series to become hits, which puts your network in first place and enables you to make enough money to date several of these series' stars.
Turn to page 357.
To fill the new void in the schedule, you screen dozens of pilots, and have your choices narrowed down to three shows. These include: a run-of-the-mill newsmagazine show called "3600 Seconds"; "Don't Moon Me," a series about a shipping clerk who is secretly a werewolf; and "Garbage," a sitcom about three wacky garbage collectors.
To choose "3600 Seconds," go to page 182. To go with "Don't Moon Me," go to page 322. To pick up "Garbage," go to page 345.
You change the name of the series to "The Maples." Its new title causes would-be viewers to assume it's about trees, and ratings sink.
Rather than strain your tiny brain by trying to think up yet another new name, you cancel it.
Turn to page 285.
"Don't Moon Me" becomes a big hit. By its fourth year, 67% of Americans surveyed state that they believe in werewolves.
To further help the network, you buy several other supernatural-themed series, including "Dead Letter Office," about a post office run entirely by ghosts; not to mention "Probe," about a proctologist who is also a space alien.
Turn to page 357.
When "Garbage" becomes a hit, you put on more series about sanitation workers such as "Trash" and "Rubbish." These also become hits. You are commended as a programming genius for filling the TV airwaves with "Garbage," "Trash" and "Rubbish."
Turn to page 357.
For years to come, original and intelligent pilot scripts never see the light of day while you continue to fill prime time with banal yet high-rated programs, and live profitably ever after.
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