"What could be better than TV that was also art?" asked novelist/Brooklyn Literary 100 member Keith Gessen in a recent Tumblr post with some entirely different context. Anyway, I couldn't agree more! Which (I think) is why I jotted down this pitch for a Gessen-helmed, Project Runway-inspired reality TV pitch a couple of weeks ago one day following one of those lunches at Balthazar during which Nick Denton remarked saliently, "Who'd have guessed Keith Gessen would be the new Julia Allison?" Inspired by the Jessica Roy matter, which made me want to quit this whole business and cash out (in Euros, pref!) with one of those genius business ideas I'm always having! Except that, um, there are like 10 people who will appreciate this business idea and they don't watch reality TV shows because the Gawker video department clips them already! So herewith, the pitch. Comment on his Tumblr if you're interested in producing it, Bravo! (Disclaimer: it is no "realer" than "reality TV"!)TV PITCH ****AMERICAN PRETENSE***** THE PREMISE: As the alarming, poignant Matter of Jessica Roy recently reminded the world, thousands of girls (or at least probably a thousand girls!) all across America dream of literary ingenueship in New York City. There's no money in it of course, but the romance! The richness. Pathos. And bathos! (Haha, Glamour…and Grammar!) Okay, so: It's an elimination-based competition show in which 10 photogenic 18-24-year-old females (yes, just females, blame affirmative action or something) cast as interns for N+1, the most important literary magazine of our time, compete for the chance to be…nominally paid interns? Token female contributing editors? Unclear. Wait, that's the gimmick! It's a SATIRE, of the conventional reality show PRETENSE that creative fields actually lead you to security/success/fulfillment! THE MARKET: American Pretense will be the most laserlike television target yet at the "Everyone I know in the New York Media seems to be watching this show nobody is actually watching which is why the media keeps laying people off so in five years if I have not been laid off from my media job and quit for the Peace Corps and/or pharma sales referencing this show will be one of those cultish rituals in which I engage so as to act as if New York Media cultural currency was not actually the worst investment since the Indonesian rupiah" psychographic that has made "Gossip Girl" such a valuable brand. Liberal use of sponsors, online component and free labor solicited by various proprietary email lists to offset production costs. (Obvs.) GESSEN: Gessen is this show's CHIEF JUDGER NURTURER DIPLOMAT. Like Tim Gunn/Ryan Seacrest with a dash of Trump. He will introduce the show, offer tips and critiques interspersed with pieces of wisdom he wished he had known when he occupied the 18-24 demographic. PANEL OF JUDGES: JUDGES are the crucial element that makes a voyeuristic treatlet into a FRANCHISE. Important to cull panel from three universes: PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL WITH LITERARY MERIT (Hitchens as Simon Cowell figure)…Has-been female with drugs (Wurtzel) … and a few new unknown but Googlable bad cop/villain types. (Like I have seen this guy around!) CHALLENGES: This is still sketchy. Because you shouldn't really be able to read/pontificate/frantically Wikipedia literary references you missed, and act out the Hobbsean histrionics that make for good reality television, simultaneously, and yet I somehow have a feeling you can! Like that guy on Project Runway who got kicked off for hoarding pattern books…we could have something like that happen here, like an Orwellian "no books on penalty of excommunication" policy that no one can, by the other requirements of the show, actually follow, and on that note, maybe the consequence of breaking rules, or losing individual challenges should actually be the opposite of elimination. You have to stick around forever like in that play! Maybe the biggest losers will mobilize to start a class struggle? (No of course not duh! They will discover some obscure post-structuralist theorist who restores their self-esteem or go into private equity or something.) Other ideas: *Competition to get the words "Mark Sarvas sucks cock" somehow published on McSweeney's website. *Competition to get semi-famous rapper to write (publishable!) letter to N+1 website. *Competition to convince minor literary celebrities to attend an official N+1 pizza party in Brooklyn and/or Foreign Policy-ranked public intellectuals to attend a loft party in the West Village. (The WINNER, though, gets Steven Pinker to the pizza party and sneaks some into the fancy loft party, right?) MAKEOVER ELEMENT: Obviously a slight makeover ("makeunder"?) element is involved, but will have to tread lightly w/r/t corporate sponsors so as not to pollute the N+1 brand. Ideas?
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