Note: I orginally posted this as a story in three parts, but did not tag part three correctly. Here is the full story together in one post.
Production meeting: two weeks to showtime
The production team were sitting at the table throwing around ideas for the next show.
‘We should do something good’, said Pete. ‘Ratings are down and we need to pick up before the network reviews our slot next month.’
‘What? Like a story about nuns or something?’ asked Angela.
‘No,’ said Pete. ‘Anyway we did nuns last year.’
‘So what are you saying? Nuns are so last year we can’t do them again?’
‘Let’s just get a bit of clear water between that film and another nun special,’ he said.
‘Which film?,’ asked Angela.
‘Oh you know the one,’ he replied, ‘the one with the nuns.’
‘Something with kids, then?’ suggested Angela, ‘people love kids’
‘Correction,’ piped up Julie, ‘People love their own kids. If it isn’t kids doing mistakes and looking cute, it won’t make a damn difference to the ratings, and we don’t have time to set that up. We need something quick and easy.’
The door opened.
‘Hey hey hey! How are we going?’ Tommy, host of the show came bounding in.
‘Great, Tommy. We were just thinking of some ideas for the next show,’ said Pete.
‘That sounds great!’ said Tommy. ‘Hey, I was having lunch with BJ the other day – you know one of the sponsor guys from Instapocket.’
‘Instapocket?’ asked Angela, ‘Who are they?’
‘Ah they’re a company that does, you know instant pockets, you can velcro them on to clothes when you need them.’
‘What kind of idiot needs an instant pocket?’ asked Julie.
‘Doesn’t matter,’ said Tommy, ‘anyway, they are keen to do something with us on air, you know maybe donate free pockets and maybe a bit of cash – like on one of those giant cheques? We would just need to come up with someone to win the prize. What do you think?’
‘Like a talent show?’ asked Angela.
‘A talent show is going to be way too much work,’ warned Julie, ‘anyway they are everywhere right now. Who needs another talent show?’
‘Look,’ said Tommy, ‘The sponsor has money, he wants to give it away, let’s not upset him. All I need is a reason to give someone a cheque for, say, five hundred bucks. It’s not rocket science. We find someone. We give them a cheque. The sponsor is happy, the winner is happy, the network is happy because everyone likes a winner and I get to look like Oprah Winfrey.’
‘Oprah Winfrey is a black woman, Tommy,’ said Julie.
Tommy moved towards the door, ‘Not rocket science!’ he repeated as he left.
‘What was that about?’ asked Angela.
‘BJ is Tommy’s brother-in-law,’ said Julie.
‘So?’ asked Pete.
‘So,’ explained Julie, ‘BJ is the brother of Tommy’s wife, and Tommy’s wife is not happy with Tommy because of that thing that happened with him and Trishla in make-up.’
‘Oh! That thing,’ said Angela.
‘What thing?’ asked Pete.
‘Well nothing was ever proved,’ continued Julie, ‘but the word was that Trishla was being very friendly with Tommy, VERY friendly. Apparently someone busted in to the dressing room and caught her performing, how can I put this, an act of kindness towards Tommy.’
‘Oh dear god,’ said Angela, ‘that is too much information.’
Julie nodded, ‘So Tommy is trying to get back in his wife’s good books by being nice to her brother and getting him and his stupid pockets on TV.’
‘It is a bit like that film, isn’t it?’ said Pete, ‘the one where the favour gets paid forward each time.’
‘Which film is that?’ asked Angela. ‘Pretty Woman?’
‘Pay It Forward.’ said Pete, ignoring her. ‘ Now call me a genius, but I think I just had an idea for the special.’
‘Please tell me you are not going to suggest making over Trishla the make-up girl,’ said Julie.
‘Nope’, said Pete, ‘It will be a show about rewarding a good deed,’ he said. ‘It’s perfect. We can call it An Act of Kindness.’
Location shoot – four days until broadcast
‘So if like me, you know someone whose heart is bigger than their pockets, let Tommy know. We are searching the nation for an Act of Kindness. This is BJ, from Instapocket, reminding you to be nice to one another!’
BJ’s face beamed out from the screen and the music faded out.
Julie mimed sticking her fingers down her throat, ‘Thanks for the brilliant, idea champ,’ she scowled at Pete.
‘Hey leave Pete alone,’ said Angela, ‘his idea was pure gold. As golden as BJ’s golden teeth.’
‘Yeah,’ said Julie, ‘not to mention his golden fake tan,’
‘To be fair, I think that tan is more orange than gold,’ said Pete.
‘That tan is more orange than Trump,’ said Angela.
‘Anyway why is the trail still airing?’ asked Pete. ‘We already know who is going to win.’
‘Oh we had a load of entries, and they are still coming’ said Angela. ‘The network is loving this crap. There are good Samaritans being nominated all over the place. It is the biggest response they have had to a campaign in years.’
‘But we are filming the winner at that school today, as soon as we do that it is gonna be all over social media,’ said Angela
‘Wrong again, Sherlock,’ said Julie. ‘We have told them we are going a background interview for another story, but we will frame the questions so we can drop in Tommy on the reverse shot in post. The only one who knows they have made the finals is the Principal.’
‘Plus, if they so much as squeak a hint on social media, they forfeit the prize, and Instapocket have matched the cash dollar for dollar for the school. Our inner city angel gets a pot of money, and so does the school. They just think there are four others in the running that’s all.’
‘I don’t know why we didn’t do four finalists, anyway, then we could have filmed them all and announced it on air,’ said Pete.
‘We don’t have the budget,’ said Angela. ‘We just do one interview with the principal and a secret camera on our winner. The school has managed the talent releases. As far as the staff and parents know, we are filming a gritty documentary.’
‘Those poor buggers,’ said Pete, ‘they think they are in a gritty documentary and next thing they find themselves on Waking Up With Tommy. In the middle of a tan-fest‘
The principal of St Xavier’s was clearly excited that her nominee had possibly made the finals.
‘It is OK,’ said Angela. ‘Try to ignore the camera and just talk to me like we are having a cup of coffee.’
‘I sure will,’ said the Principal, looking directly down the barrel of the camera. ‘So when is Tommy coming?’ She smiled.
It was going to be a long day.
Two hours later, they had most of what they wanted, The principal had talked about the school and the town. How the factory had closed down, which meant a lot of the parents were struggling to make ends meet, and how Mary had just appeared someday, ‘like an angel’ to volunteer and help with the kids.
‘So the kids get on with Mary?’ Angela asked.
‘Oh they just love her!’
‘Can I just stop you again?’ said Angela, ‘and ask you to look at me?’
‘Oh!’ I am so sorry, said the Principal, ‘I did it again, didn’t I?’ She beamed straight into the camera lens.
‘Er… To me, please,’ repeated Angela.
They grabbed some candid footage of St Xavier’s ‘angel’, Mary interacting with the kids. They did seem to love her and she clearly loved them. None of them left without getting a big hug.
‘I almost feel human again,’ said Angela when they were back in the office next day.
‘Well I can help you with that,’ said Julie. ‘Here comes Tommy.’
‘Hey, hey, hey’ said Tommy, coming through the door, ‘how did it go? Next week’s show’s gonna be a killer!’
‘Yeah it went well, Tommy, ‘ said Julie,’ Pete is just looking at the footage now and putting it together.’
‘This is good stuff,’ said Tommy, ‘the sponsors are loving this! BJ from Instapockets says his product has never done so well. Looks like we may be able to lock them in for another season and that means the network will be happy. I am so glad I had this idea.’ He grinned like a monkey.
‘Yeah, great idea, Tommy,’ said Julie.
The door opened and Pete came in. His face was ashen.
‘Guys,’ he said, ‘we got a problem.’
Production meeting: 24 hours until broadcast
‘Run it again,’ said Angela.
‘I will run it again’, said Pete, ‘but it won’t change a thing.’
He clicked the play button on the preview screen.
‘Shit!’ said Angela.
Tommy came into the edit suite, ‘So, guys what’s this emergency?’
‘Pete found something on the tape, Tommy, when he was putting the package together for the broadcast tomorrow,’ said Julie. ‘Take a look.’
Pete ran the footage of Mary and the kids. The camera caught her carefully helping one of the kids into his coat, giving him a big hug, a big smile, then standing up and watching them walk away. She put her hands into her pockets as she did so, looking angelic.
‘What is wrong with that?’ asked Tommy. ‘It‘s fine.’
‘I am going to run it again, but I am going to slow down the footage this time. Keep an eye on her left arm as she goes in for the hug.’
They rewatched the footage. Mary wrapped the boy in the coat, then went in for the hug.
‘There is nothing wrong with hugging a child,’ said Tommy. ‘This is political correctness gone mad!’
Almost imperceptibly, Mary’s left should began to dip as Pete advanced the footage frame by frame. She began to pull out of the hug. Her right hand came up to give the boy a playful pat on the head, as her left hand moved back towards her own pocket.
The hand was not empty. The hand was holding something.
‘What is it?’ asked Tommy.
‘It’s money, Tommy. Our “angel” is robbing the kids. She is a pickpocket.’ said Julie.
‘We can’t use this story, Tommy,’ said Angela. ‘We just can’t.’
Tommy shrugged, ‘just get a different clip of her with the kids,’ he said.
‘You cannot be serious,’ said Julie, ‘This woman is in a position of trust. She is working with kids and she is stealing their money.’
Tommy sighed, ‘BJ is not gonna like this. Anyway, do we actually know it is money? I mean, are we actually sure? Or maybe she could have been holding the money before and it just looks like she took it. There could be a thousand explanations for that.’
‘She didn’t have anything in her hands before, Tommy,’ said Angela, ‘we checked.’
‘Just use a different kid,’ he repeated.
‘It is not that simply, Tommy,’ said Pete, ‘we spent so long with the principal that we were losing the light when we shot her – and we were doing it from a distance. This is the only bit of usable footage we have.’
Tommy’s phone started to ring. He got up.
‘You,’ he said, pointing at Julie and Angela, ‘are producers. You,’ he said to Peter, ‘edit. So stop looking for problems and produce some edited footage we can use, because we go live tomorrow, and we go live with this woman. We don’t have time to find another and I am certainly not going to tell the sponsors. ‘
He picked up the call as he moved to the door.
‘Hi Honey,’ he said leaving the room.
‘He must have made up with his wife, then,’ said Angela.
‘I don’t think so, said Julie, ‘that ringtone was Hot Stuff by Donna Summer. That is not the ringtone he has assigned to his wife.’
‘What does he use for her then?’ asked Pete.
Julie sighed, ‘The theme to the Rocky movie.’
‘Let’s get to work,’ said Angela.
Live Broadcast: Winner announcement
‘And coming up, the moment I know you have all been waiting for. We reveal live on air, the winner of our very special competition: An Act of Kindness, brought to you by Instapocket. We will be right back, stay tuned!’
Tommy beamed into the camera as the show cut to commercial break.
Angela had brought Mary and the Principal from the green room and showed them to their positions.
‘Ok – so we have some footage that we will show, then Tommy will introduce BJ from Instapockets and he will hand you the cheque.’
‘I am so nervous,’ said Mary.
‘Yeah I bet you are,’ muttered Julie, ‘Probably because the cops are looking for you.’
‘Sorry?’ said Mary.
‘I said it happens with lots of people looking at you,’ said Julie. ‘Don’t worry, you will be fine!’
BJ appeared on the set floor, carrying a huge cardboard cheque.
‘Just put that on the floor, face down, BJ, you can pick it up while we run the video package.’
‘No problem,’ grinned BJ, ‘Hey – will there be a glitter bomb when I announce it?’
‘I think the cheque will be enough, BJ,’ said Angela. ‘You have been very generous,’ she added.
‘Ten seconds to air,’ said the floor manager.
‘Here we are back again,’ said Tommy, ‘ready to meet the winner of our Act of Kindness competition. And here in the studio with me is BJ from Instapockets. BJ welcome.’
‘Well thank you Tommy, it’s great to be here..’
The video package rolled: some outside shots of the school, an interview with the principal. Footage of Mary helping a small child with a coat, then back to the Principal’s face smiling. ‘She is like an angel,’ she said on voiceover, as the shot cut to Mary standing with a beatific smile on her face, hands in pockets, watching the small boy skip away.
BJ presented the cheque, Tommy gave the winner a big hug and the show was a wrap. Mary and the principal left the studios.
‘I think we did it,’ said Pete.
‘We sure did,’ said Julie. ‘We sure did.’
‘Thank God we had all that footage of the principal smiling at the camera,’ said Pete, ‘I was just able to cheat it so it looked like she was watching Mary with the kids.’
A roar sounded from the green room. Tommy appeared.
‘That cow!’ he shouted.
‘What is the matter, Tommy?’ asked Julie, ‘I noticed you getting a bit cosy with Mary after the show. Did she decline to give you her phone number? ‘
‘NO!’ he yelled. ‘She’s nicked my wallet.’