Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Adulthood (07/30/09)
TITLE: Mr. Smith's Reality
By Diana Smith
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Henry walks at a steady pace towards his appointment, intending to arrive exactly on time. Upon arrival, the receptionist barely glances at him. She waves to a row of faux leather chairs lining taupe walls. He is next, but will have to wait a few moments.
Henry flips quietly through the pages of a well worn Time magazine.
“Mr. Henry Smith?” A tall man clothed in dark pinstripes extends a manicured hand. “We’re ready for you, please come in.”
The office beyond the taupe walls in awash in bright upholstery and walled with windows, designed to impress. A sleek sofa sits opposite a tall throne with a mahogany desk crouched between them. The man seated behind it barks orders into a cell phone. Flanking the throne are two guards - an underfed grad student with spiky, bleached hair leans towards an open laptop while a women with exceptional posture and an olive business suit stands close. She smiles slightly at Henry and looks almost apologetic for the performance of the king.
Sir Spiky straightens and waves to the sofa, “Sit, sit.”
“Mr. Schomberg will only be a moment.” Sir Pinstripe speaks smoothly, assuredly.
The call ends with a furious slam and Sir Pinstripe hides a smirk.
“This is Henry Smith, a finalist for the Next New Hit Contest. He’s here to pitch us the idea for his show.”
The king grunts and settles into his throne. “You’ve got three minutes bub. I paid for your airfare to get here and put you up at the Grand Hotel. Now give me something this network can use.”
All four of the execs eye Henry. Sir Pinstripe anticipates a patronizing laugh, knowing this whole contest is a flop. Lady Olive’s mind wanders, distracted by life outside this pristine office. Sir Spiky sweats. His dreams to aid their flailing ratings hinge on this contest. The chips are on the board, and one of these rolls had better come through or he is sunk.
Henry Smith clears his throat once and opens his mouth to speak.
“This network has made its success in Reality TV. Unfortunately, that market has all but dried up. It can be revived with some genuine reality.”
“The contestants would be from all different age groups, races and walks of life. Each show would follow the contestant through their daily, run of the mill lives.”
Sir Pinstripe guffaws and Sir Spiky groans. Lady Olive waits for Henry’s wilting response that does not come. He continues explaining unflustered.
“Highlight a mother whose day is cyclical, an endless rotation of tidying, cooking, comforting and taxiing. Contrast her with the single career woman, who is driven to not only obtain a brilliant career but hook herself a decent husband.”
“Focus on the working man, approaching retirement yet terrified as to how he will support his wife and their dogs. Pit him against a grad student whose parents don’t know he’s flunking math and falling in love with his roommate’s sister.”
The bark breaks through. “What’s the prize and how do these mundane losers actually win it?”
“They would strive for Contentment.” Four sets of mouths drop open to varying degrees.
“Wha…?” Sir Spiky’s voice cracks audibly.
“Elimination by audience votes is unreliable, a panel of judges is sufficient. Each contestant could vie for whatever prize you deemed worthy. The prize is not the point, it’s the struggle. Set each against their opposite at first and the one deemed most content with their life would move on to compete with the others.”
“You’re kidding right?” Sir Pinstripe drips scorn.
“I think the public deserves to see normal people strive to be happy with themselves and their lives. I think they are ready to see that person rewarded.”
King Schomberg growls about the unlikelihood of popular opinion.
“But Sir, the viewers have seen every other reality show situation imaginable. Perhaps it’s time to give them authenticity.” Lady Olive speaks with a sense of wonder in her voice and a sparkle of interest in the mundane man on the sofa.
Sir Pinstripe ushers Henry out with assurances of a quick outcome. Our hero thinks his chances hover around 50/50, but is well pleased regardless.
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