Saturday, June 14, 2008

Believe It Or Not I Was the Audience Favorite

I feel like I spend my whole life trying to get back on TV. As a kid, I made a few local television appearances for spelling bees, science fairs, school board meetings and various other academic and political activities. In high school, I found myself on an episode of The Montel Williams Show after a newspaper article I wrote about racial tensions in our school got picked up by the AP. (Lacking sentimentality, my mother threw out my only copy of the show.)

As an aspiring actor, I've done background work on NYPD Blue, starred in a PSA for MTV, and and even appeared on a speed-dating episode of Parco P.I. But the crowning glory of my TV career is my big game show appearance, when I won a Toyota 4-Runner SUV on VH1's Name That Video.

The win itself was thrilling of course, especially since I could flex my music trivia knowledge for such a great reward, but it was also pretty exciting when the show aired and all these people - high school friends, college classmates, old colleagues - started crawling out of the woodwork because they saw me sweep the floor with the other contestants.

For the last seven years, I've been milking that game show win for all its worth, even putting it on my work resume (a factoid I'm convinced got me my job at Razor & Tie). But as the years go on, it feels more and more obnoxious to keep relying on something that happened so long ago. So, I've been dying to find another reason to get myself on TV in a big way.

In my attempts to recapture game show stardom, I ended up getting cast in the pilot episode of a new game show, which will unfortunately never air (so they say). But until the pilot does or does not get picked up, I can't say what it was or any of the details about it...And at the same time, I'm dying to talk about it.

I think it's pretty flattering actually to be cast in the pilot episode of something, especially a game show that will have a rotating cast of contestants throughout its run. The pilot, of course, is intended to be a pitch piece to help the producers sell the show, so even though it may never air, they have to act like it will and make it the best episode they possibly can. That's a lot of responsibility, but I was up for the challenge.

Of course, the last time I was on a game show, when I actually saw the episode I hated the way I looked, so this time around I quickly descended into a mirror-avoiding crisis (which eclipsed my Death Valley-induced existential crisis) in anticipation of being on TV again. In order to find something solid-colored and TV-friendly to wear to the taping, I went dress-shopping all over the city, but found nothing at Banana Republic, Gap, Express, French Connection, Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor LOFT, Talbot's, Club Monaco, Anthropologie, J Crew, H&M, and even Le Chateau. Even with money being no object, I still couldn't find anything that didn't make me look pregnant, short, with too much booty or too much booby.

I finally just relied on a sirenesque outfit I already had, daring to actually wear color instead of my normal all-black palette. Still, I wasn't certain I'd be able to rock the look with any confidence whatsoever.

I tried to get all necessary grooming done before the taping, getting my fried green tomatoeshair blown out at Blow (a "blow dry bar" near the Meatpacking District). During a leisurely pre-game show lunch at 202, my heart was pounding, calmed somewhat by guzzling a glass of wine, hair of the dog from my binge the night before at DB Bistro Moderne and Pamplona. I knew I might not get to eat again until after the taping, so I also filled up on cornmeal-crusted fried green tomatoes (which very closely mimicked mozzarepas) and an arugula salad with prosciutto, grapes, toasted pistachios and warm goat cheese. Even just for that lunch, I was glad to have taken the day off from work.

When I got to the green room, I felt the same way I did when I arrived to Sony Studios back in '01 for Name That Video: these people have got nothing on me. I was certain to win. And suddenly, it was confidence all the way.

In preparation for my close-up, I got the star treatment by the makeup artists, getting my face put on right next to the show's host (who is a famous and funny comedienne from a popular mid/late-90s sitcom) and getting to hear all her star-studded gossip. After hours of sitting around doing nothing, hoping that my makeup wouldn't run down my face (not being used to wearing that much - ever), I finally got to do some blocking on the soundstage, at which point the producers realized they could not have two girls in red sitting next to each other. Having done a complete 180 from my prior self-loathing paranoia, I was actually quite comfortable in my outfit and refused to change, making the other girl change back into her street clothes after having listened to her go on and on about how much she loved her red outfit and how all her friends and coworkers told her that it was "the one." (Before she put it on, I told her it would be a problem for us both to be wearing red but she ignored me. I figured I had dibs since I'd arrived in my red outfit and firsters keepers.)

There's not much I can divulge about the happenings of the shoot or the fate of the show, but I performed well enough to "win" the episode (and no, it wasn't fixed even though it was a pilot - the actual win was real). Because it was just the pilot, the prize wasn't anything astounding, but it's something I will enjoy very much I'm sure. But for me, of course, it's not about the prize, it's about the winning. It would be really hard for me to do a game show and not win. I can't even imagine that.

It's disappointing because the producers kept saying no one was ever going to see the pilot and that it would never air, so I won't get the same thrill off this one as I did last time. But there's a glimmer of hope in me that, if the show does get picked up, maybe they'll invite me back to be a contestant for real....

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to start looking for my next big break.