“I HAVE SOME TV WORK FOR YOU.”
I have to admit to some surprise when I got the call from my agent.
Not that him calling me was unusual in itself, he was always putting me up for one thing or another, it was how he made his money.
But the calls were usually about something speculative … this was an genuine offer of some TV work from a producer who had specifically asked for me by name, and outside of a favoured few that rarely happens
in the cut-throat world of television.
‘Me?’ I said.
‘The one and only’, said he.
So here I am, tickling away at the keyboard of my iPad in the library of Pendennis Manor set deep in the wilds of the Dorset countryside.
We’re here on location, all forty two of us to make a Reality TV show based upon the board game CLEUDO!
The production staff, the cast, cameramen, lighting staff, and support crew, all assembled here a few days ago and tomorrow we start filming proper.
So why an I sitting here at this ginormous mahogany desk sipping a fantastic single malt whisky and typing up this little tale? Easy.
For the money!
It’s belt and braces you see, for if this little gig goes all ‘tits-up and viewing ratings down’ and the programme ends up on ‘DAVE TV’ in the early hours of the morning with the resultant cut in salary that would follow on from that, I might still get an article in TV Times out of it.
How I ever got this part is a mystery in itself.
The rest of the cast is the usual rag-bag assortment of D list chancers that can be found grovelling for a crust on the fringes of the Reality TV circuit (I refuse to dignify them by calling them ‘celebs’).
As for me, I still like to consider myself a fully fledged card-carrying Act-tor … a genuinely Thespian of the old school, experienced and Rada trained, but simply not yet properly appreciated.
But needs must duckie, man cannot live by pot-noodles alone so here I am slumming it, hoping that at least I will be getting top billing when this little one-off pot-boiler hits the small screen … and who knows what might follow from that.
But a mystery all the same, for old Peregrine, the producer, is the last person in the world who I thought would ask for me by name (especially since I cuckolded him mercilessly some years ago with his first wife).
So either he’s in the early stages of senility and has forgotten about that little erotic, though slightly grubby escapade, or he thinks that by mixing me in with the rest of this motley crowd he is in some way damaging my career.
But if that is his little game, then I’ve had him over yet again, for in truth my career stalled years ago. Well, not actually stalled, let’s just say that when my career was mid take-off and halfway down the runway, when the First Officer called for ‘Rotate’ … the bloody undercarriage collapsed!
Then again, how this whole shebang ever got sanctioned is a mystery.
A classic mystery …‘Reality Cluedo’, partially scripted and filmed on location, without editing and ‘as it happened’!
Is that not just about as naff as it gets?
‘Solve it yourself’ Poirot, an antidote to “Clueless.”
Someone, somewhere, had the bright idea to plonk a gaggle of erstwhile nonentities (plus me) in an old house in the middle of nowhere, set them up as characters in a live edition of the old board game CLUEDO, and allow the viewers to detect which one was the murderer for cash prizes.
You’d have to go some way to beat that.
A voice in my head is saying …has it really come to this, is this really the best that you can do?’
To which I can only reply ‘As long as it’s not a chase or dirty money, and the price is right, come on down!’
But we are where we are … and I will give old Perry Catchpole, some credit.
For he has selected the cast so well that it will not require much brain power to fit this cast to the CLEUDO characters, they will just play themselves.
They are an eclectic bunch from disparate backgrounds, but each will bring something special to the mix which is what reality TV needs in order to be successful.
We met up first at the reception a few days ago.
First there is Roger Smallpiece, that self-made man and retired sometime entrepreneur and prize boor from the panel of ‘Lions Den’, next a rather matronly lady called Maureen who apparently reached the semi-final of one or other of the ‘Great British Bake-offs’ with what she called her signature dish (Bovril flavoured macaroons), and Cynthia Pang, a former Bangkok ladyboy who apparently made his (or her) name hosting a gentlemen’s club just off Mayfair, and who is now employed part-time in an advisory capacity by the Home Office ( you can work that one out for yourselves).
Plus Will Painter, whose claim to fame was presenting a local Roman history programme on Radio Basildon until the day he left his mike on and was overheard to call a certain visiting expert a ‘grey-haired old bat’ and was stood down, followed by Grace Brothers OBE, a second cousin twice removed of a favourite of Her Royal Maj, the Chuckle Brothers … can you believe that, and finally a defrocked former Bishop of Walford, accused (but not prosecuted for) having a predilection for East Enders. Perhaps it is better that he should be nameless.
No-one would have to be a genius to see that little lot fit the characters would they?
Colonel Mustard, Mrs.White, Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs. Peacock, and the Reverend Green, to a ‘T’ if I’m not mistaken.
And that £50 accumulator bet that I have placed to that effect with Paddy Power at twenty five to one is as good as money in the bank.
As for moi, I rather see myself as Inspector Grey, or perhaps an aloof Butler. (I once played stand-in for Sid James as Inspector Goole in Priestley’s ‘An Inspector Calls’ for a summer season in Eastbourne, and as for the Butler, I once understudied Terry Scott’s Hudson in an end of the pier production of ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ at Skegness a few years ago, with Hilda Ogden as Mrs. Bridges).
So now it’s the night before filming commences in earnest.
All the rooms in the house have been set up with at least three fixed cameras in each room, and the presenters, a couple of likely northern lads, Nat and Prat, have been drafted in today to do the voiceovers.
Everybody has dined well in the oak panelled dining room, and sealed envelopes have been passed around to be opened by the cast in private so that they can reflect upon the characters that have been allocated for the morrow.
Smallpiece, a miserable sod in real life, has slunk off to the study.
Maureen, who insisted that she would feel most comfortable in the kitchen, has had a comfortable chair placed alongside the Aga to keep an eye on some soufflés that she intends to make for dinner tomorrow evening.
Cynthia has taken Peregrine, a bottle of champagne, and two glasses into the lounge, presumably so that our esteemed producer can receive a little bit of slap and tickle later in return for inviting her down in the first place.
Will Painter has to make do with a corner in the ballroom … quite appropriate really, as I have never heard one man talk so much balls about history as he did ad nauseam over dinner.
Grace Brothers has taken her envelope and sloped off ‘retired hurt’ to her room after a few too many postprandial brandies, and the Bishop of Walford is in the billiard room with Sally the chambermaid, a gullible young girl who has expressed a desire to learn what defrocking means to a man of the cloth.
Methinks there could well be a lot of ‘in off the cushion’ during the learning period and I shouldn’t be at all surprised if His Holiness ends up well and truly snookered by lights out!
But here in the library it’s just me and my envelope.
Following orders I have locked the door, thrown the key out of the window into the ornamental lake below, and closed all the shutters tight.
I have to say that we have been made very comfortable thus far, and old Catchpole, knowing my penchant for a good single malt, has laid out a very attractive silver salver here on the desk for me.
A full bottle of golden twenty year old Glenmorangie Signet, a beautifully engraved crystal glass, and a small bottle of Highland spring water.
I’ve propped my envelope against the whisky bottle …
The bastard! He’s spelt my name wrong.
Right matey, two can play at that game … say goodbye to your bottle of whisky.
It flows and gurgles into the glass like golden rain, a generous measure, let’s not be mean … plus a dollop more.
And why not. I am a great believer in making the most of life’s opportunities … we only pass this way but once.
Oo-oh Matron, this really is a delightful drop of the hard stuff.
How can one properly describe the heavenly taste of a superb single malt?
Only the uninitiated would call it so.
Bittersweet does it an injustice … Peaty is trite and inadequate to the point of bluntness.
George Bernard Shaw called it ‘liquid sunshine’ and back in the fifteenth century a certain gentleman got really carried away, and if my memory serves me right wrote something like this …
“It sloweth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it cutteth flegme, it relisheth the harte, it lighteneth the mynd, it quickeneth the spirits, it cureth the hydropsie, it repelleth gravel . . . and trulie it is a sovereigne liquor if it be orderlie taken”.
I had to learn that once for a play, and if that doesn’t cover all the bases for you dear reader, then I suggest that you stick to plain old H2O.
I tumble the envelope through my fingers, over and over like I’ve seen Maverick do many times in some long ago western TV series.
“Dumdiddy Dumdiddy Dum Dum Dum Maverick was his name”
Now that was when TV was good, no reality crap back then, it was real men, real stories, and a bar-room shootout in every episode.
God, this whisky is good …
“ Cigarettes, whiskey and wild, wild women
They’ll drive you crazy, they’ll drive you insane
Cigarettes, whiskey and wild wild women
They’ll drive you crazy, they’ll drive you insane …
Funny how these old songs come back , it’s years since I sang that little ditty yet it comes out as fresh as new.
“Another little drink, another little drink, another little drink, won’t do me any harm …”
And neither will it young man, neither will it,
Drink for tomorrow we die …
Am I imagining it or is it getting darker in here
Where’s that bloody envelope let’s see what character I shall be on the morrow …
“ The sun will come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
There’ll be sun
Just thinkin’ about tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow
’til there’s none”
Bloody enveropes, why are they so difficult to open
therugo, whats it say can’t read it prper …,//;/
DocTor BlAck wha sort of a dammed part issat
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