The Rumor is Always True

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

Once, a few years ago, when I had a show on the air, I got a call from my agent. It was a tense time: we we-re expecting to hear from the network any minute about the possibility of a second season order. So when I grabbed the phone, I didn-t even say hello, I just barked: "What have you heard?"

My agent sounded miffed. "Okay. No pleasantries, I guess. Hi. How are you? I-m fine, thanks. Me too. Not bad weather we-re having. I agree, it-s very pleasant. Especially in the evenings. Yes, they-re very -"

"I-m sorry," I interrupted. "I guess I-m just a little tense."

My agent turned soothing. "I understand. It-s a complicated time. Have you heard anything from the network?"

"I haven-t heard much. The numbers were pretty good - we-ve "trended up," the studio says. We did better than the show that had our time slot before us. The reviews have been gratifying. All in all, I-d say we-re in good shape to get on the fall schedule."

My agent sighed. "Oh. Gosh. I was hoping you were going to say that the ratings were sluggish and disappointing, that the network had higher expectations, and that you-re a longshot for a second season."

"Why were you hoping I-d say that?"

"Because it-s the truth. And I wasn-t in the mood to deliver bad news. It just brings the whole day down, you know?"

"Yes, I suppose I can see how it would."

"Look, you-re on the bubble, what can I say?

Our show was on the bubble, which is an industry term I-ve never really understood. Bubbles are fun, gassy things - they bring to mind balloons, Champagne, celebrations. Yet to be on the bubble is to be neither officially cancelled nor officially picked up. It means they-re still trying to decide about you. Still trying to figure out whether to order your show for one more year and give you a shot at that apartment in Paris, or dredge up a sad-sounding voice and get their assistant to track you down.

What you do know, though, is this: the official call, when it comes, will come at the last legal minute. You also know this: the official call, when it comes, will come about five or six days after you-ve already heard, from agents, studio executives, and, probably, the girl at Peet-s coffee. And you also know this: there really is no on the bubble; uncertainty is just bad news that-s taking its time. If you-re a hit, you know it. And if you don-t know it, well, there-s a reason for that.

If there is one rock-solid axiom in this business - maybe in every business, I don-t know - it-s that when you hear the rumor of bad news about your show, your money, your career, your livelihood, that rumor is always true. Always. At the risk of inciting legal action from certain major celebrities who have battled certain major rumors for years, let me stick my neck out further: those rumors are true, too. Or true enough. Essentially true.

This is, after all, the least imaginative place on earth. This is where people agree to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on movies because they remind them of other movies that have already been made. This is where old sitcoms are turned into either big budget feature films or low budget reality television shows. Do you really think people have the inclination or the imagination to invent rumors out of whole cloth? Of course not.

When you hear that your show is being cancelled and replaced with "Candid Camera Uncensored!" it may in fact turn out to be cancelled for "Family Candid Camera" or "Kids -n- Candid Camera" or even something completely different. But it is going to be cancelled. The essence of the rumor is true. And the truth hurts. That-s how you can tell it-s the truth.

That-s it for this week. Next week, we-ll say farewell to summer.

For KCRW, I-m Rob Long. This has been Martini Shot.



Rob Long