Over the past twelve years, I have watched her blossom as a music video and commercial producer. She has done everything from filming strung out rock and roll to Carnie Wilson's stomach stapling. Being a line producer, the nuts-and-bolts person on the set, is a scrappy business - dealing with teamsters and keeping the numbers straight. It's an unlikely career for Laurie.
She called me last week about an idea her friend had that would be a perfect reality show. I paused, knowing that Laurie has no clue what would make good reality television but I thought, why not listen to the pitch? I'm putting together a slate and maybe, just maybe this would be a good series idea. We agreed to meet with her friend at the Firehouse, a Venice staple of bodybuilders and local freaks.
As with all meetings with Laurie, she breezed in twenty minutes late with her child strapped to her front looking like she had a very fat broken arm in a sling. With unnecessarily exaggerated eye-rolling, she explained that traffic had been really bad. Odd since she lives three miles away and it was Sunday afternoon. Her friend was close behind. We started the lunch with small talk and a quick order. I asked for a tuna melt with swiss on rye and they both ordered unsweetened iced tea.
Kaitlin, the woman with a dream of a show, started to run down the basic idea. She works in a holistic medical and spiritual center.
"This show would be extreme!" she enthused using the overwrought word of the day. "We would choose those who really need the transformation. Someone diagnosed with cancer or a pregnant woman who is stressed out..." she kept talking but I started to wonder where my tuna melt was.
During this, Laurie decided it would be a good time to talk on her cell phone as she distractedly breast fed.
"And we would put them through hard core training and acupunture and send them to a herbalist and that is the modality of the show," Kaitlin finally finished her sentence.
After recovering from the word "modality," I thought this was an idea about eight or nine people in the entire country who might want to watch but I was certain there were no network people who wanted to hear about it.
"Well this leads me to a few comments," I started as Kaitlin hungrily waited for feedback, "I think this show skews female twenty-five plus and you are limited to a few networks," I named them, "Lifetime, Oxygen and possibly Discovery."
"No," I could almost hear Kaitlin's feet stamp underneath the table, "I want this to appeal to both men and women."
"Well I just don't think many men are going to be interested in this," I continued, " and I don't see the visual aspect. I mean you can't really have people watching others get acupuncture."
"But it's going to be extreme and we get to see their transformation. I think 'Transformation' would make a great title too!"
"Have you seen Extreme Makeover?" I asked them both hoping to engage them in a conversation about my new favorite show and veer away from the numbness of Kaitlin's idea.
"I don't watch TV," Kaitlin declared.
"Really? Why?" I said licking my chops.
"Because there's nothing on there I want to watch," she replied with confidence.
"And how would you know if you don't watch?"
"Well I do watch some PBS and I have seen The Real World," the last reference thrown in to impress me, I assume.
"OK," my tuna melt arrived and I could concentrate on my sandwich and let her talk some more.
"You wouldn't believe how many men come into our shop," she said and I believed her. I also thought they weren't the men the networks were necessarily targeting. She then said, "And men are the ones who need it most!"
"Men need what most?" I thought I knew what she meant but I wanted to hear it.
"Wait," the would-be fur on my back raised, "are you suggesting men need some sort of transformation more than women?"
"Yes," I could tell she was caught in the moment and wasn't going to back off, "so many men come in and are helpless. While women need nurturing, men need perspective"
"Oh you mean men need a perspective on how to nurture women and once they find that, they will be better?" my eyes narrowed and my brows pointed upward as I stared at her. I was about as angry at this point as a kitty with a catnip ball but it read as if I actually cared.
"You're misunderstanding what I'm trying to say," she said although there was no misunderstanding - just backpedaling.
"Oh because I thought I just heard some empty feminist dogma," I said with a smile then continued, "but it doesn't really matter because the audience for this is too narrow. No matter how much you think men need to watch it, they won't."
Then it hit me.
"Why not re-format this as a teen series and teach high-schoolers these techniques. Try and make it fun and then you open yourself up to MTV or TNN or USA. You could really turn this idea into something fun and get to the kids before its too late. In fact, that's your title, Before It's Too Late.
"I love it," Laurie woke up from her cell phone talking, breast feeding frenzy.
"Love what?" I said with my mouth deliberately full of tuna melt.
"'Before It's Too Late'," she said, "It's a great idea. Really good title."
"Uh, thanks," I said looking at a confused Kaitllin. Suddenly, in a matter of seconds, her idea had been transformed into something resembling spring break with herbs. Lunch was soon over and I told them it really wasn't a project I could get behind but wished them luck.
I went home with my belly fully and gave an exaggerated eye-roll to my Guyster in my mind.