March 4th – Sorry, my cat fell off the cupboard
It shouldn’t really have gone wrong. Or as wrong as it did.
It was, all things considered, a fairly sound idea: a TV panel show, made up of the usual mix of comedians and ‘celebrities’, a little bit edgy, but nothing too risky. A sarcastic host, with laughs at his own and the panel’s expense. Ridiculous storylines, played for laughs.
The pitch was well received by the executives, who needed a new comedy panel show after the cancellation of What You Looking At? caused by the host’s surprising elevation to the A-List and relocation to America, along with a general acceptance that, after six series, the show had run its course. And so, after a few meetings, and some serious discussions with the potential new host and his agent, the green light was given, and a pilot was due to record.
The general idea was this: each panellist would, using a prompt given by the host, recount a story that would end in a ridiculous way, hence the Sorry, my cat fell off the cupboard of the title. The other panellists would interject, challenge, ask questions, attempt to derail the narrative, all played for laughs. The studio was sure they were onto a good thing: some mock-ups played out with the host worked well, and there were smiles and drinks all round.
Then came the day of the pilot.
The panel had, they were sure, been well chosen. Suzie Rice, an up-and-coming comedian, a regular on similar shows, and a good line in acerbic wit. Sanjay Pereira, ticking (although they would never admit it to themselves) the diversity box, something Sanjay would (they hoped) bring up on the show. Caroline Burge, author, newspaper columnist and outspoken critic of…well…just about everything. And Chris.
Chris Welsh. Alternative comedian, media bad-boy, and a potential risk. But a risk that was worth taking if they were going to get the share of the viewing figures they were after. Chris Welsh was, in all areas, a bit of a loose cannon.
And the loose cannon fired. Loosely.
He was two hours late for recording, having assured them all (through his agent, naturally) that he would be on time. And when he did arrive, it was clear that he had not spent those two hours idly. Or soberly.
He made it to his seat, took a big swig of water, assured the studio (and the studio audience, eagerly anticipating their chance to be part of something new) that he was ‘Fucking great, OK?’ and waited for the cameras to roll.
The intro music was played. It miscued, and was played again. The host rolled out his scripted introduction, and the show began.
At first, it all went as planned. Sanjay Pereira played the diversity card, Caroline Burge was rude about him, but just rude enough for it not to be offensive, and Suzie Rice kept things ticking over, winning the points for the first round. Chris Welsh was oddly quiet.
The recording stopped, a break was taken, and Chris Welsh disappeared backstage. When he returned, five minutes later, it was clear that he was a little more chemically assisted than he had been in the first part of the show. It took 45 seconds of recording for this to become abundantly clear to everyone in the studio.
45 seconds before he left his seat, walked up to one of the two front-facing cameras, and smiled straight into the lens. It wasn’t, as later footage showed, a very reassuring smile. Rather than then going back to his seat, he walked around the front of the desk where the other bemused panellists were seated, and threw his glass of water into Suzie Rice’s face. She barely had time to react, before he reached the host, seated in the middle, and swung an impressive right hook.
Impressive, but impressively wide of the mark. The momentum of the punch took him over the desk, breaking it in half as he fell, his foot catching in the wires of the host’s monitor and sending it smashing to the floor.
And that was that. The recording, obviously, with a destroyed set, was cancelled. The audience were sent home, surprisingly more entertained than if they had watched the recording of an actual show.
Sorry, my cat fell off the cupboard passed into legend: the show that never was.
Inspired by a prompt from here
*I cheated a little. This one didn’t want to end. I wished it would.