By Wendy Miller
a friend asked me, "What was your worst day ever?" I have
to say that I really thought about it for a while. Maybe I should
pick the day that I found out I had cancer and within moments of
the diagnosis my mother turned to me and said, "Oh good, maybe
you'll lose some weight." No, that's just too darn obvious.
Maybe I should pick the two-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis,
the day I got a clean bill of health. The day I rode my motorcycle
home to celebrate and on the way got in a near-fatal accident and
fell into a coma for a few days. No, that's actually kind of funny
in its irony and I'm here to talk about it so who gives a fuck.
So, skip all the near-fatal cancer/head injury shit, I want to write
about my worst day ever in television. After all, television is
far more interesting than anything that ever happens in a hospital.
Unless it's television set in a hospital and then you usually have
a winner. Except, of course, for After M.A.S.H. But enough
I was in Chicago working freelance as an associate producer for
the most popular talk show in the history of the world. I don't
want to drop any names but it rhymes with The Moprah Linfrey Show.
See if you can figure it out. My duties included researching show
topics, finding guests, field producing, coming up with show ideas
(remember the Hot Dog Diet, anyone?) and assisting my assigned producer
in any way I could. It was a fun place to work if you like colitis.
Anyway, we were doing an episode called "Would You Risk Your
Life For A Stranger?" and during the taping I was hanging out
in the booth trying not to get fired. That's my usual motivation.
The show was between acts and the Executive Producer, a very frighteningly
powerful woman, was running through the teleprompter to see who
was the next guest. As I stood in the back of the booth I thought
I noticed a mistake. I was pretty sure the name on the teleprompter
was not the next guest, but actually someone who was scheduled to
appear much later in the show. So I took a deep breath and with
a very weak voice from the back of the booth I said, "Um excuse
me, Frighteningly Powerful Woman, um, I think that's, um, the wrong
name in the prompter."
Powerful Woman reeled around and screamed, "Get the producer
in here now!!!!!"
as one who knows how to take an order, I ran out of the booth and
down the hall into the studio where I saw the producer standing.
I ran right up to her and without pause said, "I think there's
a mistake in the script and Frighteningly Powerful Woman needs to
see you in the booth right now!"
looked over and saw that the producer was in deep in conversation
with the Host of the show and I had interrupted them. Badly. Nobody
did that. Ever.
producer reeled around and glared at me with the entire Chicago
fire in her eyes while the Host looked at me in that "who the
fuck is this crazy girl interrupting me during a break in the show
that I own in the studio that I own on the city block that I own?"
was at that point I wanted to die. For real. Forget all those actual
brushes with death that I previously had, at that moment I was hoping
I really would die on the spot. In that glare-filled split second
I realized I should have waited until they had finished talking
and then oh-so-casually pulled the producer aside to tell her that
Frighteningly Powerful Woman wanted to see her in the booth. But
I didn't. I just didn't.
the producer excused herself from the most popular talk show Host
in the history of mankind, and went to the booth. I walked 15 paces
behind her and stood in the hall trying not to get fired. Moments
later the producer walked out of the booth and with tears streaming
down her face she screamed, "Don't you ever do that to me again!!!"
that, she walked back in the studio and I went upstairs and packed
up the few things I had on my desk. At that point I knew I would
not be invited back to the Moprah Linfrey Show.
For years I dwelled on this moment. How could I have been so stupid?
How could I have been so inappropriate? I was going to be persona
non grata at the Moprah Linfrey Show. Now I had a sworn enemy in
the television industry who would go out of her way to destroy me
any chance she got. You know how the mind wanders.
Flash forward many years later. I was Executive Producing several
TV shows for a network ironically co-owned by the talk show Host
herself. One afternoon I came across the phone number for Frighteningly
Powerful Woman and gave her a call. We chatted for a while and then
I told her that she was part of my worst professional mistake ever.
When I recounted the story she said, "Well didn't I tell you
to go out there and get the producer right away?"
"Yes, you did."
then asked, "Well, was the name in the teleprompter really
I said, "Yes, actually the name was wrong and the producer
had to fix it."
Powerful Woman then said, "What you did was not a mistake at
all. If the prompter was wrong and the Host read it that way we'd
have to go back and reshoot the show, which is a massive ordeal
and the Host would have been very, very unhappy. Whether the producer
knew it or not, you actually saved her ass."
With that I took a deep sigh and released years and years of guilt.
I finally realized that on what I thought was my worst professional
day ever, I actually saved that crying producer's ass at the Moprah
Linfrey Show. I risked my life to save a stranger.
But I bet she still wants to kill me.
version for easy reading
material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission