The Perfect Cable TV News Story
"Our top story tonight: Generallissimo Francisco Franco is still dead."
--Chevy Chase, "Saturday Night Live," Dec. 13, 1975
My May 17, 2006 post entitled "Man Bites Gator" listed some "news stories" that have made their way to the top of the cable "news" channel charts. These included Baby Jessica, shark attacks, Chandra Levy, TomKat, the Runaway Bride, alligator attacks, etc. Little did I know that, just three months later, the decade-old JonBenet Ramsey story would crash its way back onto the cable channels' favorites list.
Accordingly, I wondered what would make the perfect cable tv news story.
It might go something like this:
Five year-old Joey Atherton accidentally falls down a mine shaft. The cable networks rush to the scene and begin wall-to-wall coverage. They call him "Little Joey," to distinguish him from all the big five year-olds out there. Rescue workers lower a McDonald's Happy Meal to Little Joey, along with a cup of coffee to keep him warm. Unfortunately, he burns himself drinking the coffee. Alan Dershowitz and Gerry Spence rush to the scene to provide legal advice to Little Joey and speculation to the cable networks. Michael Jackson donates one of his roller coaster cars from the shuttered Neverland Ranch to reach Little Joey. The car is filled with food water, blankets and a cell phone. Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt escort the car down the shaft on their Ducatis.
While in the mine shaft, Little Joey is chased by voracious man-eating alligators. However, he escapes long enough for an on-air phone interview with Larry King , who begins the interview with "Underground Mine Shaft, you're on the air." Little Joey is confused by King's references to Steve Lawrence and Edie Gourmet, and starts to cry. The shaft fills with water, which brings voracious man-eating sharks. Little Joey panics and begins to drown.
Just then, rescue workers reach Little Joey and try to revive him. While he is on a respirator, President Bush and Senator Bill Frist rush back to Washington from their vacation homes to take charge of Little Joey's welfare. Senator Frist says that he has reviewed the video footage of Little Joey and, as a former doctor, is confident in his diagnosis that the lad will pull through. Bush says that, in case Little Joey does not make it, his stem cells may not be used for scientific research.
Little Joey recovers from his ordeal, but is kidnapped at the rescue scene by impostors dressed as paramedics. Larry King begins a nightly newscast leading off each program with the big story that "Little Joey is still missing." The newscast continues for over ten years. Even though King has since died of his thirteenth heart attack, he is propped up in his chair El Cid-style and continues his show. A walkie-talkie is implanted in King's throat, with Rita Cosby on the other end. Since their voices are identical and King looks the same dead as alive, viewers do not know the difference. King/Cosby interviews numerous retired generals, many of whom opine that, if Joey is found, he will soon be eligible to be drafted in the Iraq War, which by now is the longest war in U.S. history.
Little Joey, who is now six foot one, eventually escapes his captors. While wandering around in the Arizona desert, he is picked up by a weaving Lexus driven by Mel Gibson who, after being shunned by Hollywood, has started his own religion and lives with his followers in a nearby compound. Spurning Gibson's offer to become second high priest, Little Joey makes his way back home. After six months of tv interviews, book deals and movie deals, he finishes high school and enrolls at Brown University, where he is given an Amy Carter scholarship. For nine months, things finally quiet down. The cable networks' ratings plunge dangerously.
During the summer, Little Joey accepts an internship in President Hillary Clinton's White House. Soon after, the two are caught having an affair. The cable news networks park their Winnebagos on the White House lawn and devote 24 hours a day to covering the story. Secretary of Faith and Values Joe Lieberman resigns in disgust, and can be seen each night giving interviews to the cable news networks. His positive rating soars, and he contemplates running for the Senate once again. As a Republican. In Texas.
President Clinton diverts attention from the scandal by ordering FBI agents to storm the Gibson compound. Gibson is killed in the fiery blaze and is nominated for sainthood. Clinton narrowly survives an impeachment effort. Things quiet down again. Aside from the gloomy and thus non-tv worthy Iraq War, the War on Terror, and nuclear blackmail by the leaders of IranIraqistan and NorthSouth KoreaJapanistan, there is no news. The cable news networks grow desperate. Then they hit upon an idea. The public is once again ready for coverage of the Hunt for JonBenet Ramsey's Real Killer.
Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.