I did it! I made my first appearance on national TV, although I could identify myself only as a miniature blur of orange at the far right of the screen on Katie Couric’s show Tuesday afternoon. The taping took place Monday afternoon, and the show featured Captain Sully Sullenberger, who flawlessly landed a jet on the Hudson River on January 15th four years ago.
Since my novel-in-progress is set in the world of daytime television, I wanted to get inside the studio of a major TV network, and I achieved my goal, soaking up atmosphere as best I could while being herded around with several dozen women. The ABC studio, on a primarily residential side street on the upper west side, was unprepossessing both outside and in until we were ushered onto Katie’s elegantly spacious set and slotted into our seats.
The lengthy email guidelines advised us to show up at 1:30pm for a 3pm taping, saying we’d be admitted on a first-come-first-serve basis. To be on the safe side, I showed up at 12:15. A dozen women were already ahead of me, but when I was checked in and given a ticket emblazoned with the lucky number 13, I was sure I had it made. Once inside, we waited in a grubby beige visitors’ area for over an hour till they began ushering us to the set.
But to my dismay, they called only the first ten people, then called those with tickets highlighted in pink, followed by those with blue and yellow swashes. Finally only a couple of dozen of us were left, and I began feeling paranoid, fearing I’d be blackballed. Why was I one of the few without a colored swash? Was I too old? Not attractive enough? I knew I was “dressed to impress,” as they’d requested, in two shades of brilliant orange, while many women had flouted the dress code by wearing black or, heaven forbid, prints.
I never did find out what those color codes signified, but I expect they identified specific “interest groups,” like friends and family of the survivors of Sully’s miraculous flight. At last I was admitted, and I was glad I’d had the foresight to show up early. By then nearly all the seats were filled, and since I was a single, they found me a seat in the third row, far right, where I was unlikely to be picked up in most of the crowd shots.
A young comedian coached the audience on how to applaud (loudly and enthusiastically) and when we could take pictures (before and after). He told us to look alert and interested, to laugh and emote as appropriate, and not to space out and start counting the lights in the ceiling or picking our noses. Then Katie made her entrance, and we were on. Each segment was shot in real time, with no retakes. During breaks, the crew rearranged the set with crisp efficiency, and then an assistant gave us the countdown to applaud as she launched into the next segment.
Katie was warm and engaging, Sully was the quintessentially modest hero, and the show whizzed by. Back on the street a bit after five, I strolled downtown, past Lincoln Center to Columbus Circle, where I happened upon a snazzy new mall, several stories high, adjacent to Donald Trump’s towering International Hotel. On the third floor I found a restaurant with a wonderfully glittering cityscape beyond its wall of windows, and treated myself to a glorified version of pork and beans and a glass of Pinot Grigio.
Like my other day trips to the city where I spent the better part of my youth, this one was pricier than expected, but I figure it’s tax deductible as research for my writing. Was it worth it? Well, I soaked in some atmosphere, picked up some details I can use in my novel. I grew more comfortable with the camera in my new Samsung Galaxy, and for the first time ever, I’m illustrating this blog post with my very own photos. But most of all, I reveled in the intoxicating feeling of being at one with the most exciting city on earth.