Monday, February 02, 2009

I don't know why people want to be on TV.

I wrestled with today's unknown, because it's hard to make a statement like this, much less discuss it, without sounding judgmental -- and I'm really not judgmental, I just don't understand it.

Anyway, I have no standing to be judgmental. I've been on TV plenty, starting with city spelling bees when I was a kid and continuing with Jeopardy, Ben Stein's Money, and several things that were filmed but never aired.

But I don't own any video of myself on television, and barely watched those shows when they aired. What I did see of them, I watched under the influence of large amounts of alcohol, in the company of people who let me talk to them instead of watching what was on the screen. It did not make me feel any bigger or more important to be on TV, and the point of those experiences was to play the games, meet the people and have the experience, not to be immortalized on tape.

The documentary I worked on last week, though, was only possible because so many kind, helpful and skilled people were eager for the chance to be on TV, in any capacity, for any reason. They took time out from their jobs, they put themselves to considerable personal inconvenience, and they did it all for free -- for the chance to be part of an hour-long documentary that may never air in this country at all (although everyone involved will get a DVD, and be able to show their own friends and family).

A couple of friends of mine helped out last week as a personal favor to me, and I appreciate that beyond words. But several others just wanted the chance to be on TV; I'm grateful for that, too, but I wish I understood it better.

Being on TV turns out to be so important, in fact, that the local news came out to cover the fact that we were filming a diner in Biddeford. I'm not going to embed the video, because something about this coverage makes me deeply uncomfortable -- again, I don't know why, except that watching an Internet clip of a TV news report about a documentary about an author's literary setting feels like looking down an endless hall of mirrors. But if you want to watch it, it's online here.

At least it's good publicity for the nice people at the Palace Diner, which is worth a visit if you're ever in Biddeford.

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