Well, that was interesting. Not sure if you’ve ever been on a cable news channel before, but here’s how it goes:
Unless you happen to be in NYC (which I was not), you’ll be appearing via satellite. Fox News has a studio in downtown Chicago for just such appearances. So… you get up REAL early, wash your face, shave extra carefully, wear something TV friendly (not black or white or patterned or striped) and then drive an hour downtown. You park in a really expensive parking garage, then go to the building housing the studio. You try all the doors, only find them all locked because it’s 7:30am on Saturday morning. So you fumble for your itinerary, find the contact number, and call. A young intern-kinda guy comes down and let’s you in, and takes you up to the studio on the 5th floor. He turns on the TV in the green room so you can watch Fox News while you wait.
You notice a big Dunkin Donuts box on the table, and think, “How thoughtful!” You open the box to find mostly crumbs, and a few sad-looking leftovers. It’s the donut box from the day before. Oh well. You had toast and peanut butter before you left home so you’ll be fine.
The makeup lady comes in, and asks if you’re “Dr. Phil.” Clearly you are not, so you explain your connection with Veggietales. The makeup lady freaks out. She loves VeggieTales. Her husband loves VeggieTales. He’s a Chicago cop who draws Christian comic books in his spare time. She covers you with makeup. No one is allowed to go on TV unless they’re covered with makeup.
After 10 minutes with the makeup lady, the intern-ish guy comes and leads you into a small, dark studio. It is all black, except for a set of windows that look out over the Chicago river and skyline. Pretty! Most studios like this have a big poster of the local skyline behind you – but this one has the real deal!
You put on your mic and your earpiece and sit in a canvas director’s chair. Suddenly a voice crackles in your earpiece – “this is New York – can you hear me?” You feel a little like an astronaut. “Yes Houston… I read you loud and clear.”
Levels are checked, and then you sit quietly staring into the dark, waiting for something to happen. You stare at a camera lens about 10 feet away in the dark room. You remind yourself to think of the lens as a smiling host. Smile back at the smiling host/lens. Nothing happens. Your smile gets tired. The lens isn’t giving you any positive feedback.
You drift alone in space… staring at the lens in anticipation… waiting… waiting…
And then, BOOM! The Spongebob theme song is playing in your ear – piped into your space capsule. A voice introduces you as “Dr. Phil Vischer.” Ah. That’s why the makeup lady was confused. They think I’m a doctor. No time to ponder how they came to think I was a doctor – they’re asking me to explain how Spongebob is bad for kids. I start talking, and about 10 seconds in they cut me off. Oops. 10 seconds is apparently the limit. They ask someone else to explain why Spongebob is actually GOOD for kids. A voice crackles in my ear – a woman – explaining how fast-paced shows like Spongebob teach kids to process faster. They come back to me. I rebut. Keep it short. They quote from Nickelodeon’s statement on the issue – a few more words, then… Silence.
It’s over. You are once again drifting in silence in your space capsule over the Chicago river. The intern sees you out – the makeup lady hands you two handy wipes to clean off the makeup – and one of her husband’s comic books. Your first thought, as you hit the street, is… “What just happened?” The appearance was a blur. You made a few points, the lady in your ear made a few points. You had about 100 more points you had wanted to make – points you had rehearsed in the car on the drive downtown – but you can only do so much with two 10 second chunks.
In hindsight, the experience is a bit like being dropped from a hot air balloon with a stranger, and being told you need to debate a complex issue in the 12 seconds before you hit the ground. Like something they would do on one of those strange, Japanese game shows. “Discuss the bailout of Greek banks! Go!! (one thousand one… one thousand two… one thousand…) Too slow!! You dead!!”
And it is over.
So… Spongebob Squarepants got me on Fox News, where I grappled with the weighty issues of kids media with a woman in my ear while falling from a hot air balloon. Curious experience. And kind of fun.
You should try it sometime.