05 February, 2021

Writing My Own TV Program

The stakes are low when the program you're writing is deliberately low-budget and features episodes that're only sixty seconds long, but they feel high. The Mountain Man Minute is the show in question, a collaboration between me and a former compatriot from the Speak Easy Gavel Club. It puts a spin on survival-based reality TV by presenting well-researched information with pasted-on backgrounds and a dash of twitchy-eyed insanity.

The idea arose in line for breakfast, as Mountain Man (which is not, in fact, his real name) and I joked about the multitude of possible life forms in his Duck Dynasty-worthy beard. The prison's video production studio (which my job requires me to make videos for) was weeks away from opening. Everything had the potential to be a TV show. Why not something absurd about surviving in the wilderness? Taking a cue from 1980s and '90s public access television shows, Mountain Man and I decided that a straight-faced, didactic approach to survivalism would be funniest. We threw ideas at each other for weeks, passing notes back and forth between our wings.

"Greetings and salutations, citizens," the script for Episode 001 begins. "This is The Mountain Man Minute, your port in the storm of society's collapse." It goes on to discuss what contents make the ideal "bug-out bag" – including Febreze, since it covers up your thoughts from the invading aliens, who are able to smell them.

Tips from subsequent episodes include: telling time with sticks, avoiding snow blindness with cardboard, trapping bait fish in a plastic bottle, filtering water with tampons, and all the ways in which "Moss is your friend!"

Because we only ever see each other for a few minutes a day, at meals, the method by which Mountain Man and I have agreed to cowrite the show is this: we each write half of the episodes on our own, then turn the pages over to the other. Then we critique and rewrite as needed. Scripting my twelve episodes took me a couple of hours, unevenly distributed over a three-day period, and was a lot of fun.

For the green screen work that The Mountain Man Minute requires, we're waiting on a shipment of additional studio lights to come in. I'm somewhat too enthusiastic about whenever we might start shooting. Meanwhile, writing the show is a fun diversion. With any luck it'll even make someone (besides us) laugh.

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