Actually we did two TV shows. It was called “Schooled”. We created it with client OfficeMax for the back to school season. The thinking was: back to school is as big as Christmas in kids’ lives but there’s no explicit back to school programming. So…let’s do a TV show! Easier said than done.
The Escape Pod’s wunderkind managing director, Norm Bilow, somehow made it happen. That entailed dealing with networks, record labels, google, youtube…me.
The idea was a good one. Prank a whole school into thinking that if they don’t do X, very bad Y will happen to them. And then pay the whole thing off with a private concert, just for those kids, by a major rock star in their school gym. That necessitated getting the agreement of a high school and the parents of all the kids and, most crucially, it entailed all concerned keeping their mouths shut so none of the kids have any clue. otherwise our show is busted and all our production money effectively goes down the drain. in front of our eyes.
the good thing is this only really hit me when it much too late to do anything other than bite into my sleeve in agony and silently scream Ari Gold style.
rather than bore you with the executional details you can simply watch the bite-sized version below. It’s a good laugh. Basically it was PUNK’D set in a high school. and we knew it. hence the name. but remember, hidden camera wasn’t invented by Ashton Kutcher. Or Dom Joly. it was invented by Allen Funt. 50 years ago. it’s a technique not an idea.
Now, if you’ve never done a TV show before, you’re probably thinking “I could have done that!”. And you very well might. But one thing that we only discovered by actually doing it twice is that doing a TV show punifies any TV commercial ever done in terms of sheer scale and audacity and complexity. And we here at the escape pod have done some ambitious things in our time but this was different. Very, very different.
A commercial lasts 30 seconds. A TV show lasts 50 minutes. Or 3000 seconds.
In commercials you control everything. here we controlled maybe 20% of things.
In commercials you overshoot. here we shot what we could in the time.
In commercials you know what you’ll end up with. here we had absolutely no idea.
In commercials you edit for a week with one editor. and that’s a leisurely pace. We edited round the clock for three weeks plus using five editors. Racing all the way.
In commercials you have to get the approval of the the network to run your spot. here we were expected to perform well in the ratings. the weight of the network itself was on our shoulders.
In commercials you get your commercial sandwiched between programming. we actually had commercials for sandwiches sandwiched between our programming.
There’s a 15 minute just-for-youtube version here. Check it out. The prank really worked out well. The kids totally bought it So it’s real good viewin’…
PS: the principal Eric Sheninger has since gone on to have another reality show. Not surprised. He was great. Thanks Eric! I mean, Mr. Sheninger!