Some time ago, I received an email from a producer with the sort of network you’d expect a Scouting NY TV show to be associated with. He said he loved the site, and asked if I’d like to meet for lunch to explore the possibility of a Scouting NY show.
A fabled lunch meeting! A Scouting NY TV show! I eagerly agreed, ironed my hippest-looking shirt (which is laughably unhip), and skipped two scouting appointments to meet him the next day. The ideas were already firing in my head…
We meet at a pub on the east side, and as it turns out, there are two producers waiting for me. Great! They must really be into this! Sure, we’re meeting at one of Manhattan’s carbon copy midtown Irish pubs, but hey, who am I to expect more?
We get a table and chat amiably while we peruse the menu. The producers are very friendly, and tell me how much they love my site. They explain that the point of our meeting is to simply bat around some concepts for what a Scouting NY show would be. No promises or guarantees, just chatting. I’m thrilled someone cares enough to even ask.
We order, then Producer 1 gets right down to it.
“Here’s the thing, Nick. Shows about history are out.”
Huh, I think. Wasn’t expecting that. But just go with it.
“Forget the history,” he says, “it’s all about people.”
Producer 2 starts in: “Well, the history is a part of it. But viewers don’t want to be lectured, they tune in to see characters. Wacky characters, bizarre characters, eccentric. Characters with extreme personalities.”
Uh oh. I immediately realize that, up til now in our meeting, I have not come close to exhibiting an extreme personality. I momentarily contemplate using the table candle to light my hair on fire.
Producer 1 continues, “Now, and I’m just thinking out loud here, you’d be the host, and your personality trait would be your fantastic eye for detail.”
Producer 2 nods. “Yes. It’s your superpower.”
Wow – a superpower! I feel really important for a second, until I realize what a lame superpower an eye for detail is (Stay away, Lex Luthor, or I’ll distract you with my ability to point out overlooked sights!).
Producer 1: “Meanwhile, the show will be driven by the weirdos you meet while scouting. So, do you run into weirdos while you’re out?”
“Uh, oh, sure, all the time,” I say. Then, because I don’t like lying: “But to be really honest, the ratio of normal people to kooks is about 25:1, and you’d have to do tons of filming before you had anything. You might as well just film actors if you want that kind of content.”
“We could go that route,” says producer 2, thinking. It is about this point that I start to wonder if these guys have ever read my website.
Producer 1 goes on. “Well, that’s one idea. Here’s another idea I had. You’re Donald Trump.”
Producer 2: “We’ll have you sit at, like, a long board room table.”
I continue to nod.
“And you have a team of location scouts who work for you. We create assignments you need them to fill. And we’ll follow them as they race around the city trying to satisfy you. And when they show you what they’ve found, you’ll be like, that’s terrible, that’s terrible – except we’ll come up with a catch phrase you can use, like You’re Fired. But different.”
I nod and smile, suddenly realizing I’m having significant trouble swallowing my ham and cheese sandwich.
Then, Producer 1 comes back in: “Nah, here’s what we gotta do. You go around New York finding crazy locations like on your website.”
“Using your superpower,” Producer 2 adds.
“Right,” says Producer 1, “and you find the locations, but you’re an everyman, and you don’t know what you’ve found. So you’ve gotta ask your expert friends.
“And here’s how it’ll be: you’ll have one young comedian buddy, and one crotchety old professor. And the two argue like crazy. And you call them up and they explain what you’ve found.”
“But it’ll be funny,” Producer 2 adds. They pause for my input.
“Those are both great ideas!” I force out, continuing to bob my head like a jack-in-the-box.
They pitch a few more ideas. Finally, Producer 1 turns to me. “Well, let’s ask you, Nick. What do you see a Scouting NY show as?”
I know it’s a lost battle. But I try anyway.
“Well, the most popular posts I write on my website are about places and things that are hidden in plain sight. Stuff you walk by every single day and never notice. Amazing sights that make you realize there’s a whole side to the city you’re missing. And it’s not unique to New York – you can find content in any city in the world.”
I go on to talk about all the emails I’ve received from readers who say I’ve inspired them to look a bit more closely at their own cities and the things they’ve found, and how pretty much no show on TV does anything like this. I mention a few things from my site, like looking at old shooting locations and getting access to places that are normally off limits to the public -
But the main point of the program: show people a side of New York that they never knew existed.
I finish. The producers are staring at me like I’m an alien. It’s time to go.
Over the next few weeks, we exchange a few half-hearted emails, but it’s becoming pretty clear that I’m nowhere near extreme enough for my own TV show. Oh well – at least I got a free generic NY pub ham and cheese out of it.
But then, nearly a year later to the day, I get a call. It’s Producer 1. And he’s very excited.
“Nick!” he says frantically. “I just got a great idea for a show, and I immediately thought of you!”
Despite my previous experience, I feel myself getting excited.
“I was just reading this article,” he continues, “about an oil derrick in a mall in Los Angeles. In a mall! Every day, thousands of shoppers go in that mall never knowing that on the other side of the wall, oil is being pumped from a well deep underground! It’s incredible!
“And then I thought of you, and your website! And suddenly, it all fit! Here’s what your show should be about!”
I wait as he pauses dramatically.
“Hidden in plain sight!”
Well, another year and I haven’t heard anything, so I think we can safely assume the ol’ Hidden in Plain Sight show is off the table. Or, maybe they’ve gone ahead and made it with a different, perhaps more extreme host than myself (which, frankly, would be fantastic for the resulting lawsuit).
Anyway, a bunch of people have written over the past two years telling me I should try to branch Scouting NY into, say, a TV show. Hey, I’m all for it! But I wanted to recount this story as an example of why I have a feeling I should probably stick to my day job…