Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

Welcome back to Tuesday’s Tale, a weekly feature where we collaborate to write a story. Previous Tuesday’s Tales include Not-Maude’s Not-Scandal and To Thieve a Catch. We follow the basic rules of the “Yes, And” improvisational game – accept everything written so far as part of the story, and add your own paragraph (or so) where the last addition left off – except you needn’t begin your addition with “Yes, and.” I’ll start the story….

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“Here’s the thing you clearly don’t understand,” Pete Pompus announced in a manner befitting his family name. “Numbers are down. Ratings are off. Shares are slipping.”

To an untrained ear, that sounded like three things, a triplet of thoughts, a trio of ideas. But Carrie Mulligan’s ear was nothing if not trained to the repetitive, the redundant, the recurrent. Pete talked that way whenever he wanted to emphasize a thought, reinforce a theme, drive home a point. Which made him annoying, bothersome, irritating. But Pete was also the boss, the chief, the head honcho of Beyond Reality Productions, where Carrie worked, sweated, toiled. So Carrie put up with him, suffered him, endured him. In triplicate.

“So you need an idea for a new show,” Carrie offered.

“Exactly. Precisely. On the nose.”

Beyond Reality had gone through lean years, mostly because Pete’s concept of originality was to take an idea that at least five other studios had made into hits and find exactly the twist that would make it flop. No one in the test audience had believed the contestants in Trapped at the Mall! really were trapped at the mall, probably because Pete couldn’t afford to pay the mall to close for filming. It was hard to maintain suspense with shoppers in the background, noshing nachos at the food court. Bigfoot in New York? had seemed promising, as viewers could vaguely buy into the hunt for a seven-foot hairy humanoid living undetected in old subway tunnels, until they saw the motion-sensor camera photos of the rats. Carrie shuddered at the memory.

Pete had found a niche audience with Gorgeous!, which followed several girls and their manager-moms through the junior beauty pageant circuit. The ratings had spiked after the maternal mayhem hit the news. But one of the mothers had blabbed about the big fight being staged. (Well of course it was; you couldn’t let cast members hit each other with real baseball bats!) Since then the audience had trailed off.

“What if we follow a candidate for political office?” Carrie asked.

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Have fun!