The young man with the microphone and the gelled wave haircut speaks into the camera. “Hey everybody, I’m Seth Goldman and here is your entertainment buzz!” He grins a wide grin. An aggressive grin. “I’m on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which honors the best the movies have to offer!” he says, close to the stars for David Spade, Vanna White, the Harlem Globetrotters, and the Olsen Twins. “So I thought this would be the perfect place to hook you up with the new movies out this July 4th!”
Beneath the veneer, Seth can only laugh – a laugh that barely wards off tears. “I thought”? Seth didn’t think this – Seth thinks nothing, and he knows it. He can no longer think, even if he tried. “Thought” has been forbidden, beaten out of him so long ago he can’t even remember what it felt like. All that’s left is his smile – his dim, glassy-eyed smile – as he waits for the editors to cut to the trailer for the first movie.
The trailer arrives, and it is for Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Of course it is. The title of today’s broadcast is “Transformers should blow up July 4 box office.” Every day it’s the same: he stands there, a living, breathing pretense for the network to show commercials and disguise them as news, spouting the horrible ad-copy his overlords force on him.
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the third installment of the franchise! This time the Autobots and the evil Decepticons race against each other to the moon.” Seth panics. Did he sound excited enough? Should he have given more emphasis to the word “race”? Should he have ended the sentence on a higher up-tempo? Seth fears what will await him. Oh Lord, he thinks, please let the beatings be gentler. Last time they were unbearable.
He tries to recover, but it’s hard. “Sorry guys, Megan Fox is not in this one. Also look for this blockbuster in 3D and Imax.” Seth knows that the second sentence doesn’t flow logically from the first. He knows that calling the film a “blockbuster” before it even opens is propaganda, not journalism. He knows that by telling audiences to “look for” the film in 3D and Imax, he is expressing not his own advice, but the advice of the corporate overlords who forced him to recite this insipid non-information. But he soldiers on. He has to. He has no choice.
It hadn’t always been like this. Seth was younger once. Naïve. He got into entertainment journalism after being a news writer, because he liked going to press junkets, and meeting stars. He liked to tell his friends that he flirted with Gwyneth Paltrow, and fist-bumped Mel Gibson, pre-meltdown. Sometimes the publicists gave him free coffee and muffins, and he always met the stars at the nicest hotels in Los Angeles. He got to go on the Oscar Red Carpet, how cool is that? There’s nothing wrong with that, is there? He’s just got a sweet job, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he?
Once, in one of his puff-piece magazine articles, he said he didn’t much like the movie. It was a tiny point, just mentioning that the performances were a bit wooden. The studio publicist called him immediately. “Look Seth, I’ll make it easy for you,” said the publicist, in her harshest tone. “Do you want to interview Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson, or not? Do you want to see the new Will Smith movie three days before everyone else, or not? Pull this shit one more time, and you’ll never go to a press screening in this town again.” So he toed the line. He kept going to the junkets, and he kept meeting celebrities, but he realized he never truly “met” a celebrity, just a persona. He thought that signing with NBC would save his soul, but here he is, sharing sidewalk space with a guy dressed as the Mad Hatter, trying to feign enthusiasm for Larry Crowne.
Seth coaxes his mouth into a grin. “Tom Hanks stars in the romantic comedy Larry Crowne! After losing his job, a simple, middle-aged man reinvents himself by going to college, where he meets a beautiful professor played by Julia Roberts who has lost as much passion for teaching as she has for her husband.” Seth has regained some confidence. He recites these words as if he has actually seen Larry Crowne, or had even heard of it until this moment.
But the cracks in the façade start to expand as the trailer for Monte Carlo plays. Seth shakes, and wipes the sweat off his brow. “And then there’s Monte Carlo” he says, struggling to muster back his faux-excitement. “Disney’s superstar Selena Gomez stars as one of three young women on an ordinary summer vacation in Paris…” – his throat dries up, and Seth gasps for air – “…when it suddenly becomes a trip of a lifetime after she is mistaken for a British heiress.”
What am I doing, Seth asks himself. I don’t want to see Monte Carlo. I hope I never see a single frame of Monte Carlo! It looks like shit wrapped in manure, sprinkled with more shit! Why am I standing here in this stupid haircut on this boulevard of broken dreams and pretending it means something! I’m next to the stars for Tinker Bell and Godzilla! Jesus Christ almighty – Tinker Bell and Godzilla!
Seth trembles at this knees as his eyes widen and a vein pops in his forehead. “Hey Seth, you okay?” asks the cameraman.
“Disney superstar Selena Gomez,” says Seth. He shrieks: “WILL SOMEBODY DEFINE ‘SUPERSTAR’ FOR ME?!”
“Aw shit, it’s happening again.” The cameraman pulls out a walkie-talkie. “Hey, Goldman’s going haywire,
Seth runs – runs to the nearest hardware store. He’s going for gasoline. Then he’s going to get a match. Then the fire will start, and will engulf this entire cesspool of a city. Starting with Howie Mandel and Tim Allen’s stars, Seth Gordon is going to torch this motherfucking block to motherfucking ashes!
But Seth feels a pain in his heart, and he collapses to the floor. A team of mechanics materializes, along with Roger Greenblatt, President of NBC Entertainment. “Well here’s your problem right here,” says one of the mechanics, opening the back of Seth’s skull with a screwdriver. “His will is too strong. It’s overpowering the software. I can give him a temporary boost, but he’s pretty much toast.”
“Damn,” says Greenblatt. “We spent too much time converting this one. I thought we could get at least another six months out of it.”
“In future,” says the mechanic, tabulating the bill, “you should probably be careful about calling people ‘superstars.’ That seems to have been the word that triggered the meltdown.”
“Okay, thanks, I’ll make a note of it. Do you think he can make it through the rest of the broadcast?”
“Yeah, probably, but after this you should definitely buy a new one. You don’t wanna push your luck.”
Greenblatt takes out his phone as the mechanics pull Seth onto a dolley and move him back where he belongs, on top of George Lopez’s star. The chief mechanic closes the back of Seth’s head and pulls a switch, and gives the cameraman the OK. On cue, Seth returns to his trademark grin.
“Alright so that’s a look at the new movies out this weekend, that is your entertainment buzz. I’m Seth Goldman for NBC News mobile.”