Just about everyone has had a job at one time or another that makes for great cocktail party conversation. For Heather, it was toiling as the personal assistant to a then-hot, Grammy nominated musician. For me, it was working behind the scenes on one of the most popular TV shows in history!
I had just graduated from Film School and was looking for a job that would help me break into the industry when I scored an interview with what was described in the ad as a “long running, top ten TV show.” What could it be?!?!” “Seinfeld?” “Friends?” “The Simpsons?” The possibilities were all incredibly exciting.
At the interview I learned it was an entry level job for – wait for it – “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” So. yeah. Less exciting. But hey, no one else was calling, and it WAS a successful show on TV. So when they offered me the the job I took it, and to be honest with you, I actually was pretty excited.
My excitement dampened a bit upon arriving at their “studios” and seeing they were the opposite of Hollywood glamor. Instead of being located on a studio lot or Sunset Boulevard, “America’s Funniest Home Videos” worked out of a generic office space. The interior of the place was even worse, bathed in depressing fluorescent lighting. Despite this, I tried my best to stay super positive. After all, this was my big break!
I was immediately introduced to the lead Production Assistant, a gym rat who told me the best part of his job was that he was able to get a workout in at lunch. He lead me to a claustrophobic room filled with thousands of VHS tapes that had been submitted by viewers and rejected. He then told me my first task: I was to run these tapes through a machine that erased their contents so they could be used again.
“Relax,” I told myself. “No one gets anywhere without a little hard work.” With that thought I put a tape into the machine and decided that I was going to work so hard and fast that the head honcho of this whole operation was going come down here and say, “My God! Who is this kid? I’ve never seen a Production Assistant work so hard! Come with me, boy! You’re going to the top!'”
Ten minutes later I stared into space, slack jawed. “This sucks,” I thought.
My next task was to get lunch for the show’s writers (yes… the show has writers). When I went to take their orders I was surprised to see Alan Thicke’s clone. Turns out it Alan’s his brother, Todd, the head writer. Each time he called me “Mike” I laughed inside pretending he was Dr. Seaver and I was Mike Seaver. I was less amused later, however, by the smell of Greek food that filled my car as I drove back from their restaurant of choice.
My last task of my first day was to process video submissions. This entailed opening the envelope, writing the number of the release form on the front of the envelope, and then filing it away. Soon, in an attempt not to go crazy from boredom, I started to read the release forms. You wouldn’t believe these things. The people who sent them in almost always wrote way more info about their clip than required.
One submission even had a ten page document taped to the release form which detailed what happened in each of the fifty-seven clips included on the VHS tape. It went something like this: “Clip one: Poopsy tries to eat a block of wood! Will he ever figure out the wood is not food? Note: If you could mention our dog’s name is Poopsy I’m sure people would find that humorous!”
The next day was exactly the same. As was the one after that, and the one after that. As you can imagine, I only lasted a couple weeks at that job. But the memories will last a lifetime of cocktail parties!