‘Shafted’? Well, yes we were, as a matter of fact – Part 4 of 5

Shafted, Part IV: Remembering the Post Turtle.

Hello! I’d like to start today’s instalment of my Shafted PatentedHowToWinGameShowsBehindTheScenesReminiscence with an old joke…

A farmer is talking about politics with a young man from the city. The farmer compares a politician to a ‘Post Turtle’. The young man’s unfamiliar with this expression, and asks him what a ‘Post Turtle’ is.

“When you’re driving down a country road,” says the farmer, “and you see a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a Post Turtle. You know he didn’t get up there by himself. He doesn’t belong there; you wonder who put him there; he can’t get anything done while he’s up there; and you just want to help the poor, dumb thing down.”

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Last week, I mentioned one of our bosses on the show insisting on shoehorning an irrelevant, and slightly mean-spirited, clip into one of our two media launch episodes. This was a typical example of his style of leadership and decision-making, I’m afraid. As I recall, everyone else working on Shafted was great; the writers, the contestant co-ordinators, everyone in the office, the executive producers, the host, the floor crew… everyone.

But this honcho, who’d been brought down from Sydney to get the show up and running… well, he was a Post Turtle.

Alarm bells started ringing the moment he introduced himself, by saying “I’m single… But looking…”, as he eyed a few of the younger female members of the team. Erm – was that appropriate?

Then there was his habit of loudly complaining about his insomnia, to anyone who’d listen. And, as I mentioned last week, on the frantic day of the first record, with a million things still to do before the cameras rolled that afternoon, he strolled in two hours late, stretching as he luxuriously enthused “Oh, I had THE BEST SLEEP last night!” To this day, I don’t know how he expected us all to respond to that… “Oh, Congratulations”? “Oh, that’s nice”? “Oh, we’re all really happy for you”? FFS. Read the room, dude; we’ve got a show to make. At least have some vague concept of how it looks to your team, when you’re not there for the first half of the all-important first Record Day.

He was extremely condescending, too. I guess he thought it was amusing to continually address the hard-working, stressed production team as “kids”, or, worse still…. “Shaft puppies”. I kid you not. He actually called us that.

And when he threw his imagined authority around by yelling “NOW MEANS NOW, PEOPLE!”, it was almost comical to see how slowly the production team moved in response. At the start of each taping session, I suppose he thought he was being inspiring when he rubbed his hands together and loudly yelled “OKAY, LET’S KICK THIS PUPPY IN THE GUTS!”

Ugly. Just ugly.

He wasn’t there for long, as it turned out. His superiors were aware of his performance, his “leadership”, and the negligible respect he commanded from the team. Within a month, he’d been replaced. And as the new recruit’s style – and skill – became apparent, everyone in the office breathed a huge sigh of relief. But having that Post Turtle gumming up the works at the start wasn’t helpful. This gig was proving to be hard enough already….

Often, when working on Shafted, I’d feel quite dispirited at the end of the day. Time and time again, it became clear that we were empowering our contestants to lie to each other, betray each other, cheat each other and just generally behave poorly. We weren’t exactly celebrating humanity at its best here. As per the UK version of the show, whenever time both finalists shafted each other (resulting in them both going home empty-handed), it was feel-bad television at its most depressing. And I’m sorry to say that this was – by far – the endgame’s most common outcome. Both finalists would earnestly promise each other they’d share, before immediately going back on their word and shafting each other. It always resulted in two sad, ashamed, regretful people kicking themselves for being so nasty. They knew that if they hadn’t given in to their greed, they could’ve walked away with thousands of dollars, for half an hour’s efforts. And we were also watching them realise that they’d just presented themselves as mean-spirited liars on national television.

As the weeks drew on, we followed the show’s daily viewing figures very closely. They weren’t great….

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And that’s where we’ll leave Shafted this week. In next week’s final instalment, I look back at the positives (yes, there were some!), and at the contestant audition process, and I’ll relate the tale of Shafted‘s… well, shafting.

See you then!

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