Picture this. The office of the producer, plush, swish, slightly overdone. He is the producer. She comes in. Plush, swish, slightly overdone, the reality TV star comes to see her ‘producer’. She is on the couch-it’s for casting apparently. He is swinging in his swivel chair, hands underneath the desk where no one can see. He has told her the bad news. She is taking it well.
‘Seriously!’, she screams, standing up. Then sitting down again.
‘Seriously, you’re replacing me!’
‘Calm down, calm down, its complicated. ‘ He tries to sound soothing.
‘Complicated, are you mad, it’s a bloody robot.’ She is overwrought.
He blurts it out- ‘Firstly, its not just you, its, its everybody’ He makes it sound as if this fact will make a difference. It stuns her at first.
She is incredulous, ‘The whole show, the whole show is being axed?’
He looks perplexed. She has not quite understood. ‘No not the show, the cast of the show.’
‘They’re replacing the whole cast-With fucking robots’ she yells.
‘Well that is part of it, now that you mention it. We are able to show robots fucking in a way and at a time when we are not allowed to show humans,’ he pauses, ‘fucking.’
‘The rest of them, for sure, but me, me.’
She is standing again, then sitting again, ‘You think I can be replaced with a fucking robot?’
He just nods.
She stands up-again. There is something almost mechanical in that standing up and sitting down but he doesn’t comment. She is livid. She sits down-again. ‘That is not what I meant.’ The comment is too late and he doesn’t quite remember what she is referring to. She is still very loud. The lipstick is too.
‘You need to calm down’ he tries soothing again. Really he didn’t think she’d take it this badly. Poor form on her part. Unprofessional. She thinks she’s an artist. She is at least 50% plastic he thinks. Really the new show is just an upgrade, a reboot. He can see she is seething, panicking, angry.
‘Calm down,’ he says again.
‘Calm Down’ she is yelling again, ‘ you are replacing me with a bloody robot.’
‘Not exactly, that’s another advantage, robots don’t menstruate.’
She stares at him, even more incredulous. ‘Fuck’ she screams. ‘I can ‘not menstruate’ if that’s what you want.’
‘Fuck’ she yells even louder.
‘No’ he says calmly ‘I can –you know-get that from the bots without the hassle of you know-allegations or going public.’
‘It wasn’t a question’ she sounds less shrill, like it might be sinking in but then loud again, ‘Fuck – you are not listening to me. Do you know who I am? I am the biggest reality TV star of the age. I have 45 million, count them 45 million followers on everything, I am big on every social media platform you can name.’
‘That is true, that is very true, its just that well- The bots have –well they have more’. He tries not to sound smug.
She sees an opening, ‘Yes but there’s are just other bots. Just other bots, mine are all human, they bots are just distorting their numbers by using their programming to get other bots to like them-to produce a bot to like them a million times over. You know what I mean, it is in the papers everywhere. That Pop-bot on channel 7, he has 11 billion followers and there aren’t even that many people on the planet.’
He shudders, he has read the scandal but he is the only person here over 40, so no one else has read the papers, ‘The papers-honey- the papers, they are kind of , they’re dead. No one reads the papers.’
He decides to try and convince her to take a long term view.
‘Look I know its difficult, you think 10 years ago I wasn’t having the same conversation with actors in soaps, when they were being replaced by reality TV stars. I was. Now its your turn.’
‘My turn, my turn. When the fucking hell is it gonna be your turn.’ She screams, stands up again.
‘The whole cast?’ she murmurs now as if the finally understands.
‘An entire show of robots living real ‘robot’ lives. How interesting can that be?’
He looks down at the desk. He has wondered the same thing himself. ‘People said that about reality tv when it first started. Look what happened.’
‘Yes but I am fucking interesting.’ She seems to say this as if its obvious, but he can see the fight has gone out of her now.
‘You should really stop mentioning the fucking.’
She looks at him.
‘There are lots of reasons, cheaper.’ His voice trails away. ‘You just switch them off and put them away in the winter.’
‘Fuck cheap, you think this look isn’t cheap, I pay a lot of money to look this cheap.’
‘Don’t get me wrong, not that cheap, I mean these are high spec bots.’ She is getting emotional again.
‘No one will watch this.’
He looks at her –almost ruefully.
‘Well we think they will, just look at Belfast bots, highest rating show of the year.’
‘Nobody watched it, the bots involved hacked the ratings programme. Nobody watched it . You know that.’ He has heard the rumours but decides not to go there.
‘ Unfortunately there’s little evidence and well the advertising dollar goes where the ratings go. You know how it is Honey.’
‘Fuck, you are replacing me with a robot. Do not call me Honey. Do not ever call me Honey. I have 45 million human followers on instabook or whatever its called. I am a star. I am the star. ‘
‘It’s not personal. ‘
‘Not personal. I am being replaced by a robot. ‘
He tries to make her look forward. ‘Its ratings, it’s the business, you can tell people we had creative differences, you need to be free to pursue other outlets. Write a book.’
‘When was the last time anybody read a book. I cannot write a book, I can barely sign my name. A robot wrote my last book. Fuck, how did I let that happen.’
‘You know a robot will only swear in a show when I tell it to. I can have the word fuck removed from their vocabulary with the press of a button or something.’
‘You’re serious. The whole cast.’ She is murmuring again.
He nods. ‘The whole cast.’
‘The whole cast. No one will watch it, surely no one will watch it.’
He tries to be soothing but realistic. ‘As I said lets not forget Cyborgs of Sussex, Androids of Atlanta, all bots, all rating, the list goes on. Look, I called you in so we could chat face to face, because I value you, I think you’re a wonderful person and truth be told you have made me a lot of money but you’re time is up. Its time for someone else to have some spotlight, to work the spotlight and yet stand in it at the same time.’
‘What?’ She is suddenly confused.
‘We get the bots to program their own lighting and to work the cameras remotely, savings everywhere with these things.’
She looks incredulous. ‘You are crazy, no one is going to watch it. What are you even going to call it.’
‘ The Real Bots of Berkshire.’ She looks aghast as if finally its real. She thinks she might even have seen a trailer for it. Thinks she might have thought it looked ok.
He thinks he is on the verge of winning now, ‘I got you some literature. It might help.’
He hands her some brochures.
She looks them over, ‘pro-gram-ming.’
She is aghast. ‘Computer programming? ‘
‘New jobs, honey, new world.’
She sits, looks at him. Incredulous. Aghast. So this is how it ends. She gets up. Grabs her very expensive bag. Flings the brochures on the table. Leaves.