Tuesday, December 11, 2012

26. Metal Gear Wobbly


A dark character stood with his back to the wall, hidden carefully down a small side-street, peering out round the corner. He was dressed from head to foot in a black, and wearing black framed sunglasses that screamed 'I am up to something'.

It was 11.25 in the morning, the high street was busy with shoppers making use of the bright sunshine and unusually warm temperatures.

As the target moved away, the man spotted a bus stop about ten metres ahead. He checked for obstacles and then stealthily moved over to behind the bus shelter, peering out again to check if he had been spotted. He had of course, but he wasn't bothered about the old ladies busy doing their shopping and sitting outside of caf├ęs.

After twenty seconds, the man looked for his next cover and eyed a folding shop signboard that was advertising today's sandwich specials. He checked the coast was clear and quietly sneaked out from the cover of the bus stop. Had this been a cartoon, each of his footsteps would have been soundtracked with the single plonk of a xylophone, played with the verve of the late Patrick Moore.

Midway to the sandwich board the man realised he looked too suspicious, so to stay less visible he adopted the first rule of stealth video games, no one sees you if you do a forward roll. However, The man was not what you might call an accomplished gymnast. He crouched down, and hesitantly moved into a wonky forward roll that promptly veered off to the side, resulting in him kicking the sandwich board with his feet as he finished rolling.

The thud of the man's feet against the board caused everybody in the near vicinity to turn around and stare in bemusement. A second later the board fell on top of the man's head, causing him to yelp out loud in pain.

A brief moment later he shook off the injury and quietly ran ahead to behind the postbox up in front of him, staring firmly at his target to ensure he hadn't been seen.

Nigel had heard the crash, but the board had hidden his follower. He carried on walking down the busy street, weaving between old ladies and occasionally glancing to the shop windows, however he had the unshakeable feeling that something was amiss.

It was, that something was Steve.

Steve realised there was no further cover, so decided to run to the nearby music shop about 100 metres ahead, just behind Nigel. He started to run as quietly as he could, he got to a point equally ten metres from Nigel and ten metres from the shop, at which point he caught his shoe on the pavement and fell sprawling over. The noise made Nigel turn around and leap out of his skin as he saw the suspicious character behind him.

“What the fuck are you doing?!” Nigel exclaimed.

Steve stayed silent.

“You looked like a bloody mental case dressed like that.”

Steve took off his glasses, before realising a split second later that this was the only thing preventing him from being recognised. He winced in irritation at his mistake.

“Steve? What the bloody hell are you doing following me?”

“Pardon? Non Englische, er, gesprechen.”

“Steve. Stop being a cock.”

“I er, no understand.”

“Steve!!”

Steve sighed. “I was trying to find out who planted the terrible guests onto Tony's show. I was trailing the suspects for evidence of wrongdoing.”

“I'm in town buying a new jacket Steve.”

“I see.”

“How long have you been following me?”

“Well...” Steve counts on his fingers. “Six, maybe seven... no, six. Six minutes.”

“Ok, well stop it. If you want to talk to me just ask.”

“Not much of a secret investigation if I just ask you is it Nigel?”

“Why does it need to be secret?”

Steve thought for a second. “Because someone was acting on behalf of Gerald, and I want to expose them.”

“Have you thought about involving Tony?”

“Well not yet.”

“You haven't got him as a suspect too have you?”

“No. I ruled him out in the first week of enquiries.” Steve remarked proudly.

“Good work Officer Dibble.” Nigel replied sarcastically.

“Thank you.” Steve replied with no realisation of the real meaning.

“Can I suggest you meet up with us and we discuss this properly?” Nigel pleaded.

“No can do.” Steve answered boldly. “I'm going to crack this case myself if it's the last thing I do.”

“Steve, if you keep falling over like that it may very well be just that.”

Steve ignored this and pointed at Nigel. “You better not be behind this, I will catch you if you are.” At which point, Steve turned and ran off, a few seconds later he collided with an old lady's shopping bag causing both of them, and the contents of the bag, to eject all over the pavement.

Nigel looked confused, before remarking to himself. “He really needs to stop watching those American cop dramas.”

Steve picked himself up, helped the old lady to her feet, and carried on walking away with a slight limp.

Nigel shook his head, turn back around and walked off humming the theme tune from The Bill.

Monday, December 10, 2012

25. Oh What a Night (Part Two)


The inside was decorated largely in black, but with bright red and purple patterns on the wall. The flames, stripes, and swirls contrasted with the dark aesthetic and made the venue feel modern and stylish despite the initial impressions given by the wailing grungy guitars. In addition, the bar walls and ceiling were covered in rock memorabilia and what looked like pieces of abstract social commentary in the form of art hanging down. In particular, a battered disco ball covered in razor blades caught Tony's attention as he queued at the bar.

After a few minutes Tony reached the bar, only to catch sight of Sarah turning around from using the cash register. She grinned and pointed her finger towards him as she walked over to him. The music made it incredibly difficult to hear clearly, but he just about made out what she said. “Tony! I looked for you after the show, but I couldn't see you.”

“Sorry, I had to leave in case Charlie came back to stab me.” He replied, truthfully.

“What on earth are you doing here?!” Sarah enquired. “I didn't think you'd actually visit a place like this.”

“My friend Patrick recommended it.” Tony answered. “He likes all sorts.”

“You mean that guy there?” Sarah pointed to Patrick, who was stood a few metres behind Tony, talking to Abbie.

“Tony turned around to see who she was pointing at. “Yes. You know him?”

“I met him after your show. He said he liked my t-shirt, we got chatting and we went for a drink.”
“How strange!”

“Isn't it just! What are you having?”

Tony tried to remember the order he had taken a few moments earlier. “Three large rum and cokes, and, er, and a vodka and orange please.”

“Of course.” Sarah smiled and went to pour the drinks. She came back over shortly afterwards with them, as Tony went to hand her the money she waved him away. “These are on me.”

“Thank you Sarah.” They both smiled, and Tony walked over to Patrick and Abbie. “I didn't know you knew the girl who was on my show yesterday Patrick?”

“Nigel told me you'd met her before, and she loved Zombie Grave Diggers. It took him a lot of work to find her.” Patrick explained.

“Oh wow. I didn't realise.”

“I thought I'd go meet her and see if I could find a way for you two to meet up again.” Patrick thought about what he was saying, looked over at Abbie, and back to Tony. “Er, you know, celebrate the new more exciting Tony James Show!”

“Sounds like a lot of effort, but thanks!” Tony laughed and looked over at Abbie, who was happy smiling and bobbing along to the music.

As he looked around at the people dancing, Tony smiled. Once he had got over the volume and noise of the place, Tony was starting to feel quite at home in The Pit. It was full of people who didn't care about fashion, celebrity or trying to fit in, people who were expressing themselves and getting deeply involved in music they were passionate about. Tony couldn't bring himself to try head-banging just yet, but over the course of the first hour he gradually nodded his head more and more.

The four of them walked over to a space nearer the dance floor, when all of a sudden the music stopped. Patrick looked up and to the left where the DJ was playing from the raised booth. As he did, the DJ picked up his microphone and started to talk.

“Ladies and gentlemen. We have a special guest with us here tonight.”

Tony, Nigel, Abbie and Patrick looked around to see who had arrived.

“I don't know if any of you have been watching the Tony James Show, but if you haven't you have been missing out.” The Dj said as he pointed to Tony, who froze as two hundred intense and slightly sweaty rockers on the dance floor looked towards him simultaniously.

“This guy put Zombie Grave Diggers on LTV. Then yesterday he tore that dickhead from Chillgame apart.”

A huge cheer rose up from the dance floor.

“Tony James, you fucking legend. This is for you.”

The DJ put down the mic and hit the button to start playing Entrails of a Virgin Queen.

Tony laughed and lost his nervousness as the two hundred black clad rockers started to dance as if their lives depended on it. Except for a few who were stood looking at Tony, trying to beckon him to join them.

Patrick nudged him. “Just nod your head in time with the music, look intense but happy, and move around with them a bit.” He then shoved Tony towards the dance floor. Tony stumbled a few steps before stopping, stood right in the middle of the dance floor. Tony shrugged and started nodding his head vigorously, which caused about fifty people to roar in delight and do the same thing.

Several hours, many drinks and much dancing later, Tony, tired from dancing and a little worse for wear, took a break and wandered into the smaller quieter room adjacent to the main dance floor. He sat on a soft black square stool. A few moments later Abbie came over too, sitting on the stool just next to him. Although still decorated largely in black, the little room had tiny star like lights all over the walls. It gave the space a slightly romantic feel. “Worn out?!” she asked.

Tony nodded, catching his breath.

“You've made a good attempt at joining in, nine out of ten I'd say.”

Tony smiled.

“I'm proud of you, you know?”

Tony cocked his head in surprise. “Why?”

“For standing up for intelligence, and for defending your reputation whatever the cost. For not pandering to the lowest common denominator.”

“Thank you. That means a lot coming from you Bea.”

Abbie smiled. “No matter what happens, you can hold your head up high.”

Tony glanced into Abbie's eyes and smiled. She did so in return. For a few moments they stayed in silent comfort, happy to absorb the moment.

Abbie moved forward slightly to kiss Tony, who pulled back sharply and nervously.

“What's the matter Tony?” Abbie replied, surprised at his reaction.

“Sorry, that was just unexpected.”

“What were you expecting?”

“I was hoping, but I never... jeez.” Tony couldn't quite let the words he was thinking escape, and had to make do with a few dishevelled syllables.

“I didn't realise it could get so complicated kissing someone.”

“I just, I didn't think you would actually want...”

“Why on earth not?”

“You're beautiful. You're so pretty.” Although he hadn't made his point particularly well, Abbie couldn't help but reveal a little bit of a smile as Tony said this.

“And?”

“I'm not.”

“Tony. I would be rather worried about you if I thought you looked pretty.”

Tony's half inebriated brain giggled. “Why would someone as pretty as you kiss someone like me?”

“I'm not sure I actually need a reason Tony.”

“No, but...”

Abbie interrupted. “Do you think if you weren't worth kissing I would have done it?”

“Well, no.”

“So what's the problem Tony?”

“You are so...” Perhaps Tony's brain was more than half inebriated. He looked at Abbie as he started the sentence, and as he couldn't find the words he looked down in slight shame.

Abbie's eyes flickered with empathy for the usually confident and articulate man beside her. “You silly thing Tony.” She put her hand on his cheek and he looked up. She stared gently at his eyes, he went to speak, but she put her finger over his lips for a second, before moving it away and kissing him softly on the lips.

As she pulled slowly away a few seconds later she saw a flurry of intense emotions run through Tony's face. As if he was experiencing huge pain, pleasure, happiness, sadness and confusion at the same time. She put her arm round him, he reciprocated, and as they embraced they gently rested their foreheads against each other. “It's ok.” She whispered.

From across the dance floor, Nigel saw the two of them together. He tapped Patrick, who was dancing near him. Patrick looked at Nigel, then over at Tony and Abbie, then back to Nigel, before exclaiming quietly. “Awwww!”

Saturday, December 8, 2012

25. Oh What a Night (Part One)

Tony sat in bed for a little while contemplating the news. In a rare act of intrigue he read the stories about his TV performance, and was surprised by how undecided they were. He got out of bed, eventually, having sent a message to Alison, apologising and asking her to come back and talk, as of yet he had heard nothing.

Tony made breakfast and wandered into his lounge. The white walls and black blinds went crisply with the dark red sofa, and made the room a pleasing mixture of cosy and stylish.

Tony sat on the sofa and tried to remember what had happened the night before.

Tony and Nigel, fresh from the meeting with Gerald had parked the car and wandered into the city to share a drink with Patrick. The soft furniture and warm colours of The King James had felt like a more attractive option than the flashy bars full of suited bankers and PR managers anyway.

Sitting on the soft barstools, Tony and Nigel signalled their arrival to Patrick with a quick salute. Patrick, always keen to up the ante proceeded to carry out a full naval salute to full attention. He remained totally static.

After about ten seconds Nigel clicked, and in his best Sergeant Major's voice bellowed. “At ease gentlemen.” Patrick dropped the salute and stood quietly.

“That sounds like Gerald.” Tony remarked as he nudged Nigel.”

“You alright Patrick?” Nigel asked.

Patrick stood still and said nothing.

“What are you... oh. Very good. Permission to speak.” Tony laughed.

“Thank you sir.” Patrick smirked. “I'm fine thanks Tone.”

“It was me who asked, I find it rude that you addressed a lesser ranking officer instead of me.” Nigel added in his newly discovered Gerald voice.

“Sorry sir.” Patrick said with faux remorse.

“Did I say you could speak, private?” Gerald, I mean Nigel snapped back.

“No sir. Oh bugger.” Patrick laughed.

“Okay okay, I get it.” Tony interjected. “Can we stop the military talk and get down to military style drinking please?”

“Two very large Navy Rums coming up... SIR!” Patrick bellowed.

With the first sip of the outrageously toe curling rum, the night had begun.

As Patrick's shift finished shortly after Tony and Nigel has arrived, he soon joined them on the other side of the bar, placing himself onto the bar stool at a moments notice of clocking out.

“I've been watching Tone, I love what you are doing.” Patrick explained. “The whole show now has a dangerous air around it, I never know what is going to happen next. It's compulsive viewing.”

“See, that's because you haven't taken it far enough yet Tony.” Nigel remarked. “People haven't been put off the show, we need to get the idiots who watch it, no offence, to switch off.”

“Some taken.” Tony offered an amused glare to Nigel.

“I just mean the idiots who watch for the stupid guests Gerald keeps bringing on.” Nigel clarified.

“I know... I know.” Tony smiled. “But I went for the jugular with Chillgame and people still seemed to enjoy it.”

“Yes but Chillgame are shit.” Patrick added.

“Yes. But the idiots we want to turn over love them, and yet they seemed to like the show!” Tony exclaimed.

“I think you have to keep at it. If you are rude to everybody then surely people will get sick of it eventually.” Nigel insisted.

“I bloody well hope so.” Tony sighed.

As Patrick hopped round the bar to pour the next shots of rum, Abbie walked through the door of the pub and waved to Tony, smiling as her face lit up. Tony waved back and got off of the bar stool to go and greet her.

“Patrick.” Nigel whispered. Patrick didn't hear, he had his back to Nigel, pouring the rum.

“Paaattrrriiickkk.” Nigel half whispered half shouted. Patrick didn't hear.

Nigel pick up a coaster and threw it at Patrick.

“Ow.” Patrick exclaimed as the coaster hit him squarely on the back of the head. “What?”

“Is it me, or is there something happening with Tony and Abbie?” Nigel asked in as much of a whisper as he could manage whilst being heard by Patrick.

Patrick looked across to Tony, who was stood just in front of Abbie, both of whom were smiling. As Tony said something unintelligible from the bar, Abbie laughed and flicked her flame coloured hair. Shortly afterwards the two of them shared a hug, which looked extremely comfortable, and went on for maybe a second longer than you would expect from most people.

“Who is she?” Patrick remarked. “I think you may be right though.”

“She's a friend of ours. Do you think we should say something?” Nigel asked.

“Maybe, let's play it by ear.” Patrick shrugged.

“Okay. Makes sense.” Nigel nodded.

“Hi guys, Abbie has come to join us for a bit, is that ok?” Tony asked

“Of course Tone.” Patrick replied. “I'm not sure I've been introduced though.”

“Oh, sorry Patrick. This is Abbie, she is a brilliant hairdresser. Abbie, this Patrick, the son of my former manager, and reasonable impersonator of a naval officer.”

Abbie looked a little confused, but gave a little laugh and waved. “Nice to meet you Patrick.”

“Likewise miss. What can I get you?” Patrick enquired.

Noticing that all three of them had what appeared to be glasses of the same drink, Abbie questioned. “What are you guys on today?”

“Naval rum. It hits you like a torpedo.” Tony replied.

“Ahhh, I see. Well I'll have the same then please private.” Abbie giggled and sat on the bar stool to the left of Tony.

“Yes Ma'am.” Patrick answered.

“Word in your ear private, don't ever call me ma'am, it makes me sound about fifty years old.” Abbie replied with the mocking sternness of a headmistress.

“Sorry, er, sir?” Patrick shrugged.

“Miss will do, thank you private.” Abbie glanced over to Tony for a split second, he caught her gaze and smiled.

“Yes miss.” Patrick saluted and went to pour the rum.

“If I'd have known this was going to carry on all night I would have borrowed some marine hats from the props department.” Tony laughed.

“I can give you all naval haircuts if you like?” Abbie added.

Nigel posed thoughtfully. “Tony won't need much help if you keep putting all those colours in his hair.”

Tony scowled mockingly at Nigel and sipped his rum. “So what's the plan from here gentlemen? Oh, and er, girl.”

Abbie raised a single eyebrow, looked inquisitive, and followed it up with a cheesy grin.

Patrick jumped in. “I know a great place a few streets down, judging from the past few weeks of shows, I think you'll love it Tony.

Nigel looked inquisitively at Patrick, who nodded and looked slightly smug.

“Sounds good to me.” Tony replied.

A couple of hours later, and they were ready to leave the pub. Nigel and Patrick walked on ahead towards the next destination. Tony and Abbie walked behind, side by side and a little slower, talking about her week.

“Have you been okay Abbie?” Tony asked with genuine kindness.

“Still not great to be honest, but better than before.” Abbie replied honestly.

“Sorry things aren't great, you deserve to be happy.”

“Thank you Tony. As do you, I hope you can be soon.”

“Me too.”

“I hope it doesn't take too long though.”

“Hang in there Bea, you'll be ok.”

“Bea?” Abbie enquired.

Tony laughed nervously and put his hand over his mouth, replying. “Sorry, for some reason that seemed a nice way of er... I'll be quiet now.”

Abbie put her hand on his arm. “It's ok Tony, it's nice.” She smiled.

Tony smiled back, they shared a brief glance and Tony put his arm round her waist as they walked along together.

Just in front Nigel and Patrick were discussing what was going on behind them.

“She clearly likes him Nigel.”

“Yes, and he clearly likes her.”

Patrick thought for a moment. “What about Tony's partner?”

“Last I heard they were going through a rough patch.” Nigel replied. “Besides, those two look so comfortable together it would seem rude to interfere.”

“Can we interfere in a nice way?” Patrick asked back.

“Oh, of course we can do that.” Nigel laughed. “I already have a little.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, I made sure that she would be around when he needed a new haircut for the show.” Nigel explained.

“Good work sergeant.” Patrick replied.

“Let's not start that again!”

Ten minutes later and the four arrived at the next destination. As Patrick led through the side street to the nightclub, each of the other three gradually noticed the venue in turn, and gave Patrick a quizzical look.

“Lady and gentlemen. Welcome to your new favourite nightclub.” Patrick announced, and walked to the queue.

Tony, Abbie and Nigel looked up at the bright neon sign and wondered what to expect.

'The PIT.' London's Heaviest Rock Club

The exterior was black all over, except for the white neon light of the sign. The queue was made up of people dressed largely in black band t-shirts and what looked to Tony's untrained eye like mild fetish wear.

“This is just a music club right?” Tony enquired.

“I sure hope so.” Abbie replied. “Only one way to find out.”


They walked into the queue, and listened to the rumbling sounds coming from inside. It was hard to pick out what was playing, but it definitely included loud distorted guitars and louder drums being hit with the force of a shotgun bullet. Whatever speakers were being used sounded as if they had been rejected from a Motorhead concert for being too noisy.

As the three reached the entry desk, the girl behind the glass recognised Tony. She gave him the devil horns with each of her hands and nodded her head in respect. “No charge for you and your friends Tony.”

Tony nodded, said thanks and walked through to the club with Abbie and Nigel.

Friday, December 7, 2012

24. The Sun Always Shines on TV


After his past experiences with the press, Tony very rarely bought newspapers, however the comments surrounding his recent performances had started to get quite noisy.

While he hadn't yet been faced with doorstep reporters, it was very clear from conversation taking place online and from what he had heard was in the newspapers that his actions were being discussed.

If there was one good thing about his show being slagged off, it was that it seemed to stop them talking about him and Abbie, which helped at home.

“Tony. What the fuck is this?”

Shit.

“Tony?!” Alison was serious.

Tony's head was pounding, so he simply looked sluggishly towards Alison with an inquisitive look. The large fluffed up pillows and soft yellow quilt cover were not going to make this comfortable he thought.

“Do we even need to talk about this?” Alison's voice was slightly muffled as she was trying to hold back from crying. “If you don't want to be with me then just tell me Tony.”

“Of course I do.” Tony replied. “I don't even know what you are talking about.”

“You never do Tony. Yet every couple of weeks it's put in front of my face again.”

“You shouldn't read the papers, they print anything they can get their hands on that looks like it might cause scandal.”

“Tony, I know you've had trouble with them in the past, but you cannot use that as an excuse to get me to ignore something that appears to be pretty clear.”

“I really don't know what you mean.” Tony really didn't, but as a hazy memory of the night before cam back, he was worried he might soon.

“Tony, how many times do I have to see pictures of you with this girl before you either tell me something I don't want to hear, or I find it out for myself?”

Tony sat in silent, doubly painful contemplation.

“We agreed remember Tony. We sat and we agreed that we would never do anything like this to each other.”

“I know. I haven't...”

“After your past and my past Tony, this is not something I want to deal with.” Alison really was crying now.

“”I know.”

“So why are you making me have to deal with it?”

“There really is nothing going on.”

“So why does it look like it, and why are you always out with her, and never out with me?”

Tony thought for a second. “She just happens to be where I go, and we are just friends. If something were to happen I would tell you, I really would.”

“Would you Tony? I love you but I am starting to get the feeling that maybe you don't feel the same way.”

“Of course I love you.” Tony tried to article the debate that was going on in his head. “It's just that...”

“Oh fine. Fuck you Tony.”

That was not what he intended to say.

As Alison stormed out of the bedroom she threw the paper at Tony, which landed open on the half page picture of him with his arms wrapped around Abbie. Apparently it hadn't stopped them.

Tony looked at the picture and thought to himself. Part of him wanted to go and chase after Alison, while his more analytical side was wondering why he was even in this situation. He liked Abbie, of course he did, but he had never set out with any intention of doing something wrong. Or had he? No. No. He wasn't like that any more, even though it had taken a long time he had grown up.

Tony hit his stumbling block, the question over what would happen if faced with a choice. While he was many things, he was not the sort of person to carry on an affair. He may make mistakes in how he deals with things, but he is not that kind of person. He doesn't ever want to be that kind of person. What's the point in being credible in his work if he couldn't be credible in his own personal actions? Besides, it wasn't his fault that his work credibility was being damaged, he had acted in good faith at all times.

Maybe that was it. He had acted in good faith, but the situation had developed in a way he wasn't expecting. Bloody hell, where now?

Monday, December 3, 2012

23. Peace


Tony didn't bother to knock for the following morning's meeting with Gerald. He walked with Nigel straight up to the big oak door, turned the handle and pushed it open.

“I don't recall saying you could come in gentlemen.” Gerald boomed.

“I don't recall you saying we couldn't.” Tony snapped back.

“Very true, I shall amend your contract to clarify.” Gerald smirked.

Tony walked in and sat down onto the shallow mahogany coloured sofa with a vigour that belied his years, Nigel followed with a slight awkwardness.

“Excellent show gentlemen.” Gerald started. “I thought it was wonderful, the series is starting to hit it's stride.”

“Don't play that bullshit game with us. We know you saw it, and we know you saw last weeks too so quit the act.” Tony gesticulated his arms wildly, had he been acting he would have been ashamed.

“I have no idea what you mean. Our audience loved it. Our online surveys suggest the highest enjoyment of any of the shows so far.”

“That's ridiculous.”

“I'm afraid not, I'll send you the data tomorrow.”

“There is no way that mess of a broadcast was more popular.”

“It was.”

“No way.” Tony was even more dismissive.

“It was.” Gerald looked as if he was enjoying this.

“Not a chance.”

“Fraid so.”

“Whatever.”

Gerald smiled. “Keep up the good work gentlemen, but please, knock next time.”

“Can we not find some solution to this problem?” Tony asked, attempting reason.

“No.”Gerald replied abruptly.

“But this is..”

“..is the best ratings the show has got so far.” Gerald interrupted. “We'd be mad to drop it now.”

Tony sat staring at Gerald, his face contorted with contempt and rage.

“You may leave gentlemen.” Gerald pointed to the door.

Tony, still piercing through Gerald's flesh with his eyes, stood up abruptly, walked aggressively to the big oak door and slammed it as hard as he could. The door slammed onto the similarly hefty frame and cause the entire office wall to ripple, sending the pictures of historical LTV stars that hung there toppling from it to the floor in a cascade of broken glass and silver plastic.

Nigel, still stood the other side, crept carefully up the shaking door frame, opened it gently, tiptoed out, and gently shut it again. “That went well.” He said sarcastically to Tony.

“How can he want us to carry on ruining the show?” Tony asked helplessly as he and Nigel walked through the bright reception area to the car park.

“He must think that everything going on will make people tune in.” Nigel guessed. “People love watching a car crash.”

Tony sighed. “Well I'd rather 20 million people see a car crash than a few thousand see me forced to humiliate myself and blow my hard earned reputation by taking those idiot non celebrities seriously.”

Nigel smiled. “If it's car crash you want Tony. It's car crash we can do.”

Tony's spirits lifted a little as they got into his car. “So how did you know I'd met the girl Sarah yesterday on that god awful quiz?”

“I didn't, but I saw the t-shirt and thought you would enjoy seeing it.” Nigel explained. “When do you meet her?”

“I saw her on the train, she told me how people like her, who listen to unusual music or dress differently never get to see people they admire on TV. I think if I ever get out of this stupid contract I'd like to do something that appeals to intelligent people like her.”

“Sounds brilliant. I hope you do.” Nigel nodded. “Oh and, don't worry about the wheel, I've added a control so I choose where it stops from now on.”

Tony smiled. “Thanks Nigel.”

“Not having some wealthy banker taking Gerald's …” Nigel's eyes lit up, and he paused in thought.

“I thought the money came from the sponsor?” Tony enquired.

“Either way, if we keep giving away tons of money, Gerald will want to stop it, or the sponsors will get fed up and quit.”

“We can but hope my friend. We can but hope.” Tony shrugged, slightly disillusioned that anything would ever end the Tony James Show. “Pub?”

“I thought you would never ask. Crank up the A-Ha.”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

22. Episode Five (Reordered and updated)

Updated and re-ordered: 2nd December


“Nigel, he's added some sort of terrible quiz show segment.” Tony ranted as he paced up and down the small control room, weaving his way around Nigel and the young work experience girl Holly each time.

“I know Tony, he sent me the details and set, with express written notice that it's part of your contract to do the segment as detailed.” Nigel replied.

“He's messing with us, he knows I want out and he is making this as difficult and frustrating for me as possible.” Tony continued.

“Of course, that sounds like Gerald all over.”

“I suppose, on the bright side, if our new friend Tony James is in charge, it might makes things a bit less bland.”

“That's the spirit. Just go out there and have fun, be Tony James and kill it.”

“I'll give it my best shot.”

Tony wandered back into his dressing room and sat in his chair, staring at the wall. On the wall was a picture of him and Michael that he always kept in his dressing rooms for good luck. It seemed that for once, it hadn't been working, or if it had, he didn't even want to comprehend the amount of bad fortune that would have occurred otherwise.

He wondered, what would Michael do in this situation? For all his long standing friendship, Tony had got so caught up in the madness around his show that he hadn't been keeping in touch with Michael as much as usual. He missed his sensible advice.

For example Michael probably wouldn't be advocating presenting a TV show as a fucked up alter ego version of himself. Though if Michael had been around he wouldn't have been put into this position in the first place, Michael would have spotted the ridiculous parts of the deal and torn it up. If only.

That said, he owed it to Michael to protect the enviable reputation that he had helped Tony to build, or at the very least, to see it go out with a bit of a bang. A great actor (if he said so himself) taking one last crazy part to prove his skills to the world before his career runs out of steam.

One last crazy part. That sounded about right. This was The Tony James Show, and Tony James was going to play Tony James like only Tony James could.

It was time. Or at least that was the plan.


“Good evening and welcome to the Tony James Show.” He started as usual. “I'm your host Tony James, here with more talk than a confused mime.”

Tony paused and looked in irritation towards camera 3, whose screen in the control room faced directly where the head writer usually stood. “That's not funny, and it doesn't make sense.”

A few people in the audience gasped, a few others chuckled.

“My guests tonight are the wonderful star of the biggest DIY show in town, Handyman Adventure, James Coleman.” The sarcasm in his use of the word wonderful was unmissable.

Then we have the not entirely awful comedian Peter Kinsella.”

The crowd applauded and a few people whooped.

My final guest will be indie pop superstars Chillgame, who will also be performing their latest hit single.” Tony disliked Chillgame so much that he couldn't even bring himself to mock them, yet.

The crowd applauded again. One lady whispered to the person next to her. “Who are Chillgame?” The lady beside her replied. “Killgame? Sounds ghastly.”

Don't forget we have the fantastic new quiz Celebrity Spin coming up as well, your chance to win twenty thousand pounds!” Again, Tony failed to hide his contempt for the idea of hosting a gameshow.

“So let's bring on my first guest. He knows how to use a hammer, James Coleman!”

James walked onto the set with a big smile, carrying a large inflatable hammer. Nigel, having arranged this earlier, had taken the opportunity to have fun, and selected MC Hammer's You Can't Touch This as his entrance music.

“Welcome to the show James” Tony started.

“It's a pleasure to be here.” Replied James. “I'm a big fan of yours.”

“Why thank you.” Tony replied. “I'm a big fan of yours, well I say fan. I've seen your show a couple of times and not wanted to hang you up on your own MDF like a crucifix.”

Luckily James had a good sense of humour and didn't take himself seriously, so the first appearance of the character known as Tony James didn't seem to offend him.

“It's always nice to meet your fans.” James replied with a jocular smile. “I've seen your show a couple of times and I can't say I would have minded hanging up a few of those guests myself.”

Tony wanted to be rude but struggled as he realised James was actually a smart, quick witted guy. Although James' willingness to join in the banter was handy. Oh god, Tony hated the word banter. He wasn't a 25 year old rugby playing university student with wealthy parents.

“So, having learned how to build an Ikea wardrobe without destroying a room, what led you to believe that was the stepping stone into a career on TV?”

“Well I watched Ladies at Lunch one day, and realised that if watching menopausal women talk about sex for 45 minutes was a viable programme option, then I might be able to make something people wanted to watch.”

Tony laughed. Not even a character laugh, a real laugh. “I can't stand them. It's like watching four old ladies complain about their husbands during a tea break.”

“Exactly. If I can do something useful and teach people a skill at the same time, why not?”

“But there are hundreds of these DIY programmes, does anyone even watch them anymore?”

“I hope so Tony. After all, it's not like LTV would pay me money for a another series if no one was watching the first one!”

Tony nodded. “I'm sure I will find that one out for myself soon.”

Five minutes later, and the first part of the show was done. No one had been too offended, but Tony felt like he had done enough for the change to quite visible, besides, he had quite liked James. Up next was the passable comedian Peter Kinsella, however then the ridiculous quiz came in, followed by Chillgame, and he could not stand them.

“Tony, don't slip out of character now!” Nigel said through his earpiece with mild sarcasm. “You told me you were a good actor.”

“Oi, watch it!” Tony remarked back. “It takes time to perfect the nuances, also, shut up!”

“There we are.” Nigel replied wittily. “He's back! You're on in 1 minute.”

Tony laughed and got ready for the next part of the show.

“Please welcome my next guest, he tells jokes, a fair number of which are quite funny. Peter Kinsella!”

Peter stepped through onto the set, bathed in the bright lights and standing out a mile from the dark carpeted set in his bright pink shirt. Sitting down on the sofa it became quickly obvious that the shirt was close enough of a match to the pink video wall as to make it appear to some people at the back of the audience as if there was a rogue head floating on the set.

“Welcome to the show Peter, it's great to see you here.” Tony remarked.

“It's wonderful to be here Tony.” Peter responded in good spirits.

“I hear your new tour has been doing extremely well?” Tony sort of asked. He wanted to jump in with a rude comment but found it difficult to hide his own personality enough to let his alter ego shine.

“It has been fantastic. 100 dates, most of which were sold out, and an amazing arena gig to finish off with, the biggest show I have ever done.”

“That's fantastic. It's rare for comedians to play in front of such big audiences so early into their career. What do you think the public has latched on to with you?” Tony asked.

Nigel was leaning forward in the control room watching the monitor intently. “Come on Tony. Come on.” He urged.

“Well of course it's because I'm bloody funny.” Peter remarked, offering a cheeky grin to the crowd. For most comedians this would have fallen flat, but Peter had an irritable likeability. “But I think it's because I'm just a regular guy. I don't pretend to be a genius, or to be better than my audience. I am on their level.”

“I think you are right about that.” Tony remarked, the attempt to imply his audience were as average as he was didn't register on Peter or the crowd.

“In fact, that was one of the things that inspired me to write my book.” Peter added.

Tony had never been a fan of promoting products on his show, but he understood it was a part of the way things had to be done. His alter ego however, (when he showed up) was even less keen. “That was brilliantly subtle Peter.”

Peter laughed. “Gotta get the book mentioned early, you might just forget to do it.”

“I once memorised my part for Hamlet in three days.” Tony declared.

“Well when you only have three lines it's not that hard.” Peter jokingly replied.

Tony wanted to say something rude in return but struggled to stay in character when it came to insulting him. Instead he tried to be funny back. “Hey, they were very big lines I'll have you know.”

“So in the book I've tried to go back to my life growing up and my early career and show the developments that made me into the person I am today.” Peter continued.

“A cheeky bastard?” Tony was getting closer.

“The cheekiest of the cheeky bastards I'll have you know.”

“That's quite some accolade.” Not quite close enough.

“I'm proud of my awards. Third in the one hundred metres in year 5 sports day.”

“At least it means your awards cabinet isn't totally empty.” Closer.

“I haven't got one yet, but I'll be sure to ask James Coleman to help me put it together.”

“He is the man with the hammer after all.”

Tony was trying too hard. In trying to say the right wrong thing, he was taking himself out of the character altogether. Curse these guests for not being hateful enough... Tony would laugh at the irony of this thought later that evening. For now he got to the end of the interview and prepared himself for the last two segments during the break.

“I just don't know if I can do this.” Tony said to Nigel through his microphone.

“Tony, you are a great actor. You can do it.” Nigel replied, before adding. “Come backstage quickly, I know what will help.”

Tony ran into the dark control room, Nigel took his feet off the control desk and handed Tony what appeared to be gigantic shot of Whiskey. “Are you sure about this Nigel?”

“What's the worst that could happen? You mess the show up?” Nigel replied with a grin.

“Touche' Nigel.” Tony smiled and went to drink the whiskey. “Bottoms up.”

“People still say that?” Nigel inquired.

“Yes. Bugger off.” Tony snapped.

“That's the Tony we know and love.” Nigel exclaimed. “Well, not really the Tony we know and love, but that is the Tony we want to see performed by the Tony we know and love.”

Tony looked at Nigel with a raised eyebrow, gulped down the drink and headed off back to the stage. “Wish me luck.”

Tony's intermittent mood was changed by the appearance of the temporary set props for Celebrity Spin as he walked back onto set. A gigantic cardboard looking wheel was carried in, fashioned in a crude red and white colour scheme with categories written over the segments. It looked as if it had been designed by a small child using an old box and some half chewed up crayons.

Just the sight of the wheel and the matching podium stand lurking in what was usually the band stand were enough to make Tony irritable, and conveniently throw him back into character for most of the latter half of the show.

The cue came, and the audience at home saw the show return with a shot of a scowling Tony stood behind the podium, aiming his frustration at his autocue. He didn't plan on reading it.

“Welcome back to the Tony James Show, we now come to quite possibly the worst game show it has ever been your misfortune to experience. Celebrity Spin!” Tony remarked with sarcastic joy.

Tony dragged his feet along the black polypropylene carpet as he walked to the spinning wheel, scraping his soles like a schoolboy being forced to do his homework, and causing a crackle of static that was loud enough to be heard through the microphone.

“Yes folks, by answering a few inane questions about celebrities, you could find yourself twenty thousand pounds richer.”

The audience whooped.

“Of course, you won't, because we've rigged the wheel. You'll be lucky to take home a tin of baked beans.”

The audience laughed, Tony was caught off guard, he hadn't even thought about people finding his new character funny. He liked the fact that he could gain appreciation without having to stick to the idiotic setup given to him by Gerald though.

Gerald was watching in his office, tapping his uncut cigar on the table with unusual impatience. When the audience laughed however, he stopped tapping, and broke out in something approximating a smile.

Back in the studio Tony was explaining the rules of Celebrity Spin. “It's quite simple folks, we pick two audience members at random. You have three questions to answer, and for each one you get right you get one spin of the prize wheel.”

Tony went to spin the wheel, but it jammed in place and refused to spin. “Excuse me a moment.”

The audience laughed again. Tony wondered if he should play up to it. He went to spin the wheel again, and as it refused to move his hand slipped from the handle and scraped his skin across the metal clip. “Bloody hell!” Tony exclaimed in genuine pain, in anger he kicked the wheel as hard as he could, a move which promptly saw it unlock and gently start to spin. The crowd loved it.

“Sorry for those technical difficulties.” His desire to crack a joke got the better of him. He looked to the side camera and remarked to his earlier guest. “I thought you knew how to build James? I'm taking this back to Ikea tomorrow.”

The audience laughed, though not quite as much as Tony had hoped. This, combined with glancing the hideous quiz set at he walked back to the podium, kept him firmly in his bad mood.

“So let's see who will be our lucky first contestant this week.” Tony opened the silver envelope sat on the podium. “Mrs Brockwell from Glasgow!”

The audience looked around at each other until a surprised Mrs Edith Brockwell, a surprisingly tough looking 68 year old lady stood up, waved to the crowd, and walked down the stairs.

“Good evening Edith.” Tony started. “Lovely to have you here.”

“Thank you.” Edith replied.

“What would you do if you won twenty thousand pounds?”

“I'd invest it.” Edith explained. “Add to my portfolio on the futures market.”

“Er, okay.” Tony wasn't quite sure how to respond to someone who clearly had no need for any money she won. “Your first question, are you ready?”

“I am.”

“Which pop star recently filmed the TV show, 'Back in the Sack'?”

“Erm...” Edith thought. “Jennifer Crosby.”

“Correct!” The audience applauded. “You've won one spin of the wheel. Your second question. What is the name of model Michelle Jones' pet poodle?”

“I think...” Edith explained. “I think it's Fluffles?”

“Correct! You've won a second spin of the wheel with that entirely useless fact.”

The audience applauded again.

“Last question Edith. Which actor recently broke the world record for most advertising voice-overs in a single week?”

“Ooh, I should know this one.” Edith thought aloud. “Is it... you?”

Tony rolled his eyes. “I'm afraid that's incorrect, the answer is Stephen Fry.”

The audience let out an audible groan of disappointment.

“So Edith, time to spin the wheel and get your prizes!”

As Edith moved over to the wheel, the cheesy generic suspense music (as used by all quiz shows of the past decade) started to play. Edith took hold of the wheel and span it as hard as she could.

The wheel rolled round at speed before gradually slowing and coming to a halt on the £100 prize. Cue more disappointment from the audience.

“One hundred pounds, it's a good start Edith. Time to spin again.”

Edith span the wheel even harder, and after about 10 seconds of spinning it slowed and rolled onto the £10,000 section.

“Wow!” Tony exclaimed as the audience cheered. Edith was jumping up and down in excitement, and ran and hugged Tony who was caught off-guard and nearly fell back onto the podium.

“Well done Edith! Spend it wisely.” Tony remarked as the giddy Edith ran off stage after being directed by the cameraman. “That's a good start to this cheesy rubbish.”

Tony enjoyed seeing people win money, but this was all coming at the expense of his own reputation and dignity. Tony silently sighed and readied himself.

“Our second contestant today is.” Tony looked at the card. “Miss Sarah Clarke from London!”

The audience applauded again, looking around to see the randomly picked participant. A pretty girl dressed in black trousers and a black t shirt with a colourful print, stood up and walked down the steps. As she approached, Tony realised it was the girl he had spoken to earlier that week on the Underground. He smiled to her as she approached, an action which made her grin and look down shyly. At this point Tony realised she was wearing a Zombie Grave Diggers t-shirt.

“Nice to have you down here Sarah, what do you do?” Tony asked.

“I'm a film student.” Sarah replied.

“Wonderful.” Tony beamed, knocked out of character by Sarah's reappearance. “What sort of films are your favourite?” He asked, expecting the answer to be horror, slasher, or some combination of the two.

“Well usually I enjoy French cinema, though I do watch a lot of Japanese films too.” She responded.

“A girl of the world, that's great to see.” Tony was pleased to see a smart girl enjoying good cinema. “How are you on celebrities?”

“Absolutely terrible.”

“Well Sarah, let's hope you get some good luck then as we play...” Tony sighed and adopted a mocking tone. “Celebrity bloody Spin.”

The audience chuckled and applauded.

“Your first question. The TV chef, Antonio Gelatino is best known for which signature dish?”

Sarah paused to think. “Erm, is it Lobster thermadore?”

“Ooh, so close, I'm afraid not. The answer is Cheese on toast.”

The audience groaned.

Tony continued. “Cheese on toast? How on earth do you need a chef to help you with cheese on bloody toast?”

Sarah shrugged and smiled in bemusement at the question.

“Your second question Sarah. The...” Tony sighed and gave Sarah a look of knowing sympathy. “...boyband 'Safe Word' had their first UK number one with which song?”

“I have no idea Tony.” Sarah replied.

“I'm sorry Sarah. It was in fact, 'Keeping quiet'. I've not heard of it either.”

Sarah laughed, some of the audience chuckled.

“Your final question, you need to get this one right in order to have a spin of the wheel Sarah, is this. Born in Sussex star Tara Young was recently given which award at the Hiya! Magazine Women of Britain Ceremony?”

“Erm.” Sarah thought hard. “I'm not sure.”

“Have a guess, go on.” Tony replied as he subtly winked to her with the eye that was facing away from the camera.

“Is it, erm, Loudest TV Star?”

“That's right!” Tony exclaimed, even though it wasn't. Several members of the audience who knew the answer looked around in surprise. For reference, the actual answer was 'Best Vajazzle.'

Sarah jumped into the air with excitement.

“You've earned one spin on this junior woodwork project wheel.” Tony pointed to the wheel half-heartedly. “They got a D minus by the way.”

Sarah stepped over to the wheel and got ready to spin.

“Good luck!” Tony said.

Sarah grabbed the handle and spun it as hard as she could.

The wheel spun round and round, gradually slowing. It was reaching a stop between a few low sums of money. It was about to stop completely on £50, when Tony took the wheel and manually rolled it round two more spaces to the £20,000 marker.

“Amazing, you've just won the twenty thousand pound jackpot!” Tony exclaimed.

Sarah put her hands over her mouth in joy, and then promptly ran and hugged Tony. He gave her a friendly squeeze, and for a few moments briefly broke character, smiling in the knowledge that he had done something good in the midst of the chaos.

Sarah walked back up the steps to her seat, scarcely able to believe what had just happened.

Tony was pleased, but only temporarily as he remembered what was coming next.

“That was the terrible gameshow Celebrity Spin, and now please welcome my final guests who are, somehow, the most popular band in the UK right now. Ladies and gentlemen, it's Chillgame, with their latest single, 'broken hearts'.

Chillgame were the very definition of a middle of the road band. Just enough guitars to feign credibility, but dull enough tunes that people who didn't like music loved to be seen with them. The kind of band that became a dividing line between whether you had good taste or were just dull. If you went on a first date and the other person said “I'm a big fan of Chillgame.” The odds are anyone with much taste would point at an amazing occurrence behind the other person, and promptly run as fast as they possibly could out of the restaurant.

However, there was no denying that Chillgame were popular. Five number one albums, three number one singles, and a lead singer that moved in celebrity circles. Charlie Clarke was his name, a shortish, dark haired and Bristol born guy, who, despite the blandness of his music, was known for being a bit awkward in some of his interviews.

After three minutes and fifty two seconds of blandness, they stepped off the blue lit musical stage and walked across the now slightly frayed black carpet to the main part of the set. Charlie led of course, taking the seat closest to Tony, or 'the seat of maximum publicity' on the soft black leather sofa.

“Good evening Charlie, and the rest of the band.” Tony started. Apparently Charlie didn't like the other band members to be named all the time. “Welcome to the Tony James show.”

“It's lovely to be here Tony.” Charlie replied.

“Well, I suppose so.” Tony shrugged.

“Sorry?” Charlie looked back with a confused irritation.

“I can't say I'm a big fan. Your music really isn't my sort of thing.” Tony explained. Half of the audience gasped, a quarter were stunned into silence, and the other quarter smiled as if Tony was saying what they all wanted to hear.

Meanwhile watching from his house, Gerald raised his eyebrow, smiled, and sipped his whisky.

“Well, we're not to everybody's taste.” Charlie snapped.

“That's very true. Though I'm not so sure about the word taste.”

This time the whole audience was silent.

“I'll have you know we've sold almost seven million records.” Charlie waved his finger at Tony as he said this, perhaps, in hindsight not a great idea.

“So did Shakin' Stevens.” Tony, even the new Tony, was always good with his research. “Are you claiming that he is better than you?”

“Of course not, Shakin' Stevens was rubbish.” Charlie replied angrily.

How dare you insult the master of 50's revival pop.” Tony snapped back. "Actually, Shaky sold over seven million, so he is definitely better than you."

Oh please, Shaky was a novelty retro act that capitalised on a desire from ageing 50's teens to be reminded of the music of Elvis and rock n' roll.” Charlie knew his stuff too it seemed.

Green door was a masterpiece.” Tony aired defiantly. "...and you are saying that someone who is novelty shit is better than you? Wonderfully honest."

Novelty trash.” Charlie insisted, secretly enjoying the argument, but also feeling quite insulted at Tony's ability to say what most people chickened out from telling them.

“Besides, if they were novelty retro trash, then using the same artistic descriptions we can summarise that Chillgame are bland middle of the road bollocks bought by people who have no taste in music and no desire to challenge themselves in the media they consume.”

Charlie was getting redder and redder. The rest of the band just sat there staring blankly at Charlie and Tony, although the one on the end was dangerously close to laughing.

“In fact I would go as far as to say you are the musical anti-christ. At least those cheesy boy bands know they are there to pose and get girls screaming with cheesy pop songs. The way you pretentiously sit there with your head so far up your own arse that you can see out of your own nostrils makes me sick.”

Charlie was visibly enraged.

“That you get millions of sales while interesting and talented bands have to scrape and save just to do gigs is a travesty. If I had my way...”

Charlie couldn't hold back anymore. “Shut the fuck up. Shut. The. Fuck. Up. I didn't come all this way to be lectured by someone with no musical taste whatsoever.”

“I could say exactly the same thing.” Tony grinned as he said this.

Nigel was sat with his feet up on the big control desk, watching the mayhem, and sporting the biggest cheesy smile it was possible to see. This was just perfect. At her pretty little modern flat, Abbie was torn between disbelief and pride for the man she had barely known a few weeks earlier.

“Why the hell would you invite me here just to criticise me?” Charlie enquired with exasperation.

“Well I sure as hell wouldn't invite you here to praise you.” Tony answered. “God forbid I boost your ego beyond it's already astronomical limits.”

“Fuck you.”

“Does Bono know about your ego? He might get jealous.”

“What the fuck do you know? This programme is a load of shit.”

“Ohh yeah. Speaking of shit. This is Chillgame's new album, 'Floating in the Stars.'” Tony pulled out the album from under his desk and waved it at the camera. “It's an insipid waste of recording studio time. To think that a studio which once recorded the Beatles has been lowered to doing your so called 'music' is saddening.” Tony threw the CD away to his side nonchalantly.

“Right, fuck you.” Charlie got up and looked squarely at Tony. “I don't have to listen to this bollocks anymore.”

Tony smiled and looked straight toward Charlie. “Thankfully I can say the same thing about your new album.”

Charlie tore off his microphone and stormed off, the crowd were still completely stunned in silence.

Tony laughed, waited a moment, and turned to the three other band members, each of whom were too amused to follow Charlie off of the sofa. “So, is he always like this?”

The musician at the end of the sofa couldn't take it any more and he burst into laughter, the others swiftly followed.

Tony turned back to camera 1. “Well folks, as an interviewer it's my job to reveal the truth. Job done. Don't buy this album, or that bastard in the green room will get more of your hard earned money.”

The audience seemed incapable of making a sound.

“I'd like to say thank you to my guests James Coleman and Peter Kinsella, and a big fuck you to Charlie Clarke. What a wanker.”

As the credits rolled and the show's music kicked in, the already stunned audience and the gobsmacked viewers at home saw something moving at the side of the stage. Charlie had brought out his bottle of beer from the green room, heard Tony's final remarks, and had started to run across the wide set towards his desk.

Tony saw him coming and quickly stood up, backing away from the desk as Charlie reached the sofa. As Charlie swung the bottle to the desk, breaking the end from it, the other members of Chillgame grabbed him and tried to pull him away from Tony.

As the show faded out to the sponsorship message, viewers were left with the image of ten large LTV security guard bundling on top of the singer from the most popular band in Britain.

Friday, November 16, 2012

21. Acting


Tony spent the rest of the week distracting himself from his troubles with Alison by throwing himself into understanding and developing his new character.

Over the course of 48 hours he had tried no fewer than 18 different methods of playing Tony James, including six different accents, two speech impediments, three variants of sexuality and one thankfully brief attempt at sounding urban. He had managed to narrow it down to two, both with similar accents to his own, and was now weighing up the finer points of the character in his head.

Of all the many many characters Tony had played, he wanted to get this one right. The complexities and nuances of Tony James would make a massive amount of difference to how the character would be perceived. Too angry and people wouldn't empathise with him at all, too nice, and it would make no difference to his contract fiasco.

In many respects this was the most complicated person Tony had ever been asked to play, a combination of himself and the very opposite, wedged together in an angry little ball of frustration. Tony knew how to play himself, but he had never really been required to stretch his definition of his person in this way before.

At 9pm the night before the show, Tony finally reached the point where he was happy with his character. Like all good creations, Tony James would evolve, although hopefully he wouldn't have many shows left with which to evolve in, but the core was now there. Happy with his work so far, Tony opened a beer and started to watch TV.

Although he didn't normally watch LTV, he had noticed that Britain's Next Top Hairdresser was on, and as Alison was out, he thought he'd watch Abbie in action.

“That's a wonderful design you have created there Marcus, with just one small problem.” Abbie remarked to the contestant. “You got half of the dye on her face.”

As the picture of the poor model with bright purple splodges on her face, as if suffering from some weird cartoon disease, appeared on screen, Tony laughed out loud, instantly feeling guilty for doing so.

“I'm sure you'll agree that is a pretty significant problem.” Abbie continued.

Marcus looked at the floor of the elaborate salon themed set in embarrassment.

“However, in most other areas you were excellent. So you get one more chance. Brush up on the dye!”

“Thank you.” a flustered Marcus uttered.

The voiceover came on. “Find out who else is through to the next round of Britain's Next Top Hairdresser after this short break.”

“He was a man with nothing to lose.” a trailer for one of LTV's future shows appeared. “A cop whose reputation lay in ruins decides to take the law into his own hands to bring justice against the man who murdered his wife.”

Well this looks original, chuckled Tony.

“With both the police, and the murderer on his tail, it won't be long before all hell breaks loose.”

Tony sighed.

“Starring Robert Nordstrom as Jimmy Mackenzie, and Mario Wright as Alistair Frank. Bloodshed. Starts this Autumn on LTV.”

Tony stared at the screen, not quite sure what he had just seen. What on earth was Robert Nordstrom doing on a generic cop drama series? Two minutes later, he was distracted back to reality by a trailer for his own show, led by the clips he had pre-recorded before the first show.

“On this week's Tony James Show, we have some great guests and a few unexpected surprises, be sure to tune in.” A distinctly plain haired, sensibly dressed Tony James remarked.

Tony chuckled a nervous laugh.

“The Tony James Show is sponsored by Planet X energy drink, rocket fuel for the stars.”

Somewhere, in an apartment a few miles away, a writer felt a weird breeze on the back his neck.

“Be sure to catch this week's Tony James Show for the chance to win £20,000 in Tony's new quiz, Celebrity Spin.”

Tony leapt off of his seat in anger. He had heard nothing about this, Gerald hadn't even seen the... right. In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, Tony said to himself. “You do realise that this means war.