Tony wandered into the studio with the air of contemplation of a man who had almost gone beyond anger and sadness to a state of zen silence.
He went into control room, to find Steve still absent and Nigel laying back in the chair with his feet up on the control desk. “Oi!”
Nigel jumped and took his feet off the million pound desk. “Sorry, just resting before the show.”
“I have no idea, he just said he wasn't coming in.” replied Nigel. “I've almost given up asking.”
“Well isn't that nice.” exclaimed Tony sarcastically. “So who has actually turned up this week?”
“For once, the appointed guests.”
“I've put Robert in the master group dressing room. So far he seems happy. I've told him that To The Left are an operatic trio, they won't be on until after him so it makes no difference.”
“I hope so.”
“That also means I've had to squeeze To The Left into dressing room 5, I won't say it's cramped in there, but somewhere a zombie Jimmy Savile just crawled out of his grave.”
“All that matters is keeping Robert happy until after he has been on.”
“Agreed. Thanks Nigel. Oh, er do we know how he feels about Planet X energy drink?”
“Well we put a can of it in with his rider and so far he hasn't touched it.”
Tony squirmed, and walked off to his dressing room to prepare for the show. After what seemed like about thirty seconds, Nigel made the call for him to get to the stage.
“Good evening and welcome to the Tony James Show. The only show guaranteed to give you your recommended daily allowance of Tony James.” Tony looked to his left and stared menacingly down camera 3, the sight of which from the control room made the head writer cower.
“On tonight's show we have the hottest er... talents in pop, To The Left.”
The female members of the audience screamed as if just witnesses a violent and bloody murder.
“We then have the best horticulturist in Britain. Green fingers himself, Alan Smith.”
The older female members of the audience screeched.
“But first we have one of the greatest actors to ever grace the stage, the incredible Robert Nordstrom. Let's take a look at him in action.”
Polite applause, then followed a short sequence of clips showing Robert's career. One of the audience members turned to the person next to her and asked. “Oh, they're all here. Who's Robert Nordstrom?” The woman next to her replied. “I think he's that guy who killed his violent girlfriend.”
Robert Nordstrom walked on stage with the air of a man who had a rod up the rod up his backside. He scanned the gothic looking set with an air of contempt, and only appeared to settle down once he acknowledged Tony, an actor for whom he had much respect, even if he didn't intend on showing it.
“Ghastly set Tony. Opened Robert. “Looks like valentines day at The Munster's house.”
Tony smiled. “Fashion and taste moves so quickly, sometimes in the wrong direction.”
“It's amazing to have you on the show Robert. You've been a hero of mine since I started performing.”
“Thank you for having me.” Robert replied with intermittent gratitude, and got glancingly close to a compliment. “I've always found you to be the least objectionable actor of your type.”
Tony beamed at this half-compliment. “Of all the many amazing roles you have had over the years, which is your very favourite?”
“Well Tony, one has been fortunate enough to star in a great number of amazing works.” Robert's uniquely deep and gravelly voice boomed. “I must say that playing the lead in the RSC production of the Scottish Play was the most inspiring.”
Tony replied without thinking. “You mean Macbeth?” Tony put his hand to his mouth.
Robert chuckled pretentiously. “Yes, that one.” Tony breathed a silent sigh of relief.
“It was a magnificent performance. I saw it three times.” fawned Tony, slightly forgetting his role as host for a brief moment.
“So what made you decide to get into acting in the first place?” Tony enquired.
Robert picked up his glass without looking and waved it in the air as he spoke. “Sometimes one just knows ones calling. I knew as soon as I set foot on stage that I was destined to remain there.”
Robert sipped his drink and spat it back into the glass, which he then looked at. “What is this shit?”
Tony, thinking quickly, replied. “Oh I'm sorry Robert, that was supposed to be there later for the next guest. We'll get you a glass of water.”
“Water?” came the indignant reply. “Did you even read what I asked for?”
“Not personally of course.” answered a nervous Tony, attempting to make a joke to calm the situation. “I'll fire whoever it was that did.”
“No need.” remarked Robert as he stood up, disconnected his microphone and walked off the stage booming. “Bloody amateur philistines.”
Through his earpiece, Tony heard Nigel say. “You weren't kidding were you? I put water in a plain glass out, but someone switched it.”
Remaining his professional exterior, Tony tried to make light of the situation. “Well folks, sometimes these things happen on live TV. We'll cut to a break and be right back with To The Left!”
Queue the audience to scream wildly.
As the show went to the break, Tony's eyes turned to a burning fiery colour. It was all very well making a fool of him in front of an audience, but to be shamed in the eyes of Robert Nordstrom was too much. He wasn't sure how he was going to get through the show. His career was surely as good as over anyway, after the terrible guests, the walkouts, the ridiculous unbreakable contract.
“Tony. I am really sorry about this. I don't know who changed his glass. Just finish the show, and we'll work out a way to get revenge.” suggested Nigel.
Revenge? That's not a bad plan, Tony thought. “It'll be fine Nigel. We'll discuss that magnificent idea later.” With this sweet prospect lodged into his head, Tony somehow managed to get the rest of the show finished without exploding.
As the show clicked off air, Tony ran into the dressing room as fast as he could to apologise to Robert, but he was nowhere to be seen.