Gerald seemed in a comparatively upbeat mood when he invited Tony into the office the next day. “Come in gentlemen.”
Tony walked in nervously and sat down on the low-rise mahogany sofa.
“Er...I'm sorry Steve isn't here. He is working on next week's guest line up.” muttered Tony.
“Yesterday was definitely an improvement.” Gerald dictated, ignoring Tony's words entirely. “The figures are up, but not by enough. I expect to see them up again next week.”
Tony braced himself.
“That Mario lad was just the sort of thing we need more of. The kind of thing that the people at home can relate to.” Gerald waved his left index finger whilst holding on to his crystal decanter in the other, and appeared to be talking to the embarrassingly large portrait of himself and Geraldine at the rear of the office. “I want more guests like him.”
“But my fans aren't really into that kind of celebrity and reality show rubbish. They want something a bit more highbrow, or at the very least, less lowbrow.” replied Tony with polite bravery.
“I don't care two hoot about brows. I want ratings. Ratings bring in the money Mr James. The station's money brings in MY money. If you plan on having a deliberate negative impact on my financial circumstance we may have a rather large falling out.” Gerald boomed.
Tony, realising nothing he said was likely to have much of an impact, looked down at the floor for just long enough to see a hole in the floor approximately the size of a rather large bullet. “Well what if we can get some guests that are both highbrow and likely to bring in ratings?”
“I'm afraid Stephen Fry is busy shooting a commercial this week. So I want more guests that will get the audience screaming, okay?” Gerald replied.
Tony thought to himself in quiet contemplation, wondering if there was anything he could do. He also noticed that the sofa he was sat on perfectly matched the colour of Mario's fake-tan basted skin.
“I'll speak to Steve.” was the best Tony could think of to try and ignore Gerald and his orders.
“I already have. He'll let you know who your new guests are tomorrow.” he continued to dictate.
Tony nodded and accepted his fate.
“You may leave now gentlemen.” Gerald announced.
With that, Tony wandered through the big oak door and let out probably the biggest sigh ever produced on planet earth. He walked out of LTV headquarters, and into his car. A few moments of quiet contemplation later he stepped out of the car and walked to the nearest pub or bar he could find.
Tony had never absorbed himself in the worlds of chaotic drink and drugs like many of his peers. He maintained a sensible but enjoyable relationship with alcohol, well, usually.
Tony walked into the bar, a typical bar for the area, an attempt to fuse upper class snobbery with hipster led musical fascism. His ear was greeted by a cacophonous fusion of dubstep and jazz, which nearly caused his head to explode. Tony sat on the outrageously stylish stool at the empty bar and gestured to the bartender.
“Please don't sit on that sir.” she observed pointedly.
“Sorry? Don't what?” replied Tony
“Please don't sit on the antique stools.” she bleated.
“So where do I sit?” he queried.
“On the seats over there smart arse.” the tall spindly bartender replied. She had gigantic glasses which appeared to have no glass in them, and a gold medallion neck chain that appeared as if it was being boldly ironic.
“Ah ok, sorry.” Tony replied with undeserved politeness, getting off of the stool. “Can I get a double whiskey please?”
“Which whiskey would you like?”
“Erm. Do you have Jack?”
The bartender rolled her eyes and let out a subtle snort of derision. “We don't have Jack.”
“Well, maybe a Bells?”
More eye rolling.
“Jonny Walker Black Label?” he asked through slightly gritted teeth.
“Sold out I'm afraid.” came the reply.
Tony sighed. “How about you recommend me one?”
“Ok.” said the bartender as she disappeared into the maze of Gerald coloured bottles.
Ten minutes late she returned. “Only two hundred bottles of this are made per year. It's the most exclusive Whiskey produced in Middlesex.” she said with no hint of amusement.
“Sure.” Tony uttered in the hope of finally getting a drink.
The bartender poured the double whiskey onto three cubes of ice that Tony had not asked for. “That will be eighteen pounds please.”
Tony handed the twenty pound note to the bartender, who checked it was real, placed it in the till, and made only a cursory attempt to return the change before Tony waved to her to keep it.
“Maybe that can go towards some lessons in manners.” Tony muttered under his breath as he walked across the bar and sat in one of the extravagant leather sofas in the corner.
“Not that one.” shouted the bartender angrily, causing Tony to leap off in surprise.
Tony downed his whiskey, almost choking on an ice cube in the process, and walked straight out to find another bar.
“Wha..?” Tony mumbled groggily.
As Tony slowly woke up, the ghosts of alcohol past haunted his head like a cheap TV psychic experiencing a real possession. He left Alison sleeping soundly and slowly, very slowly managed to get out of bed.
The sound felt like a blunt power-drill being inserted into his brain via his ear.
Tony picked up the phone with the twitching coordination of a drunken elephant on a unicycle. “H..hello?”
“Hi Tony, it's Steve.”
“What the hell do you want?” Tony mumbled.
“I just wanted to explain about the other day and tell you about the next guest line up.”
“I don't want to know about the other day.” Tony remarked, awakening quickly once prodded by the pointed stick of anger. “Just tell me about the next show.”
“Ok, ok. I think I've got a line up that will please both us and Gerald.” hoped Steve. “There's two of the judges from Britain's Next Top Hairdresser.”
A whole bunch of pointed sticks. Tony remained silent.
“But it gets better.” Steve happily exclaimed. “Stephen Fry cancelled his ad shoot, so has agreed to come on.”
No more sticks.
“Finally we have the lead singer from the rock band Snow Plough, and the band will perform to close the show.” Steve concluded.
“I am still very mad at you... But thank you.” Tony mustered the courage to say.
“I'll keep trying for the show Tony.” Steve proudly declared, and with that he hung up.
Although still suffering from the after effects of the previous night, Tony, excited at the thought of having Stephen Fry on his show, managed to slowly and achingly drag himself downstairs to his desk, where he happily started to conduct his usual meticulous research.