Today I’m going to tell you the story of the time my father and I tried to get into reality television. It’s a grim and a strange story, but I think our readers are ready for it.
When I was fresh out of college, in 2008, my father got wind of an audition coming to Nashville. It wasn’t being advertised except among industry people, for some reason. I suppose they were targeting all the unemployed and slightly desperate songwriters that tend to pool in the cracks of Music City.
The show was called Jingles. Supposedly, CBS reported, a producer had decided to combine the concepts behind The Apprentice (this was 2008 after all) and American Idol. Contestants on the show would be creating ads for real products, and they would do it in teams. They’d audition as a team and compete as a team, and every week, they’d have to write and perform new assignments for a live audience.
Well, for some reason, my father and I were able to talk each other into thinking that this would be a good thing for us to get involved in.
We’ll be a team! A father-daughter team! We’ll call ourselves The Cryars!
We had a week or so to prepare, so we set about writing our three audition pieces. The audition packet said that we needed to write two jingles—pick one out of a provided list of fictional products to write for, and write one that advertised us as a team.
We picked some kind of feminine sounding razor brand. Here’s something you should know, before I tell you about how we approached this razor jingle.
I can do a pretty decent Marilyn Monroe impression.
Everybody has one random and useless talent. Some people can burp the alphabet. Some can do three cartwheels in a row. I can sing like Marilyn Monroe, when pressed, and when I haven’t eaten dairy or citrus in at least 24 hours.
So (yes, this really happened) I went out and bought a dressy looking dress and a blonde wig, and put on a lot of makeup and we wrote the razor ad to sound like a Marilyn Monroe song. My dad played the ukulele and sang backup.
For our team jingle, we prepared a rap, just to shake things up a bit. My part went something like this:
My name is Tilly; you can call me Short-T/ well, if you want to, you can call me Tall-T/got my degree but I ain’t got no money/ (My dad: “but don’t buy her drinks, ‘cause she’s still only 20”)/. Don’t you be hatin’ just because we so white/ cuz we so wh-wh-wh-white, we reflectin’ the light/ see, I got it from him, and he got it from his folk/ it’s hereditary, so don’t fix it; it’s not broke.
The most amazing thing about this story is that they called us back after something like that.
But they did. And we went back. We did the same ridiculous thing over again, and added another jingle they asked for, about tires or something. A week later, we got the call. We were in! We’d been asked to fly to LA for the next-stage-of-whatever-happens-next, and they mailed us a contract that was about two inches thick.
Well, naturally we were a little surprised by this turn of events, and were each thrown into a few days of deep inner conflict. Do we actually want to be on a reality show? What about our normal jobs? Here’s something else that bothered us: the contract had a whole lot of suspicious phrases about how we’d have no right to protest about how they used images of us, and they could set up cameras anywhere, with or without our knowledge, and we couldn’t talk to family or friends for the eight weeks of show filming. But another question loomed even larger in our minds:
Do we want to be those kinds of people? Do we want to sell our privacy for this genre of television?
The prize was something like a million dollars or a job at an ad agency; I don’t remember. In the end, we decided it wasn’t worth it. We declined.
I never saw that show hit the air. It must have fizzled—I don’t know if it fizzled after they shipped everybody out to LA or before. I don’t know if they shot a few episodes and realized it wasn’t working. I don’t really know what happened to Jingles.
I’m just glad, in retrospect, that I wasn’t there to see it.