On the day before Thanksgiving after partaking of the best ham I have ever consumed, along with some really great mashed sweet potatoes, corn, and beans, I found myself flopping on the couch and flipping through the channels on my TV. Flopping and flipping. I like the sound of that, especially on a full stomach.
It was early evening so I figured I would tune into the local news. I punched 4 on the remote to view WCIV-TV. That’s the ABC affiliate station right here in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. The show was about halfway over and they were broadcasting a piece featuring award-winning reporter Dean Stephens. The segment wasn’t live. It was filmed in a local grocery store and taken back to the station for editing. In the segment, Mr. Stephens was making pals with the customers in the grocery store and trying to get them to join him in a friendly game of Frozen Turkey Bowling. Dean was shown grabbing some makeshift bowling pins (in the form of Pringles Potato Chip cans) and setting them up in the aisle, then having the participating customers see how many they could knock down.
The editing on the piece also required a close-up shot of Dean in front of the Pringles display announcing that there were several different flavors available and that he was going to use a representative sample of each variety as targets for the frozen turkey. Old Dean killed two birds with one stone. He managed not only to entertain this consumer but to educate me as well. Kudos!
“Must Buy Pringles,” I muttered to myself as I burped, drank some sweet tea, and just lay there… transfixed by the masterpiece of performance and editing that was unfolding before my grateful eyes.
The piece continued with footage of giggling, hooting customers sliding the frozen bird across the floor towards the doomed Pringles Cans. Dean chimes in: “Hey, A Strike!” and “Oops, You Left the Ten Pin!” One participant utters a frustrated “Dang!“ Great interaction with customers. Precision editing. Provocative imagery. This Turkey Bowling Segment has it all!
Enthralled by this awesome presentation, I turned off the TV and rushed to my computer. Slow startup…Hurry! Hurry!… I need to know! “Damn Google,” I sputtered angrily! I was really anxious to get the lowdown surrounding my new media hero, Dean Stephens. I gleaned the following biographical notes from WCIV’s website: “Over the years, Dean has demonstrated strong leadership and dedication to the television station and the community. In our pursuit of greater commitments to the Charleston community, Dean Stephens’ devotion rises to the top. He sets an example that everyone will follow. Dean has earned over 20 industry awards: including Best Sportscaster and Best Reporter in the State of South Carolina as well as in the Southeast.”
Wow! That is some resume! I can only speculate that, if Mr. Stephens focuses his career more on frozen turkey pranks and less on investigative reporting, he will soon be propelled into the national spotlight. Indeed, Dean is “an example that everyone will follow.” Who knows what heights he could achieve? Maybe Dancing with the Stars could do a spinoff called Dancing with the Media Stars and invite Dean to do the Cha-Cha, a Mambo, or a Waltz in front of a national audience.
Too bad this kind of television reporting wasn’t around when Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite were at their peak. Who knows what alternate turns history may have taken? Could Sen. Joseph McCarthy have been elected president if Mr. Murrow had been reveling in the limelight, stepping on Hollywood Bimbo toes and way too distracted to worry about whether a bunch of silly Commies had infiltrated not just our government, but Hollywood and the American literary establishment as well?
How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have played out if Kennedy and Khrushchev had been challenged by an eminent reporter to dance cheek-to-cheek instead of rattling the sabers of nuclear destruction? And, if Walter Cronkite had been Tiptoeing Thru the Tulips with Tiny Tim instead of verbally pummeling President Nixon, would the Vietnam War be entering its fiftieth year? Inquiring turkeys…oops, I mean minds, want to know!
I don’t know about you but if I saw some guys with microphones and cameras wandering around my favorite grocery store and one of them asked me if I wanted to hurl a frozen, plastic-wrapped 13-pound bird down the aisle at a bunch of potato chip cans, I would delightfully agree to do so but would promptly toss the turkey at a nearby wine display or knock down as many glass pickle jars as I could, then state that I was legally blind and clearly not responsible, leaving them shaking their heads and wondering if their budget would allow for the damage. “Clean up on aisle two,” hollers the manager through the store PA system then adds, “Bring two buckets.” Either that or I would hurl the wayward turkey two aisles over and hope that it wouldn’t land in the cart of some old guy with an oxygen cylinder who was pushing a cart full of Depends and Metamucil.
I would love to see the out-takes of this segment. I wonder how long the crack news crew from WCIV stayed in the grocery store and if, towards the end of the experience, the turkey might have gotten a bit soft and soggy and, instead of sliding and rolling easily, would land with a sickening plop a few feet short of the hapless Pringle cans, squirting out a barrage of liver, gizzard, and neck-bone onto an unsuspecting reporter. That would get a lot more hits on YouTube than the common Frozen Turkey Bowling bit.
Mr. Stephens deserves high praise in that his pants zipper was not down, his shoes were on the correct feet, and there were no tell-tale gooey objects on the tip of his nose. Add that to the gizzard/liver/neck-bone scenario and you would get some serious hits on YouTube. Not as many hits as the popular Watch Me Squeeze the Giant Boil On My Neck video, but a respectable view count nonetheless.
I am sure that turkey bowling would get a lot more hits than the infamous Meth-Head Clown Hitchhiker with Axe video. That film is more creepy than funny.
Truthfully, grocery stores can be pretty weird places at times and you could be taking fate into your hands when you tell some stranger that it’s okay to chuck a frozen turkey. You just never know who you are talking to and what their reaction may be. What if it is some wino who has a T-Bone steak and a bottle of Mogen David wine shoved down his pants? I guess if I was in his position I would go ahead and bowl the turkey so as not to arouse suspicion…and hope that the wine did not loosen its precarious perch next to my crotch and slide down my pants onto the floor. If I were to shoplift a bottle of cheap wine and a steak, I would probably shove the wine down the front of my pants and squeeze the steak down my backside. That’s just me, however, and your own shoplifting techniques may vary.
Anyway, the point of this whole exercise is not to criticize Dean Stephens or Channel Four. They were just providing a little fluff to a fluff-hungry public and what could be wrong with that? I must point out, however, that the concept of the piece was hardly original and that it had an air of quiet desperation about it. I mean, Mr. Stephens must have felt pretty dumb for at least a moment in the process leading from concept to broadcast. He looked to be a bit on the resigned side and appeared to be perspiring. Flop sweat, perhaps?
I wonder how this process works. I mean, was there a staff meeting where Mr. Stephens boldly presented this idea or was it conceived by another employee? I can see it now: “Hey, the economy is tanking, the country is mired in unemployment, foreclosures, homelessness, war in Iraq and Afghanistan, revolution in the Middle East, and the potential for a huge conflict in Korea so what are we going to do about it as responsible members of the media?” Silence… then somebody blurts out: “Frozen Turkey Bowling!” and the room erupts in spontaneous cheers, back-pats, thumbs-up, and friendly noogies.
Problem solved. “Let’s roll with the Turkey!” says someone in authority and, like the Keystone Cops, the staff runs about willy-nilly and hither-dither, bumping into walls and doors in a rush to make arrangements to get to the grocery store with a camera, crew, and star. Good thing there wasn’t a rake on the floor. “Times a’ wastin’!” shouts the station manager, “There are Turkeys to be bowled!” Do news vehicles have emergency lights and sirens? I certainly hope so.
I watched an interesting science TV show some months back. I can’t remember for sure which network it was on but the subject matter was parallel dimensions. There was a bevy of eminent physicists and scientists explaining the mathematical concept of multiple (if not unlimited) worlds existing alongside our own. Each of us may have a twin in countless other universes.
They also discussed the probability that these worlds would be an approximation of our own, not an exact copy. Alike, yet different. An interesting theory.
I wonder if there is a parallel universe with another WCIV staff and another Dean Stephens sitting in a conference room planning a quirky Christmas segment? Someone suggests that Dean stand on the side of the road and encourage passersby to hurl a ceramic Santa Claus head at a blow-up Nativity Scene. Time to fire up the clown car…