Show From Hell

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Monday night was "the show from hell!" In the end, all went well, but for us it was a juggling act. I hope you enjoyed the show, but it was a behind the scenes nightmare as it was happening. It was much easier for me than it was my New York line producer who had to put out each fire -- and there were many of them. There was so many "surprises," that I am not sure I can remember them, but since I promised "behind the scenes," this is my best shot at recalling them.

To be "fair and balanced," we booked two U.S. senators -- Evan Bayh and Lindsey Graham. The plan was to interview Sen. Bayh in the "B" block (after the first commercial) and Sen. Graham in the "C" block (after the second commercial.) That sounds pretty simple, right? Sen. Graham was not in D.C. -- or a bureau city -- so we had planned much earlier in the evening to send him a satellite truck so we could put him on camera. That sounds pretty simple, right? Satellite trucks are expensive -- I don't know the cost of this one, but in the past I have heard numbers from $2500 to $5000. The "C" block is usually about 10:20 p.m. ET.

About 30 minutes before the show, I got a call from my New York producer telling me that she just learned that the truck operator said he could not get to Sen. Graham until 10:52 p.m. ET. That is a far cry from 10:20 p.m. ET. I thought, "This is a stupid time to tell us that! Could the truck operator not have told us that hours before?" So we agreed to "re-stack" the show and put Sen. Graham in the last segment – the "G" block -- even though it may seem odd to separate the two U.S. senators by about 30 minutes. All the scripts with its teases had to be changed since now that Sen. Graham was going to be at the end of the show and not in the early part of it. About 10 minutes later, I received another call and now was being told it would be 10:55 p.m. ET. It seemed to me that we were cutting this very close -- the show ends at 11 p.m. ET!

After some discussion, we decided -- and I am not sure if this was decided DURING the show or BEFORE -- to skip the truck and just put Sen. Graham on the phone. We could put him back in the "C" block and use video to compensate for the fact that he was not on camera. This was not ideal, but "fixed" a problem. Having decided this, we had to rewrite the script teases again. You may have caught my remark to Senator Graham as I was saying goodbye that next time I hope to get him on camera and he laughed. The laugh was due to the nightmare leading up to his appearance on the show. Incidentally, if the debacle was annoying to us, you can be assured it was annoying to him and he was a very good sport. He never complained or gave us a hard time.

During the show, there were several times when we had to "re-stack" the segments. If you recall, I interviewed Major TV Johnson (yes, “TV Johnson” and I don't know how he got the name -- or maybe nickname -- "TV") from Fallujah. We never know when we will be able to get telephone contact with our soldiers in Iraq, so we take them when we can get them. Incidentally, we have tried to get Major Johnson several times in the last few nights and have had no luck even though we have planned for it. Likewise, we were "surprised" to get my colleague Ollie North on the video camera from Ramadi. We had not anticipated Ollie at all before the show started, so we had to figure out how to "re-stack" the show when he called in with one of our soldiers. That was a total surprise to my New York producers and, of course, to me. I learned about it during a preceding interview when my New York producer said via my earpiece "Ollie is calling in." (Of course I did know that Ollie was in Ramadi and that, as with all shows, there is a chance of a call via video camera.)

Meanwhile, as the show was ongoing, and with the constant surprises, we had to make sure we had backup: What if the phone went down from Fallujah? Did I really want to look like that deer in headlights? For back up, we had Susan Estrich and Liz Marlantes ready to go earlier than their planned segment. Susan was on the set in Los Angeles and Liz was with me in D.C. The original plan (mid afternoon and into the evening) was for both of them to be in -- I think -- the "D" block, and they were seated and ready to go. As the show unfolded, they kept getting pushed back (e.g. the surprise call from Ollie, etc.) and ended up in the last block -- the "G" block. Like Sen. Graham, I received no complaints from Susan or Liz. Both are pros and realize this is live television.

Note: Because President Bush will hold a press conference Tuesday night, we are pushed back an hour. I hope you watch and we will be back to our regular time Wednesday.

Finally, on Tuesday night, I asked for e-mails from our soldiers and their families. Here are two:

Getting told we are being extended here in Iraq did hurt our morale. But in no way is it going to interfere with our mission. We came out here knowing our job was to bring peace and stability to this country, and that is exactly what we are going to do. We are one team and will stick together until our boots hit the ground at home station. Then we will be able to breathe a sigh of relief, and look back at the accomplishments we have made.

Dear Greta,
Could someone please address the issue that the soldiers of the 1st Armored Division deserve to come home? When the 3rd Infantry Division was extended numerous times in Iraq it was all over the news and they ended up serving less than a year over there all together. My husband is currently deployed with the 1st Armored Division and was supposed to be home in two weeks. We are now being told that he will be there for 120 more days. He and all of the soldiers serving with him deserve to come home. These men and women have families and lives outside of the military that they have to right to resume. They have fulfilled their duty, they have served their year in Iraq and deserve to come home! If the administration did not plan for enough troops in Iraq our guys should not have to pay the price. They should bring in fresh soldiers. Please let America know that our military families and their service members have sacrificed enough this year.
Thank you,
Concerned Military Wife

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