“First thing’s first, sorting out this place…” Andrew announces to the otherwise uninhabited kitchen and living area. He has the day off from work, not that his body clock permitted him to have any sort of lie-in. No, not for Andrew. There are things to do about the apartment; a bit of a clean-up, at the very least. If he ends up sitting in front of the TV afterwards, at least Andrew will know he’s done something productive to earn it.
Polish and j-cloth in his hands, Andrew cleans up clutter and wipes down every dusty surface. He moves from kitchen counter-tops to table to window sills and on to the coffee table by way of the bookshelves. As he arrives at the TV unit, Andrew stalls and flicks through the old DVDs on the top shelf, weighing up options for a re-watch later. Scanning through the collection, he pulls out The Truman Show.
“Such a head-melt of a movie,” Andrew muses.
He turns the DVD case over and back, inspecting it and reading the blurb, before replacing the case with the other DVDs on the shelf. It’s a brief stop, but long enough for a thought to lodge in Andrew’s mind. Satisfied that kitchen and living area are restored to an acceptable standard, Andrew takes a tea break. As he sits, mug and chocolate Hob Nobs on the table-top before him, that little thought lodged in his mind pops up. What if Andrew’s entire life is a TV show? Andrew thinks about it…
“It’d probably be great,” Andrew reckons.
He rates himself as a good person. Yesterday, on his way home, Andrew helped an older woman struggling with her shopping. Stuff like that would look great on TV, a good guy that an audience could root for, a bit of a role model. Or, if it’s a case of entertainment, not many of his mates tell jokes like Andrew can tell a joke. “That’s one thing an audience could be sure of,” Andrew says, “a bit of quality entertainment.” When he realises he’s talking to himself, Andrew laughs. “That one is for the people at home,” he jokes, sipping from his tea and easing another biscuit out of the packet. Andrew wouldn’t even be mad if it turned out that he is the star of a TV show like The Truman Show. “Ah, it’d be mad altogether,” he says to himself and whatever invisible audience there might be…
“Unless… Unless mine is a trashy reality show,” Andrew considers.
That thought doesn’t sit well. Andrew has a vision of a sensationalist daily clip show, edited together to focus solely on his extreme moments, all joy or anger with no subtlety or nuance whatsoever. Cursing at the TV as he plays FIFA alone… Looking depressed flicking through Netflix without selecting anything to watch… Knocking over someone’s pint by accident on a drunk and rowdy night out… Andrew panics, thinking of the frequency with which he says something racist or sexist or plainly ignorant in the company of the lads for the laugh. “It’s very simple,” he explained to a mate of his, maybe only a week ago and probably on Live TV, “you trail another pedestrian, use them as your blocker, keep them between you and the charity rep – that’s how I avoid them!” What if that’s being televised and that’s all people know about him? Andrew knows it’s wrong to say things like that, even in private. It can’t be just him, though; other people say things in private that they don’t believe or would ever stand by in public… right? What if the producers exaggerate his cursing? Not just the standard curse words – oh no – the ones that cause genuine upset. Andrew says c—t a lot. He says c—t an awful lot. Everyone and everything can be called a c—t or a c—ting c—t when Andrew speaks and he doesn’t believe for one moment that language like that can be broadcast. If it is being broadcast. The more Andrew thinks about it, he questions everything in his life that may only be for a TV show…
“All my friends are just here to boost my ratings,” Andrew realises.
The thought of being the central focus of a TV show is no longer funny to Andrew. Without knowing it, every time he uses a product, he’s advertising it, giving it an endorsement on his show. Even now, the tea brand that he’s drinking and the biscuits he’s eating are getting a free plug. Andrew can’t clearly remember his reasons for buying either product. Or when his friends and family show up with bits and pieces for his apartment for a party, are they product-placing? Andrew doesn’t know. Everything is suspect, he doubts everything. Are his friends really Andrew’s friends? Are his family actually Andrew’s family? His parents? How far could this show go in controlling his life? Surely someone would have been obliged to approach him by now. He’s clearly not in a gigantic dome like the one in The Truman Show. He’s not being kept in his house like on Big Brother. Andrew questions everything. Is he appearing on a live stream, 24 hours a day? Are people watching when Andrew showers or uses the toilet?
“Oh God, what if they’re watching when I…”
Andrew can’t escape the paranoia. He roots around the apartment, looking for signs of cameras or recording equipment of any kind. After a half-hour of panic, most of the apartment is tipped upside-down and the earlier efforts of tidying the place have come to naught. However, Andrew finds himself calming down sitting in the middle of it all, reassured that his life is not a show – not in the sense of being broadcast, that is…
“Sure, who would watch a show about me, anyway,” Andrew says to himself.
After all, he would know if he’s on TV. Andrew would have to know. There’s all sorts of laws protecting people from being shown on a broadcast without their permission. Even people in the background of a broadcast must sign a release form for their image rights. Andrew is certain that he’s never consented to the use of his image and that’s an inviolable right of his, he’s protected by law.
“Unless… Well, Truman didn’t know he was on TV for years and everyone seemed to allow it… Sure, it’s a movie, but…” Andrew tries to dismiss this thought before it takes hold. “No more paranoia, he tells himself, I’m not being watched and I am not the subject of a TV show…”
Andrew comes back to his cup of tea. He takes a sip and spits it back in the mug, finding it stone-cold. He takes another biscuit instead. All the while, there’s a little voice in the back of his mind telling Andrew that he wouldn’t know if he’s not supposed to know…
Or would he? He would know, wouldn’t he? Would he?