Culture And Criticism

If You Presented Your Appendectomy At Press Tour: A One-Act Play

As you know if you've been following the blog, I'm spending some time at the Television Critics Association press tour. Now obviously, many people here have done these press conferences many, many times for many, many shows. And there are some routines and things that seem to happen over and over. Don't get me wrong — lots of interesting things come out of people's mouths, and you learn massive amounts of information about new shows. But all this is often happening around a structure that feels eerily familiar after a surprisingly short time.

It seemed like the best way to explain some of the tropes would be to present an analogy. So I wrote this play, which is called, If You Presented Your Upcoming Appendectomy At Press Tour.

Please enjoy.

ACT ONE AND ONLY

[In a large hotel ballroom, the lights go out as approximately 200 surgery critics sit at their computers at many, many long tables facing a stage. Suddenly, clips of you doubled over in pain appear on two large screens to each side of that stage. Clips follow: you with your family, your doctor hard at work, your insurance agent handling papers. Upbeat music blares. At the end of the montage of clips come the words, THE APPENDECTOMY: COMING IN SEPTEMBER 2010. The lights come up. You, the Patient, file out onto the stage with your Surgeon, the Nurse, your Anesthesiologist, your Spouse, and your Insurance Company Representative. All of you sit in a row of chairs facing the surgery critics. A hospital publicist stands at a podium to one side of the stage.]

HOSP.PUB.: Thank you all for being here, we're very excited about this surgery. As you know, this has been a great year for us; we've taken out 246 appendices so far this calendar year, we've been nominated for the Best Of The City hospitals' list, and we've received better patient satisfactory ratings on our gelatin desserts than any other hospital in our community. We're blessed to have some of the greatest medical talent in the business, and we're excited to present The Appendectomy. Please welcome Patient, Surgeon, Nurse, Anesthesiologist, Spouse, and Insurance Company Representative.

[In the back of the room, the small number of hospital staff who are attending the presentation provide a hearty smattering of applause. The surgery critics do not applaud, as they are impartial.]

And with that, we're ready for our first question.

[Pages roam among the critics, handing microphones to those who raise their hands. Because the microphones are amplified, the people on stage have no idea where the questions are coming from.]

CRITIC 1: Hi, I'm over here on your left. Your left. I'm waving. Hi. Can you talk a little bit about where you got the idea for this appendectomy; what the original thinking was about why this is the right time for this appendectomy?

SURGEON: Well, Patient came into the hospital, and he was pretty much doubled over in pain, high fever. And I was really excited about having the opportunity to work with Nurse and Anesthesiologist, who were in that day. So I pitched Patient the idea of giving him an Appendectomy, and he said yes on the spot. It was amazing how quickly the project came together.

YOU, THE PATIENT: Yeah. As soon as Surgeon told me that the appendectomy would address my crippling abdominal pain, I was confident that this was the direction we should go. He's had a lot of successes in the past; he's got a great track record. So I think that was the original thinking.

CRITIC 2: [waving hand] Here, in the center. Nurse, I know we last saw you in That Other Guy's Tonsillectomy; what kinds of new challenges did you face in this role? How was this different?

NURSE: Well, that was tonsils. Those are basically in your throat. The appendix, you know, it's lower. It's lower in the body.

CRITIC 2: But, so ... how was that different?

NURSE: Well, tonsils are in a different place. Different part. Like I said.

CRITIC 3: Hi, I'm on your right. No, way over to the right. Way over here. On the edge. No, your right. I'm waving my hand. Yes. Hi. Great. Okay. So are you concerned about how this surgery is going to be received? Are you worried that people will think the scar is kind of unsightly?

SURGEON: Well, look. I can't worry about the scar, looking at it under a microscope, looking for flaws. That's, you know, that's for you guys to worry about. Uh, for me, it's about the work. I do the work, and I just hope people think it's good. You know, if I sat around and thought about, "Oh, will the patient look good in a bikini afterwards," that wouldn't be honest. It's really important to me to be honest. I've done a few surgeries in the past that weren't as well-planned as this one is going to be, so I don't want to repeat those mistakes. I'm really excited about this one; this is the kind of surgery I've always want to be doing.

ANESTHESIOLOGIST: If I can jump in, you know, what people think isn't my job. My job is just unconsciousness. If I do that, if you're unconscious, then I consider myself a success.

CRITIC 4: What do you think makes appendectomies so compelling? I mean, a lot of people have had them, a lot of people have had relatives who have had them; what makes appendectomies so popular?

SURGEON: Well, the surgery isn't really about the appendix; it's about the people. It's about those people and what they're going through, and how losing that appendix changes them. If it were just a story about an appendix, I don't think anyone would care. Like, aside from the risk of sepsis.

YOU, THE PATIENT: Yeah, I can say — if they'd just been like, "Oh, we want to do this surgery on your appendix," I don't think I'd have wanted to do it anyway. But I knew they really invested in me as a person and my Spouse, you know. We knew that they would make it about our growth as people. It's not about the blood and the viscera and whatever.

SPOUSE: Yeah, I totally agree. We just saw eye-to-eye the whole time about who we were as people and how this surgery would affect who we were. And of course, you really just put yourselves in the hands of Surgeon, and you know you can trust him. I mean, honestly, I'd wanted to work with him for years. [to Surgeon] You should have taken something inflamed out of one of us sooner! [panelists laugh heartily]

CRITIC 5: You know, a lot of people like going to the zoo. Can you think of any way that this surgery relates to going to the zoo? Do you think there's a connection there?

YOU, THE PATIENT: Not ... not really? I'm not sure I understand the question.

CRITIC 5: Well, you know, the zoo is popular, it's getting a lot of press these days.

YOU, THE PATIENT: Right. But are you asking me whether the zoo has anything to do with my surgery?

CRITIC 5: Yeah, exactly.

YOU, THE PATIENT: Uh ... I don't think so. I mean, I guess I'll go to the zoo more when I'm not doubled over? Other than that, I'm not ... I think the zoo is maybe not that related.

CRITIC 6: We've all been reading in the papers that Your Radiologist has been having some personal difficulties, let's just say. Do you see that affecting the surgery?

SURGEON: We're all professionals. You know, we're all professionals and we don't worry about that stuff. We come to work and we do our work and we go home. It's not a problem, it doesn't affect our ability to cut people open.

HOSP.PUB.: Okay, I think we have time for one more question.

CRITIC 7: My question is for Insurance Company Representative. I know you were able to approve a long hospital stay for someone last week; that probably felt good. But a lot of times, people do sort of see you as the bad guy in a situation like this. Can you talk about that?

INS.CO.REP.: [smiles] Oh, I don't think I'm a bad guy. I think I'm just conflicted, you know? I think there's a lot going on inside me, and I don't want to give too much away, but as this time goes on, I think you'll see that I'm able to approve a lot of things, maybe for this surgery, maybe for some other surgeries. I think maybe you get a better look at my humanity. You'll, ah, I don't know how much I can say, but there are some big things coming up for me. I've got my pen ready. I'll just say that. You'll see some major developments.

SURGEON: I'd point out that we're also going to bring in some other people who will be around for parts of the surgery, who unfortunately aren't here today: Orderly, who you guys probably remember from his work in So You Have A Broken Leg, and also Feisty Patient In The Next Bed, who we're really excited about, and who we saw as Feisty Person Behind You In Line At The DMV, and we just knew: "That's who we need for Feisty Patient." So stick around — we have a lot planned for the surgery. You'll really enjoy it.

HOSP.PUB: Thank you so much, everybody. Our panelists are actually leaving immediately to complete this surgery on You, The Patient — as you can tell, You're looking a little green. But come back this afternoon, and we'll be moving on to Your Root Canal. Which we also think is going to be great.

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