This story

THE DOCU-SOAP

by Robert Williams

Des went to bed one night, after spending the last six hours watching twelve fly-on-the-wall documentaries, or 'docu-soaps', on television. He had watched everything from 'Bus Station' to 'Swimming Pool', and 'Sewage Works' to 'Chemist'.

As he lay in bed, thinking of the wide and varied selection of programmes he had just watched, an idea came into his head. He got out of bed, and wrote a letter.

Next morning, Des took the letter and went to post it on the way to Mrs Greasy's cafe. On the way he bumped into Mick.

"Look where you're going, Des!" exclaimed Mick. "What's that you've got in your hand?"

"Don't be so nosy," said Des. "I've written a letter to the BBC. I've got a programme idea! I'll tell you about it when we get to the cafe."

Des posted his letter in a pillar box, and he and Mick walked to the cafe, where the gang had gathered for their daily meeting.

"Right," said Mrs Greasy. "Item one. My drain's still blocked, and I need someone..."

"Item two!" exclaimed Des, interrupting her. "I've written to the BBC with an idea for a programme that's going to change our lives!"

"Oh yeah!" said Clive, not believing a word of it.

"No really," said Des. "You know all these cheap flea on the wall documentaries on at the moment! I thought, why don't they come here and film us!"

"You must be joking!" exclaimed Clive.

"Who would want to watch us?!" said Mick. "Nothing interesting happens round here!"

"But this could turn us into national celebrities!" said Des.

"I don't want to be a national celebrity!" said Mick.

"Do we get paid?!" said Wayne.

"Yes," said Des.

"Let's do it!" exclaimed Wayne.

From then on, Des accosted the postman every morning to see if he had brought a reply from the BBC. But after a month, Des began to give up hope of hearing back from them. So he put Plan B into action.

"All right then," he said. "If they won't come here and film us, then we'll have to film ourselves! Then I'll send it to ITV, since the BBC obviously aren't interested."

The hearts sank of the rest of the gang.

"I haven't used my video camera since we made our Tolworth promotional film!" said Des. "It's about time I got it out again!"

"What on earth are you going to film?" said Mick.

"There must be so much scope round here!" exclaimed Des. "I mean, we've got so many interesting characters round here! We could have parts of it set on Farmer Files's farm, there's Mike's Manic Motors, we could film Wayne window cleaning and there must be so many comedy moments if we film Mrs Greasy cooking!"

"Are you gonna pay us!" said Wayne.

"Maybe," said Des.

"Let's do it!" exclaimed Wayne.

"So are you going to do the filming?" asked Mick.

"Not me!" said Des. "I'm the star! No, you'll have to do it. You look too boring to be on screen. You can narrate as well."

"Great," sighed Mick.

"Filming starts at my house tomorrow at ten o'clock, Mick," said Des. "And don't forget, everyone's involved! I'll get writing a script."

"A script?" said Mick. "But it's supposed to be real life!"

"I can't depend on any real life happening!" exclaimed Des. "Anyway, all the other docu-soaps are set up!"

Mick turned up reluctantly on Des's doorstep, as he was told, at ten o'clock the next morning. Before he had a chance to ring the doorbell, the door flew open and Mick saw Des standing there in his dressing gown, who thrust his video camera and script into Mick's hands.

"Right Mick, it's quite simple! All you have to read the script and follow me around with the camera. I've got some gripping dilemmas lined up! Oh, and try to sound as bored as you can."

So armed with video camera and script, Mick began filming Des.

"Tuesday, 10am," said Mick in a monotone voice. "Des Wednesday's house, Tolworth, Surrey. Des has just woken up, but his problems have already begun."

"Oh no!! Oh no!!" exclaimed Des in mock horror, running into the kitchen. "(Come on, Mick, keep up). Oh no!!"

"Des is trying to do the washing, but he's missing one sock," narrated Mick.

Des ran around his house, searching for the missing odd sock.

"Can he find the missing sock before the postman comes?" said Mick. "It's a real race against the clock."

"Found it!!" exclaimed Des, grinning at the camera, holding his sock in the air.

"At last Des has found his missing sock, hidden in a plant pot," narrated Mick. "Now Des can finish the washing. But his problems aren't over."

They hurried down to the kitchen.

"Oh no!" exclaimed Des. "I'm out of Sugar Puffs!"

"It's time for breakfast," said Mick, "but Des had run out of Sugar Puffs. He only has a packet of Rice Krispies in the cupboard."

"I don't fancy Rice Krispies, I feel like Sugar Puffs today!" exclaimed Des.

"This is a real dilemma for Des," said Mick, reading the script. "Does he opt to go for the Rice Krispies, or will he decide to go down to the shop and buy a packet of Sugar Puffs? He's feeling hungry, so he can't waste any time making a decision."

Des stood there thinking.

"I can't be bothered to go down the shop now," said Des, finally. "I'll have the Rice Krispies this morning, and I'll buy some Sugar Puffs later."

Mick then filmed Des eating his breakfast.

"Right, Mick, cut!!" he exclaimed when he had finished. "Well done Mick, that all went very smoothly! You did a very good job of sounding very bored!"

"I didn't have to try very hard!" said Mick. "This script's rubbish! It's about as dull and mundane as you can get!"

"It'll get better when we go down the cafe," said Des. "I've got some good ideas for Mrs Greasy!"

On the way, they popped into Mike's Manic Motors.

"Hi there Des and Mick!" said Mike. "I've heard about the docu-soap you're making! Can I have a part?"

"Of course!" said Des. "I've already written a part for you."

"I can improvise if you'd like!" said Mike. "It'll make it seem more realistic! I can do some heart-rending human drama!"

"Okay, but no swearing, please." said Des. "I'll get Mick to read the introduction bit. Take one!"

"Tuesday, 10.45am," read Mick. "And all is not well for Mike the Manic Mechanic, who runs the local garage, Mike's Manic Motors."

"Drat!!" exclaimed Mike, working under the bonnet of a car. "One of the spark plugs on this Fiesta XR2 is misfiring! I think it's going to need whole new set of plugs."

"It looks like Mike will need a whole new set of spark plugs for the car," narrated Mick in his monotone voice.

"And that's not all!" exclaimed Mike, looking sadly at the camera. "This car is going to need a new gearbox, and whole new set of brake pads."

"Will Mike be able to get his new gearbox and new set of brake pads?" said Mick.

"Of course I will!" exclaimed Mike. "It's not as if it's anything particularly unusual! Anyway viewers, while I'm here, I'm sure you'll be interested in some of these tasty motors I've got on sale. Just look at this 1973 Ford Capri! Only 20,000 miles on the clock..."

"Cut! Cut!" exclaimed Des. "No advertising!"

"The rest of it was all right though, wasn't it?" said Mike.

"Yes, it was fine," said Des. "I'll be back here later to film more emotional scenes! Right, on to Mrs Greasy's cafe."

"Okay Mrs G," said Des when they arrived. "This is what I need you to do. Remember when you boiled an egg and set fire to the kitchen? Could you do it again?"

"I'm not setting my kitchen alight again!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "Are you out of your mind?!"

"Oh go on!" said Des. "I need you to! This is the big event of the first episode! This is the bit that'll really pull the viewers in!"

"Can't you just use computer graphics instead?" asked Mrs Greasy.

"Costs too much," said Des. "Look Mrs G, this'll make you into a star!"

"A star?" said Mrs G. "Go on then! But I can only do it with Delia Smith's book, which I threw in the bin!"

"So I suppose I've got to rush down the book shop and buy another copy!" said Des. "What a nuisance!"

"Tuesday, 11.10am, and things aren't looking up for Des," said Mick. "The next scene can only work if Des can be bothered to go and buy another copy of Delia Smith's book, 'How to Cook'."

"Oi Mick!" said Des. "You weren't filming all that, were you?!"

"It's been the best bit so far!" said Mick. "A real dilemma for you!!"

Mick followed Des with the camera to the bookshop and back.

"Stop filming me, Mick!" exclaimed Des, getting rather annoyed with him.

"Tuesday, 11.50am, and Des is beginning to get a little agitated," said Mick. "All he wants is the scene in the can, and he's had to waste valuable time queuing at the bookshop!"

Des glared at the camera.

"This is going to make much better television!" exclaimed Mick. "Keep it up, Des!"

They arrived back at the cafe, where Mrs Greasy had an egg ready to boil.

"Right, Mick, start filming again!"

"Tuesday, 12.15pm. Des had finally made it back to the cafe..."

"And stick to the script, Mick!"

"...just in time for Mrs Greasy to boil an egg. This is a tense time for Mrs G. Last time she attempted to boil an egg by the book she set the cafe alight, and it took ten fire engines to put it out in a dramatic fire rescue. Could the same happen today?"

Mick pointed the camera at Mrs Greasy, who carefully put the egg onto boil, following Delia Smith's instructions.

Ninety seconds in, and there was no sign of any flames. But Mick had been told to stick to the script.

"Things aren't looking good for Mrs Greasy," he narrated. "Flames are beginning to appear, but she's carrying on regardless."

Before long Mrs Greasy had successfully completed boiling the egg, much to Des's annoyance.

"Three minutes in, and it's disaster for Mrs Greasy," narrated Mick. "The kitchen's on fire, and Mrs Greasy's trying to find the telephone to ring the fire brigade. But she can hardly see through the smoke."

"What are you talking about, Mick?!" said Mrs Greasy, incredulous. "Look! There's no fire!! I've boiled the egg without any problems at all!"

"Oh Mrs G! You were supposed to set the cafe alight!" exclaimed Des. "You've messed it all up!"

"This is one more setback for Des," said Mick. "He wanted a fire in the kitchen, but Mrs Greasy's successfully boiled the egg."

"Oh be quiet, Mick!" snapped Des. "Cut! We'll try again next week for episode two."

Next to feature in Des's docu-soap was Wayne.

"Hi there Des!" said Wayne. "What do yer want me to do?"

"Try and make something interesting happen," said Des. "But try to make it look natural! I feel it's perhaps all looked a bit too staged so far! Take one!"

"Tuesday, 1.30pm," narrated Mick. "Wayne Coach, the local window cleaner, has come to clean someone's windows."

"Hi there viewers!" exclaimed Wayne. "It's yer ol' mate Wayne ere! I'm a winda cleaner!" Just then his mobile phone rang. "'Scuse me!! 'Allo, it's yer ol' mate Wayne 'ere...oh, 'allo Shane!..."

"Brilliant," whispered Des to Mick. "All the docu-soaps have people talking on the phone."

"...'ere Shane, are yer comin' to Dickie the vicar's disco tonight?..."

"Hey Mick," whispered Des. "Dickie's got a disco on tonight...we could film that, it
would make a good closing scene!"

"...all right Shane, see ya later!!" said Wayne, finishing his phone call. "Okay viewers, this is me mate Dwayne's house, and I'm gonna clean his windas!"

He put his ladder up, and quite deliberately smashed an upstairs window.

"Oh dear, oops!" exclaimed Wayne.

"Yes!" said Des to himself.

"It's trouble for Wayne," narrated Mick. "He's broken a window of one of his clients."

"Oi Wayne!" exclaimed Dwayne, coming to the window. "What do yer think you've done?!"

"Sorry Dwayne! It's for telly!" exclaimed Wayne.

"Who are those people with you?! Go away, the lot of you!" shouted Dwayne. "Oh yeah, Wayne, and here's something for you!"

Dwayne poured a bucket of water out of the broken window and on top of Wayne.

"He's one of me best mates!" exclaimed Wayne to the camera.

"Cut!" said Des. "Brilliant, Wayne, that was the best scene so far! I think we'll have a rest now. I've decided we'll go and film Farmer Files tomorrow. In the meantime, the next scene will be tonight at Dickie's disco."

That evening Des and Mick turned up outside the church hall.

"Ready with the camera, Mick?" said Des. "Take one!"

"Tuesday, 7.30pm, at St Malcolm's church hall," read Mick. "And the local vicar, the Reverend Richard Rogers, known to his friend as Dickie the Vicar, is holding a disco to raise funds to mend the church roof. Des had decided to make an appearance, and his dressed in his best tank top and flared trousers."

Mick followed Des inside the hall.

"And it appears tonight there has been a record turn out," said Mick, counting up the people. "An unbelievable nine people have decided to attend tonight's disco."

Indeed, eight people all aged over seventy, plus Des, had turned up. Dickie came over to greet Des.

"This is Dickie the Vicar," narrated Mick.

"Yes, I know," said Dickie.

"Shhh, you're on telly!" said Des.

"Oh!" said Dickie, breaking out into a smile.

"Dickie welcomes Des to the disco."

There was a pause.

"Des, let me welcome you to my fab disco tonight!" said Dickie, once he had cottoned on. "Glad to see you here, I've got some groovy tunes lined up - Frankie Vaughan, Guy Mitchell, all the latest from the hit parade!"

"Tuesday, 9.15pm," said Mick, later on. "And Des can barely stay awake at the disco. With just fifteen minutes before the disco finishes, the question on everybody's lips is will Wayne and his friend actually turn up? Could anyone care less?"

"Keep to the script, Mick!" said Des, waking up. "Is it finished yet?"

"Only fifteen minutes to go," said Mick.

"Oh let's sneak off now," said Des.

"Des has had enough," narrated Mick. "He wants to go home. He walks over to the door, only to be accosted by Dickie."

"Hey Des, can I have your contribution to the church fund? It's only five pounds!"

"Oh...um...I've got no money on me..."

"Things go from bad to worse for Des," said Mick. "Dickie wants his money now. Dickie and Des get into an argument! They're coming to blows! Des, you can't beat up the vicar! Leave him alone!!"

"Sorry, Dickie, I promise I'll pay you tomorrow," said Des.

"That's fine," said Dickie. "Ta-ra!"

Des and Mick left the church hall.

"I think that's enough filming for one day," said Des.

"Tuesday, 9.20pm, and Des has had enough," said Mick. "He's off home to bed."

The next morning, Des and Mick went along to the cafe to have another go and filming the Mrs Greasy scene. However they were surprised to see a BBC van parked outside.

"What's all this?" said Des.

"Oh hello, we've come to film a real-life documentary about this street," explained a BBC man.

"That was my idea!" exclaimed Des. "I wrote you the letter! And no one replied!"

"We loved the idea," said the BBC man. "We're starting filming today at this cafe!"

"I'm not having this," said Des. "We've been filming our own docu-soap! And I'm sending it to ITV!"

"What are you going to do, Des?" asked Mick as they entered the cafe.

"Just carry on!" said Des.

"Gosh, two film crews!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy.

"Yes, just ignore them," said Des. "We need to have another go at the egg boiling scene."

But they had to contend with the BBC film crew getting in the way, who also wanted to film Mrs Greasy setting the kitchen on fire. So Des put up signs all around saying 'ITV Rules OK' and started filming.

"Wednesday, 10.30am, and it's time for Mrs Greasy to boil an egg," narrated Mick. "This is a tense time for Mrs G. It's only the third time she has attempted to boil an egg by the book, and this time the BBC are here as well, getting in the way!"

"Hey, where's your narrator?" said Des to the BBC man who was filming Mick filming Mrs Greasy. "And where's your scripts?"

"We can't write any scripts yet, because we don't know what's going to happen!" explained the BBC man. "And we will dub the narration on later."

"Oh," said Des. "Maybe I should have done that."

The rival teams filmed Mrs Greasy successfully boiling another egg, much to both teams annoyance. Nonetheless, the BBC and Des's production company managed to carry on filming local occurrences, and mostly filming each other. Des sent off his effort to ITV, and to everyone's surprise it was accepted.

"This is beyond my wildest dreams!" exclaimed Des. "Not one, but two docu-soaps about us! Twice the exposure, twice the stardom!"

"It'd be good if they weren't scheduled against each other!" said Mick, with the newspaper. "Look! Thursday 8.30pm BBC1 - 'The Street', while Thursday 8.30pm ITV - 'The Avenue'."

"Well of course everyone will watch our one," said Des. "'The Avenue', that sounds more upmarket than 'The Street'!"

But hardly anyone watched either. 'The Street' was axed after two episodes due to record-breaking low audience figures, and replaced by repeats of 'Only Fools and Horses', while Des and Mick's effort 'The Avenue' didn't even last one whole episode, since the tape in Des's cheap video snapped half way through.

After much careful thought, Des opted not to make a second series.


Copyright © Robert Williams
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