In an attempt to continue to milk the lucrative television reality series niche market at the lowest possible cost, cable broadcasters have turned to a university project that has had some notable successes in the past.
Known as the Missing Link Project, researchers in the University of California, La-La Land, have assembled a group of what they are calling “uniquely talented” primates to produce prime time content for network television.
“It’s basically just a roomful of monkeys with typewriters,” says project director Babu Bhat, but they’ve already created several well-received sitcoms for various cable networks, including FOX, TBS and the WB.”
Bhat said that originally the project began as sort of a joke. “You know that phrase, ‘give a roomful of monkeys with typewriters enough time and eventually they’ll write “Moby Dick”’? Well, that was our plan, but before we could even get them to ‘Call me Ishmael,’ Fox had bought up everything the monkeys had written to date, and it’s turning them into future reality series.”
Bhat said network officials are pleased that the monkeys are productive and are not prone to form unions.
“When we told executives that the monkeys don’t even get upset over ‘production notes’ or script changes, you should have seen their eyes light up,” Bhat said.
Bhat said it took a while to find the right simian combination to produce the most productive workplace.
“We found baboons to be too bossy, and orangutans just seemed skeptical,” Bhat explained. “And the bonobo chimpanzees—well, we just couldn’t seem to keep their fingers on the keyboard. But the crew we have now is working out quite well.”
Bhat says a reality series is virtually a no-brainer for the monkeys and too stave off boredom, he will occasionally have them work on a variety of sitcom spinoffs and original pilots.
“One time the monkeys managed a complete sitcom pilot in just one day,” Bhat noted. “We knew something had to be wrong, because normally they can barely come up with a readable sentence in such a short span of time.”
Bhat says when the monkeys brought him a script entitled “Baby Koko” about a six-month old chimpanzee that speaks street-wise, smart-alecky French, he didn’t even want to show it to Fox brass.
“But they loved it,” Bhat says, adding that Fox only passed on “Baby Koko”after they decided instead to pick up a spinoff series called “COPS Acting Stupidly” instead.
“It’s hard for even a roomful of monkeys with typewriters to top something like that,” commented Bhat wistfully.
A PETA spokesperson says his organization currently has no objection to monkeys working in the entertainment field, although PETA would like to see opportunities extended to a broader range of animals, especially domesticated varieties.
“We believe there’s a lot of untapped talent in those barns, pig pens, catfish farms and chicken coops,” the spokesperson said. “With the continuing expansion of cable and now the web, networks are going to have cast a wider net to find the creative talent it’s going to need.”
When Bhat was asked what he thought of PETA’s ideas, he rolled his eyes, wondering what kind of quality you could expect from a barn full of cows with laptops.