I mentioned the other morning on Twitter that my friend had left me a voicemail over the weekend, suggesting that I come up with a treatment for a four-part Sunday night BBC 4 series on why the Fall Of Rome was an awful lot like the Financial Crisis. Or something like that. Given that I'm about to be unemployed I think he thought I needed a bit of a push to get my academic crossover career on track. Evidently my response was sufficiently unenthusiastic, so much so that he felt moved to write the pitch for my new TV series for me. This is probably one of those emails one ought not to share, but it made me laugh from start to finish, and so...
BBC eat your heart out.
Dr. Crystal Bennes has a doctorate in [insert doctorate name here] from [insert institution name here]. She's still in her twenties, and is TV friendly, with her striking angular features, and salt-and-pepper hair.
"The Fall of Rome" [note: need good title] will be a series of documentaries exploring the reasons why Rome fell, but also looking at how this led to the Renaissance. This will be compared to globalisation and the rise of China.
The unique selling points of this series will be the use of swearing, for comic effect, plus a new take on an old subject. This is a timely documentary, and could be seen as essential preparation for the next fifty years. The character of Dr. Crystal Bennes will be essentially cut in two: where the script refers to Crystal, this will be her anarchic side, swearing, demonstrating through example and generally causing mayhem. Where the script refers to Dr. Bennes, this is the sober, academic, reflective side. Dr. Bennes will mostly (but not exclusively) be used in voice over. Split-camera tricks might be used, to have both in frame at the same time.
FADE UP TO: A dance floor, modern day London. A selection of listless HIPSTERS lope around, to slightly bland, modern cool music. They're wearing low-cut t-shirts, primary coloured cardigans, skinny jeans and those tiny gym plimsolls that look like the kind the poor kids wear.
DR. BENNES (VO)
When the fall of Rome is generally talked about, it's usually in these terms:
CRYSTAL jumps onto the dance floor. The HIPSTERS look startled.
Dance, motherfuckers! This is my dance floor now!
The HIPSTERS try and ignore CRYSTAL. She barges through them, and starts gyrating wildly, without a care for how this appears. Some HIPSTERS tut slightly, and continue their mild little moves. CRYSTAL pulls a whip out of her back pocket, and begins cracking it at them.
I said dance, you useless fuckers! This is my dance floor! Dance, like your life depends on it! (shouting) Because it does!
CRYSTAL continues to crack the whip, while dancing. The HIPSTERS look terrified. They begin to dance wildly, fear in their eyes. CRYSTAL has no mercy.
You will all be flogged!
The music turns darker, more edgy. CRYSTAL pulls a violin from off camera, and begins manically bowing it, in the manner of Grozart.
Now dance a jig, like your life depends on it! Because it does!
DR. BENNES (VO)
Unfortunately, the truth is rather more complex. In the current academic debate, these are thought of as the main reasons for the fall of Rome. Lead.
CUT TO: CRYSTAL sitting at a café table, with a glass of wine in front of her. A caption appears on screen: "No. 1: Lead in the water supply and food". CRYSTAL takes a sip of wine, and immediately spits it over the camera lens.
This is disgusting. There isn't nearly enough lead in this wine.
She picks up what appears to be a salt cellar from the table. It is full of a grey dust. From her actions, it appear to be very heavy. She sprinkles it liberally into her wine. She takes another sip. This appears to satisfy her. She laughs manically, before reaching for her forehead, as if she suddenly has a massive headache. She looks confused. And irritable. Has a seizure, and falls off the chair.
DR. BENNES (VO)
A general apathy, arising from generations of decadence
CUT TO: CRYSTAL reclined on a chase lounge, wearing her normal, modern clothes. A caption appears on the screen "No. 2: General apathy, arising from decadence". A ROMAN SLAVE enters, carrying some grapes, on a silver platter. He respectfully lowers the platter to her level. She takes a grape without looking, and eats it. A look of disgust crosses her face.
I said I wanted peeled grapes, you asshole!
The ROMAN SLAVE drops the platter in fright, and goes onto his knees, in terror. CRYSTAL stands, grabs his head by the hair on the back, and grinds his face in the grapes.
Peeled grapes, motherfucker! Peeled!
Thrash metal plays over this image.