Friday, March 6, 2009

Paley Festival Debacle

The Paley Fest is an annual television panel that features show casts and crew answer questions, show clips and interact with the fans. The shows can be rookies, reunions, solid shows, or the occasional one on one session. Twenty-five years later it remains a very hard ticket to get, but members of the Museum of Television and Radio get first stab at tickets. After enduring a couple of ticketing failures (Arrested Development and Lost) I got a membership for one reason: The Office.

For anyone who has wanted tickets to an event only sold through ticketmaster on-line, you know how dreadfully frustrating that can be. There are virtual waiting rooms where people wait until someone randomly is picked and given the chance to buy tickets. I was on the site 15 minutes before tickets would be on sale. The moment 10:00 am hit, I learned tickets were already sold out.

Impossible. There was no way that this could happen so soon, especially during a members only pre-sale. There could not be this many members eagerly waiting for their chance to get tickets. I was not ready to take no for an answer, but there were no real customer service lines for the Museum of Television and Radio (MTR). Calling the general information number, I was passed around until I got to an assistant who I told about my situation - the birthday membership, the instant sell out, two years of disappointment - I laid it on pretty thick. She called me back later that day having found two tickets for me.

My friend Orli was the biggest Office fan that I knew, so the other ticket was hers. She was at University of Florida, but I knew she would fly across country for it. It was going to be a pretty awesome short weekend. She'd fly in on Friday afternoon, we'd go to the panel that night and possibly Disneyland the next day before heading out to Purim parties.

That's when the situation took a turn for the worse. I got an e-mail from the same MTR assistant. Apparently the tickets she promised to me were promised to someone else at the same time and that person won out. I no longer had tickets, but I did have a friend with a non-refundable cross country flight. I do not remember the exact reply I sent, but I know it contained a lot of words like "outrageous" and "shockingly incompetent," all the while forcefully telling them that there was no way I was getting shut out of the show.

I think it's important to add that during these exchanges, I used my Universal Studios e-mail address hoping to appear I had some pull in the entertainment industry. I don't know why I thought this would help, but for some reason I thought they would try harder to please someone who was actually important, even if they had not heard of this person.

After that fuming message, I was directed towards the events coordinator, who attempted to calm me down. She informed me there were zero tickets but she was trying and I told her that trying was not good enough for someone on a college budget who just spent close to $400 on a flight for the sole purpose of going to this event. Every time we spoke I made it sound worse, driving the stake of guilt right into her as hard as I could.

One of the local radio stations I often listened to gave away tickets every year. I decided a last ditch e-mail to their entertainment reporter would give me an alternate route to receive tickets. I clued him in on the whole situation and what did he do? He betrayed me and forwarded it to the same MTR woman. She wrote back to me and said she was disappointed I tried to go around her to get tickets. I replied telling her she had no right to be disappointed about anything. This continued for about five to six days.

The day before the show I finally got a confirmation e-mail saying that I would have two tickets waiting for me at will call. I decided not to tell Orli, and I let her get on the flight without knowing. I told her there was a concert we could go to if the tickets didn't come through. She was on to this scheme from the beginning and was not surprised at all when I told her.

As for the evening itself, it began with an old episode ("Cocktails"), a preview clip of the not yet aired episode ("The Negotiation"), and a blooper reel. After the reel, the panel came out - everyone except John Krasinski, who received some ribbing for missing it to film a movie with George Clooney (Leatherheads). I got called on in the Q&A session and asked Brian Baumgartner (Kevin) if his character's Police cover band Scrantonicity might get a CD or iTunes release. He turned to one of the producers and said "that is a great idea!" He is a lot more animated than his character on the show.

Towards the end the host announced they would be doing trivia questions. The second question asked what Dwight got Michael for his birthday? Without thinking, my hand shot up and somehow I was the first one seen. As the lady walked towards me with the microphone my brain processed the question and I was able to get the words "hockey jersey" out. The room went silent and the other super fans immediately raised their hands, sensing it wasn't specific enough. I grabbed the microphone back and said "a hockey jersey that said From Dwight on the back." The prize was awesome. It was a gift bag that contained season 1 and 2 on DVD, a hat and an "Office" computer mouse.

When the show ended, the cast stayed around talking on stage, so we stormed up front. Everyone was very nice, taking time to talk with all the fans, signing autographs and taking pictures. The pictures of that night can be seen on my facebook page. The whole night was well worth all the trouble. I only used my MTR membership one other time - to watch video of the Arrested Development Paley Fest that I had missed two years before.

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