Chapter 1

Patrick Adams sat in his huge, technology filled office with his Board Of Directors. The mood in general was one of apprehension due to the boss' mood. Every single person in that room was well aware that Adams wouldn't think twice about relieving them of their jobs within minutes, no exceptions.

"I can see I'm going to have to start the ball rolling." Adams' soft voice never changed much, regardless of his frame of mind, and that only added to the general unease felt by his staff. He was a short, middle-aged man who was always impeccably groomed, always. Patrick Adams had an army of wardrobe staff, dressers, hair stylists and image advisers and it showed.
"The gradually declining ratings didn't just hit an all time dip last night, they plunged into the bowels of hell, ladies and gentlemen." He turned his pale, cold, grey eyes on his Board, not blinking or looking away until the object of his focus did so first.
"Of the total viewers who first tuned in to the show, six months ago, only thirty two percent did so yesterday. A further eleven percent of those few tuned out during the commercial break." Another nerve racking look was cast around the staff.
"Six months, ladies and gentlemen, that's all. I'm sure you all understand my concern." Adams pressed his fingertips together. "Explanations, please."
The Board Of Directors exchanged glances. Patrick Adams wasn't noted for his reasonability when it came to his career and reputation. The bottom line was that the public had had a gut full of Real Life TV. Adams' company alone had covered Island Life, Home Life, Workplace Life, School Life and their latest gem Prison Life. Prison Life had meant to be a certain success, due to its subject matter. People were innately intrigued by criminals.

"Sir, I don't think the declining figures are through any fault of ours, and certainly not yours." Brian Charlton said graciously. "The prisoners and the staff at F1 have taken it upon themselves to become actors."

"You don't say?" Rowan Hall rolled her eyes. "Governor Stevens with his plastic hair and U-Glo dentures. Yes Sir, Brian's right. They know the cameras are there and they stage it. That fight couldn't have been more false if they'd had scripts in their hands."

"So we move to another prison?" Jacob Price asked.

"Change in subject matter?" Brian suggested.

"It would have to a monumental change." Rowan shrugged.

"Your lack of confidence is very disheartening, Miss Hall." Patrick Adams looked evenly at Rowan and she felt her innards knot.

"I meant, we'd have to find an area we haven't covered already, Mr Adams." Rowan answered quickly.

"Go on." Adams said slowly and Rowan swallowed hard. She had nothing to 'go on' with.

"I think that would be quite difficult and very risky. Our shows have been progressive. They've progressed and developed to adapt to public demands. As an extreme example, can you imagine the viewers being hooked on Family Life now? Observing the home life of a family was all the rage three years ago, but the public outgrew that. We progressed to Island Life, and so on." Rowan was rather pleased with her swift improvisation.

"And you don't see a viable progression from Prison Life?" Adams pursed his lips thoughtfully.

"I can't think of a more advanced environment, plot-wise, than the prisons, sir, but obviously that's not to say that there isn't one." Rowan looked round her colleagues for backup. They all looked in every direction possible but not at Rowan. "Cheers." She muttered.

"The public get bored very easily." Adams mused.

"Yes, Sir, they do." Rowan said quietly. "And we've been very successful in keeping up with them."

"Up to now." Adams looked straight at Rowan, making her squirm on the spot. "So you see our form of entertainment as an addiction, Miss Hall. Very interesting." He nodded slowly. "They get a fill of one aspect of the drug then we provide a stronger aspect of the same drug, Real Life TV."

"That sounds absolutely correct Mr Adams." Brian agreed heartily and Rowan gave him a withering glance. "What was the next step up from arcade video games?" Brian spread his hands infront of him in a very theatrical manner. "Home interactive computers! Interaction, Sir, it's the next step."

"But wouldn't interaction between the public and the subjects defeat the purpose?" Rowan pointed out. "Real Life TV is the observation of Real Life situations for entertainment, obviously. To demand responses and replies from the subjects would make it a Chat Show, Brian, not Real Life."

"And criticism without a constructive alternative is just snide pessimism." Brian snapped at Rowan.

"I wasn't criticizing!" Rowan objected. "I was pointing out a fact. Influencing a situation by interaction alters that situation completely because the subject has to participate, that's why it's called interaction." Brian Charlton really was a simpering rat. That was something that the whole Board was guilty of, Rowan included, but Brian took it to a entirely new level.

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