‘Primetime Princess’ and the Television Industry Standard

Amazon—customers often love them. They have great prices, carry almost every title, and offer fabulous service. Writers and publishers may not always share this love. But for select writers, this may be starting to change. Since 2011, Amazon has been publishing book length works—just a few each year, but each year that number seems to grow. And if Lindy DeKoven’s novel Primetime Princess is any example, some authors may start to appreciate Amazon as much as customers do.

Primetime Princess tells the story of television exec Alexa Ross and her battle to climb the corporate ladder while maintaining her sanity, her moral compass, and her personal life. Author DeKoven is certainly qualified to write such a book; she’s a television veteran herself, and the press release for the book notes “Former NBC Executive Vice President Lindy DeKoven taps into her storied, real-life network television career for the release of Primetime Princess”. Alexa seems to be following in DeKoven’s successful footsteps: Alexa is the vice president of comedy development for a major television network, she has friends, a little bit of a life, and a dog. All this changes, however, when her former boss, Jerry Kellner, ends up working for her.

Alexa is an interesting character. She actually has some depth (considering the title this came as a pleasant surprise), and her struggles are timely. She wants to be a superstar in the television world, she wants to tutor underprivileged children, she wants a significant other (and time to spend with him)—in short, she wants it all, and she wants it while working in a “man’s” world. In trying to achieve these things, she makes a lot of mistakes—which is part of what makes her an interesting character. Half the conversations with boyfriend Gordon seem to begin or end with “I’m sorry”, and Alexa has some major apologizing to do to her best friend as well. Plus, her career isn’t going exactly as planned. But Alexa is a fighter—when Jerry goes after her job, she doesn’t give up—and while she may make some missteps, she never sinks to Jerry’s level.

Jerry’s character is decidedly less complicated—he’s pretty much a jerk and not always a completely believable one. You simply have to wonder why anyone would put up with much less promote someone who sends confidential emails to the press, sexually harasses just about everyone who isn’t male, and–here’s the kicker–isn’t that good at their job. Granted, Alexa threatens to fire Jerry when he tells her: “Lex, baby, relax. You need to get laid. How long’s it been? You still using the vibrator? Seriously, drop that and get the real thing.” They both know it’s an idle threat, though.

Plus, this seems to be the industry standard—it’s a world where men pressure their female colleagues to strip down and join them in a Jacuzzi and where television writers can contemplate: “Hey, I remember when I was at camp in the Catskills and this girl went off into the bushes…We were screaming, ‘Show us your tits,’ but then suddenly we see her squatting down and a string’s dangling from her ass. Was pretty gross. Hey, we could add something like that in the second act, ya know? I’d love to see the string dangling. That’d be great.”

Primetime Princess is a work of fiction; however, both the press release and praise for the book suggest that this book provides some type of behind the scenes look at the world of network television. Author Jennie Fields states “Both hilarious and thought-provoking, Primetime Princess reveals the male chauvinist world of network TV”. Granted, I sometimes wonder what kind of person it takes to come up with the offensive, stereotyping, and/or brain-numbing content that often fills the airwaves in the United States, but in my experience, it’s a little hard to imagine professionals behaving this badly (or coming up with some of the good stuff that manages to sneak onto network television).

On the other hand, Alexa’s response to mandatory sexual harassment training seems regrettably realistic: “I think this is a waste of time. Sexism and sexual harassment exist. Women are used to it. We live with it. It’s part of our environment. If we choose to challenge it, we get fired. Yes, it’s against the law, but women are afraid of losing their jobs. It is what it is.”

Moving on, kudos to Amazon for not skimping on the production costs. The book is smartly designed and uses a good quality paper—perhaps this shouldn’t be important, but it’s nice to see a paperback book made well—so many of them aren’t any more. This book also has the most interesting endorsements—in addition to several authors, actor Samuel L. Jackson and former Hoosier basketball coach Bob Knight praise the book.

It would have been nice if the same attention could have been paid to editing. Butterscotch is a word that should never be used as a modifier, and at times, the book just needed a little tightening—a little less back story, not quite so many descriptions of clothing, and a little less redundancy—chances are if someone is “crappy” and “pissed” they also feel “horrible”.

This book is not only a page-flipping, witty beach read, it also contributes to the ongoing discussion about whether or not women can really have it all and what the somewhat mystical “all” actually entails.

RATING 6 / 10