Mime Is Money

by Bob Schwartz

In the too-much-is-never-enough world of television, singing competitions are spawning wild speculation about what might be next. If successful, ABC’s just-premiered Duets is sure to be followed by singing groups of increasing size, leading to shows like Trios, Quartets, Quintets, and most audience-grabbing of all, Sextets.

One way to deal with too many shows is to thin out the herd. But another way is to do a 180-degree turn. That’s the idea behind a new competition show with the working title Mime Is Money, where silence will be golden.

Mime has become the object of only partly-deserved ridicule. Bad singers and dancers don’t give song and dance a bad name; they just reflect badly on their own lack of artistry. But untalented mimes have, until now, subverted any chance of the classic art of pantomime being taken seriously. This show could change all that.

Still in the concept stage, Mime Is Money will feature much more than the clichéd mime acts. For example, producers are hoping to include at least one example of mime ventriloquism, a little-known but strangely entertaining form. Mime ventriloquism is an outgrowth of the 1930s development of radio ventriloquism, pioneered by Edgar Bergen in the 1930s. Even though listeners couldn’t see Bergen performing with his dummy Charlie McCarthy, the Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy Hour was on NBC radio for twenty years. In the case of Mime Is Money, the viewer can see the ventriloquist and the dummy, but can’t hear them, and so are guaranteed to experience the most perfect ventriloquism act ever.

Also being considered is the possibility of the judges remaining silent too, rendering their opinions only with motions and gestures. In addition to thumbs-up and thumbs-down, the possibilities are limited only by the creativity of the judges and producers. One hope is that if the show proves popular, some of the gestures will become like catch-phrases that will brand the show and will sweep across America.