Story Note: This is like the movie: definitely not a light-hearted comedy.
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all associated characters are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, United Paramount Network, and Fox Television. The Truman Show and all associated characters are property of Paramount Pictures, Peter Weir, and Andrew Niccol. This work is not for profit, and no ownership of aforementioned copyrighted material implied, nor any infringement intended.
* * *
“As you mentioned, Hal, this is only the second baby ever adopted by a corporation. After the terrible tragedy with Baby Truman, the executive board decided to go ahead with another adoption. After all, a huge amount of money had already been sunk into the initial construction of ‘Sunnydale.’ So Baby Alexander, as he is being called by the crew, is on his way to his new home on the set with the excited actors Tony and Jessica--the child’s adoptive parents.”
“All right, Tracey. Thank you for that informative update. When we come back after the break we’ll have an exclusive interview with Christof, the genius behind what is certain to become a very popular television show.”
* * *
“Now, Cordelia, you can’t hit Alexander. He’s the star of the show.”
“I’m a pretty princess! I wanna be the star!”
“Cordelia, you can’t beat up Alex. You can be as mean as you want to Willow, but no touching Alex, okay?”
“I’m a princess!”
“Yes, you are, honey. But Alex is the star.”
“I hate him.”
* * *
“Look, my daughter was contracted to be the main love interest on this show.”
“I’m sorry, Sheila, but Alexander apparently has no interest in her beyond the platonic. Besides, ratings have started to slip. At this rate we’ll start to lose advertising revenues. And I don’t have to explain to you what that means.”
“But she has a signed contract specifying-”
“Signed by Christof. Who has been replaced.” There was a long pause, enough time for the words to sink in. “The Alexander Show is real television. Are you suggesting that we force him to fall in love with your daughter? How do you think that will work, when all the things we’ve tried up to this point haven’t? Look, Willow gets a bonus, and she’s still going to be one of the core characters on the show.”
“Well how much of a bonus are we talking here?”
“Enough for her to be very happy. We’re taking a new direction this season. New faces, new storyline. And I’m sorry to break it to you now, but your and Ira’s screen time is going to be scaled back for the foreseeable future.”
* * *
“Oh yeah, the Red Cross is ecstatic. They say every CPR and first aid class they offer has been booked solid for the next three months. ‘Star of The Alexander Show saves actress from drowning on prime time’...you can’t buy publicity like that! I’m thinking we can use the public service angle to get some kind of tax break. And we’ve had triple the usual number of calls looking for ad placements on the show.”
* * *
“That’s right, Hal. Apparently there is a small riot going on behind me in Wayside Prison just north of Santa Clarita. The inmates are protesting the...let me make sure I’ve got it right...the ‘hijacking of The Alexander Show by that skinny white chick and the no-talent pretty boy.’ They are demanding that Alexander be returned to his rightful place as the main character of the show, and not be marginalized by the feminist agenda of the new producer. Back to you in the studio, Hal.”
“Marjorie, is there any chance that the prisoners’ demands will be met?”
“I don’t know. We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed and hope for a peaceful resolution to this situation.”
* * *
“Now for our Hollywood Report. As of last Tuesday, The Alexander Show was the most-watched television show on prime time. Fans actually cheered in the streets as Xander proved he could carry the weight of the show on his shoulders, without asking his group of friends for help. In a nation-wide show of support, people have been seen wearing shirts reading ‘The Zeppo Rules’ and ‘I like the quiet.’ In addition, ‘Cordy is a bitch’ buttons are once again in vogue.”
* * *
“There was a disturbance earlier today at the headquarters of the production company for The Alexander Show. Angry Xander fans were out in force. They waved placards reading ‘Dracula sucks,’ and ‘Xander is nobody’s butt-monkey.’ The mood here was undeniably hostile, and the police and security guards holding back the crowd just didn’t seem to have their usual enthusiasm. A few cars in the executive parking garage were set on fire, but a police spokesman says that it was more likely insurance fraud than the work of protesters. At the conclusion of the news conference he stated, ‘Xander fans are good people...don’t try to pin this on them.’”
* * *
“Tonight on E True Hollywood Story: a television mom who was loved by millions...Joyce Summers was quintessential mother from the 24-hour-a-day hit, The Alexander Show. She touched most of our lives in some way, and this show is dedicated to her memory. Coming up after the break:”
“...She actually had an aneurysm on the set...it was related to the surgery she had earlier this season. We wanted her to take some time off, but she insisted...”
“...That was a tragedy, totally ironic. I mean, to survive the cancer, and then this...”
“...she was the best mom I ever had...”
“...the blow to young Alexander’s psyche is likely to be severe, losing the most positive maternal figure in his life. Of course, he has access to some of the best psychologists and psychiatrists in the country, in the guise of Sunnydale High School counselors and the school psychologist...”
* * *
“And in business news tonight, the stock of OnlyOrganic, Incorporated dropped by more than 50% in value today. The company is responsible for making most of the veggie-burger patties consumed in this country. Three grocery store chains and five major restaurant franchises carry the company’s vegetarian patties for those who don’t eat meat. Analysts attribute the drop in stock value to the ‘Doublemeat Palace’ episode of The Alexander Show that aired yesterday. A spokesman for OnlyOrganic said they are considering taking legal action against the producers of the show.”
* * *
“Look, that’s what I’m trying to tell you; Elizabeth isn’t interested in renewing for another season. She’s getting while the getting’s good. She feels the show’s tapping out. There’s been less quality control with the boss working on the other two shows, et cetera.”
“Damn actors, get a few second rate movies under their belts and think they’re God’s gift.”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t want to say anything that would defame my client. Something you might regret.”
“Whatever. Get out of my sight.”
* * *
Xander looked back down the aisle of the bus. Over Dawn’s shoulder he could see buildings crumbling away as the schoolbus raced towards safety. His stomach heaved and Xander faced forward again and tried to suppress the nausea.
The terrain ahead seemed distorted; with a start Xander realized the horizon was approaching rapidly. The sky and the hills were painted onto the inside of a gigantic dome. He peered out a side window and saw the dome curved back over the whole town. And it was collapsing. “Faster,” Xander choked out.
Somehow Giles heard him and glanced in the rearview mirror. “Hang on,” the Englishman shouted. There was a gate in the wall that the two-lane road led to. The giant doors hung crazily on their hinges as the dome above continued to warp as it collapsed under its own weight.
Suddenly they were through, into bright sunlight. The bus groaned to a halt. A police cordon blocked the road, along with a dozen emergency vehicles. Xander was surprised to note the police were set up to keep out a crowd.
Thousands of people crowded the edge of the emergency barrier. Two of the closest people held up a banner that read, ‘The Alexander Show: How will it end?’ The entire crowd stared as the dome crashed into the sinkhole. It took a long time for the noise to stop. After a momentary silence the crowd beyond the police barricade began to cheer.
Xander looked at the crowd. Dozens of people had shirts with his face on them. Ball caps, placards, and buttons had his own words printed on them. He tried to speak, but only croaked. He tried again, looking at the nearest slayer. “Faith?”
“Sorry, X,” she shrugged. “It was show biz.”
Xander looked over at Buffy. She waved to the crowd and smiled brightly. After a moment she turned so only Faith and Xander could hear her. “That was great, wasn’t it? And with the set collapsing...We’re going to be even more famous. This will get more air time than that earthquake in Turkey.”
The surviving actors on the bus alternately gaped at the crater and waved to the news media and fans.
Xander staggered and looked about for his oldest friend. He saw Willow, caked in dust. She had muddy tear tracks down her cheeks, and said in a choked voice, “I’m so sorry, Xander.”
“My life...was television?”
Willow shrank in on herself. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this, Xander. There was some kind of collapse. Nobody was supposed to get hurt.” She stepped forward and tried to embrace him.
Xander stepped back unsteadily. “And all of you? You’re all fakes?”
“No, Xander. We’re your friends and family; we love you. You’re the most well-known person on the planet. Everyone loves you. It’s just, well, I guess the show’s probably over.” Willow looked at Xander in concern as he paled rapidly. “Somebody help! He’s going into shock!”
* * *
Xander picked at the I.V. in his arm as he lay in the hospital bed. He looked sullenly at the director with his single good eye. “What about Tara?”
“Oh, she’s alive and well, done some movies for TV. I think she’s secretly waiting to hook up with Willow. That thing with Kennedy will never last.”
Xander was silent for long moments, remembering all the people who had ‘died’ over the years. He looked at the director, his face grim. “And Jesse?”
“Sorry, Xander. He and his agent didn’t like the new direction the show was going so he bowed out. On the plus side, it was just an animatronic vampire that you staked, so it’s not really like you killed your childhood friend.”
Xander’s face tightened and he continued to pick at his arm.
The director looked around uncomfortably, then cleared his throat. “Now on a better note, we can get you fitted for a prosthetic eye. The actor that played Caleb was so very sorry. He’s actually been going through extensive counseling since the accident. I know he’d like to apologize when you’re feeling up to it.”
Xander stopped picking at the I.V. “My eye was poked out for a television show?”
“No...Yes, but not intentionally. It was an accident. You can’t have a show like this with all the stunts and special effects and not expect to have a few accidents.”
“Yes, Emanuella’s—Anya’s—death was a terrible tragedy. Seriously, who’d have thought we’d get a sinkhole that big under the set? All that money and effort—”
The director was stunned as Xander lurched from the bed, toppling the I.V. stand. The man was unable to dodge the punch that Xander threw. Or avoid the kick to his ribs, after Xander knocked him to the floor. The cardiac monitor and I.V. alarm added to the general commotion. The room was a shambles by the time security entered.
After Xander was sedated the director was taken out in the hall by the psychiatrist. “I think he’s on the verge of a psychotic break,” the doctor said.
“There are some medications we can prescribe to keep any of this from going into his long-term memory...”
The director gingerly held a cold compress to his battered face. “Do it.”
* * *
The beeping of the monitor and the smell of disinfectant told Xander he was in a hospital before he opened his eye. “Buffy? Wills? We’ve gotta get out of here before The First—”
“Xander?” Jessica Harris wrung her hands. “Don’t you remember? The show’s over.”
“No. Nooo! From beneath you it devours! Anya!” Xander screamed while two orderlies held him down and a nurse injected him with more sedative and muscle relaxants.
The producer shut of the video feed from the hospital room and turned to face the board of directors. “That didn’t go well.”
The most senior suit frowned. “He’s living in his own little fantasy, now.”
“Well,” said another, “we’ll keep him medicated until we figure out what to do with him.”
* * *
“The set’s a crater,” Elizabeth said. “Let it go.”
Willow’s voice shook with rage. “You bitch, you were only on the show to become famous. Now look at you, bailing out when Xander needs you most.”
“Don’t even start that crap with me, miss ‘I’m going to be married to the star of the show because it’s in my contract.’”
“I love Xander!”
Elizabeth shook her head. “But he didn’t love you, did he? I don’t think he even loved Emanuella.”
“That’s not the point,” Willow said. “You’re leaving the show for a maybe-career in film. Do you really want to do that?”
“I didn’t see you so critical of fame when you took the summers off to shoot your flute-toting band geek movies.”
“Look, Willow, we’ve all lived the show. And it’s been great. Some of us just know when it’s time to leave, is all.”
“You’re just worried you’re going to start getting hairy from all the steroids and vitamin supplements you have to take to do the ‘slayer’ stunts,” Willow spat.
“You take that back!”
* * *
Xander thrashed in the grip of the nightmare.
“Xander? Xander, it’s okay!”
“She’s not here, Xander.”
“Wills? Where are we?”
“A hospital. In Cleveland.”
“I had the strangest dream...”
Willow looked over at the two-way mirror that concealed a camera. “That’s okay, you’re in good hands because you have MetaSurance Insurance. They help you be prepared for the unexpected little things in life.”