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Timothy Gager

Timothy Gager

You've said in interviews that television was one of your babysitters, growing up. Can you talk a little bit about what shows influenced your novel in particular, and how?

Television, back when it was the only game in town (pre- internet, pre-cell phone) , had your basic four types of shows: dramas, situation comedies, game shows and made for TV movies. Most of these would wrap up neatly, without loose ends, unless there was a scripted cliff hanger. Oddly, the game show had the biggest hooks because in order to know how the contestants would do, you usually had to tune into the next show—unless it was Hollywood Squares or a nighttime show which had a time limit.

Dramas, even the most violent—The Rookies, SWAT, Mod Squad—would usually end up with a happy little moment at the conclusion of each episode, often with freeze framed laughter. It kept things “human” after all the fighting and shooting. Ironically, sit-coms had their run of “very special programs” where serious subject matter infiltrated the comedic situation. “Hilarity” ensued during character’s drug use, gambling, alcoholism and even menses. Thankfully all of these issues were cleared up and forgotten by the time next week’s show rolled around. The same was true regarding relationships. Basically they didn’t exist, because, in reality, it meant adding new cast members, which was too expensive.

Although the main themes within The Thursday Appointments of Bill Sloan are accentuated and brought home with dark comedy and literary techniques, it was the formatting and these other techniques used in 70’s television shows, which I used in a very subtle manner. These had to be understated, because if the novel heavily relied on those techniques, I would definitely lose some of the readers who were born after 1990. If the reader is able to understand what I’m doing, as I often play with the story in other ways (Jay Z lyrics, dog mentions etc.), they should be able to pick up of the story within the story or the technique within the technique, in order to have a truly intimate experience in the book.

It’s hard to say how I’ve been actually influenced by any particular show or shows. Perhaps the realization that the same shows came on at the same times each day helped me come up with my own personal routines, as I (like Bill Sloan) am a full believer in routines. Note that Bill wakes every morning at 7:22 AM and he eats the same lunch every day. Routines help us to live in the moment, as well as get us through the general day-to-day monotony. I know I certainly had my routines and my monotony growing up, and television was often a way to get through it.

There’s a gentleman in my office, and he and I can recite television schedules from every night on the three networks. We can even sing the thirty-year old television jingles. There was a real odd importance to all of this. I think this is why television is featured so liberally in The Thursday Appointments of Bill Sloan. Was it my babysitter? Did I watch it or did it watch me? That is a question I can only figure out in therapy; but not with Bill Sloan, please, anyone but him.


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