Fox finds a way to reduce the Russian dressing
[A small television studio with a green-screen background, a simple news desk at the center on which stage lights are focused, and two cameras front and left without operators. Behind the cameras, lounging in audience seats with a small remote monitor nearby are TUCKER CARLSON, wearing surprisingly roomy dark grey gabardine slacks and a blue guayabera shirt with gold vertical ornamental stripes running down each front panel, and CHARLES WINCE, a Fox News functionary wearing a simple dark blue suit and white shirt with black tie who is under 40 but half-bald with a greyish-white face that sags meatily from his skull, which makes him look like a younger version of Rupert Murdoch.]
CARLSON: Explain it to me again.
CARLSON: Yeah, Charles. I’m not producing this, I have nothing to do with it. I don’t see why I even have to be here.
WINCE: [Very deliberate, as if very tired, refolding his legs] Well, think of it as a courtesy.
CARLSON: [That creepy laugh of his]
WINCE: This program, if all goes well, will be a heat sink to divert some of the criticism you have generated recently.
CARLSON: [Hotly] I’ve explained this, Charles. Controversy is the heart and soul of TCT. That’s why I have a following rather than an audience. I’m not interested in just regurgitating the expected talking points. What I want to do is —
WINCE: [Just a shade louder than before, but much more resonant in the head and chest, which silences CARLSON] Russian state television is showing your program as a tonic for the troops. You are now Putin’s best friend in America. This has been a subject of discussion at the highest levels. It’s only good to have a following or an audience if you continue to have a show.
[Pause. WINCE brings to his lips a tiny microphone we hadn’t noticed he was holding.]
Please tell Mr. Seagal we’re waiting for him.
[Pause. From the wings STEVEN SEAGAL, action star, confidently waddles onto the stage as three young people holding thick stacks of cue-cards race in behind him, take positions downstage right, left, and center, and hold up the cards for him to see. SEAGAL’s mullet, eyebrows, and goatee are dyed jet black. He wears a black turtleneck and slacks, a few thin gold chains around his neck, and a burgundy jacket with a Nehru collar. There are several rings, most of them bejeweled, on his meaty hands. He stops stage center, staring straight ahead.]
SEAGAL: Brothers and sisters, welcome. My name is Steven Seagal. You are accustomed to see me confront the forces of evil in films like On Deadly Ground, Above the Law, and Contract to Kill. In those films, the difference between good and evil is clear. But here in the real world — which I have come to know well, working on my ranch in Colorado and as a deputy sheriff in Louisiana — that line is less clear.
[SEAGAL wanders around the set, occasionally pointing or making accordion gestures with his hands.]
We live in a world where the righteous are denounced, and the wicked praised. We’ve seen a good man, who only wanted to drain the swamp in Washington, slandered as a traitor and a criminal.
[SEAGAL walks right up to one of the camera lenses and increases his squint; WINCE, perhaps unconsciously, flaps his hand as if to drive him back.]
I don’t know about you. But that made me — very angry.
[Still fixing the camera with his squint, SEAGAL backs up and, tripping over a cable bumper, falls straight backwards to the floor, landing with a sound like a dumpster falling off a winch. With great difficulty he clambers to his feet.]
WINCE: Please continue, Mr. Seagal.
[SEAGAL squares himself, nods to the camera, smiles.]
SEAGAL: You see, even after all these years, Steven Seagal does his own stunts.
[CARLSON does his weird laugh. SEAGAL’s eyes flick angrily toward him, then back at the camera.]
Let’s talk about another man who’s been slandered by the media and the liberals — a man I call my friend — a man I call “Vlad.”
[SEAGAL walks toward the desk, talking over his shoulder to the camera, and also checking out the floor for obstacles.]
This man, once the top law enforcement official in his country, is now that country’s leader. He was elected multiple times without drop-box ballots or any of the frauds used by Democrats. He has been called psychopath, mass murderer, fascist. And why? Because his enemies fear him. They will tell you this man invaded a free country and tried to take it over. But could it be that this man, this former officer of the law, has actually only reached out to his brothers and sisters who have strayed, the way a strong man might reach out to his weaker brothers and sisters who have become addicted to drugs or maybe involved in a transsexual cult, and, like John Hatcher in Marked for Death, returned to the force to save the ones he loves?
[SEAGAL sits on the chair behind the desk, which immediately collapses. We see SEAGAL’s hands emerge from behind the desk as he tries to pull himself up; he instead topples the desk backward; it crashes and splinters. SEAGAL pulls himself out of the wreckage. CARLSON leaps onto the studio floor.]
CARLSON: [To WINCE] Are you kidding? Are you actually kidding? This is how you’re going to save us? With this — buffoon, with this meathead idiot?
SEAGAL: [Almost on his feet] Get off my stage, little man.
CARLSON: [To SEAGAL] You get off, you ridiculous has-been! You’ll never have a show on Fox as long as I’m around, and you can take that to the bank!
SEAGAL: [His squint tighter than ever; hoarsely] I’ll take you to the bank, Tucker Carlson — to the blood bank.
[SEAGAL kicks CARLSON in the balls, lifting him a few feet in the air, and, as he falls, SEAGAL karate-chops his head, sending him flying into one of the cameras, which topples with his body. One of the cue-card holders, confused, checks her cards. SEAGAL, panting heavily, looks at WINCE.]
WINCE: Thank you, Mr. Seagal; we’ll let you know.
[TULSI GABBARD, in a Russian military uniform with a tit-window like Power Girl’s, storms in from the wings.]
GABBARD: Hey! You cut my big scene!