Ming, Coming to Cable?

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Talk about a week of wacko headlines: Only in America could Arnold Schwarzenegger win the California gubernatorial recall vote, in one of those dramas where life is often stranger than fiction — or perhaps the fodder for a made-for-television movie.

But in his short victory speech last week, the Terminator already showed great leadership and wisdom by declaring that there would be no more time for movies for him, because leading the state was a full-time job. With such insight, California should be OK now.

But there's an even better story out there that just won't go away, and some enterprising programmer will absolutely scoop up the rights to All About Ming.

And I'm taking bets on that prediction.

You had to be on another planet last week to have missed the big buzz about Ming, the 500-pound tiger who had been living in a seven-room apartment in the Harlem section of Manhattan for several years. The story captivated New York, and most of the country, at a time when the nation was on the cusp of some of the most exciting baseball playoff contests in history.

Every day since Ming's rescue — which is now a two-weeks-old story — the local newspapers and TV stations are dredging up he latest scoop on this unending story of tiger bites man. Some nutcase of a man had raised the tiger from a kitten, totally undetected by any of the neighbors in his apartment building until he wound up in a hospital, claiming he had been bitten by a pit bull. The neighbors only learned of Ming when he bit his owner, emitting a roar that shook the entire building to its foundation.

The story lives on each day, with reports of how Ming is doing in his new home — an animal sanctuary — and of how his former owner now wants to get hundreds of acres of land in upstate New York and get Ming back.

The question now is, which network will get the television rights to Ming's ongoing saga?

It could be Court TV. This would be one hell of a custody case in the making, and Court TV's Henry Schleiff is always looking for new twists for his primetime lineup.

Or maybe Lifetime Television, which runs a lot of made-for-TV movies based on real-life dramas, could do a movie about Ming's owner, and how life with the tiger had made his girlfriend go crazy and wind up in the streets as a homeless person. (As far as we presently know, Ming's owner has no wife — only a mother in Philadelphia.)

Maybe Ming will become the subject of a fierce bidding war between Animal Planet and National Geographic Channel, vying to create a film which would respect Ming's rights, and argue that he should be returned to the jungle to run free.

Or maybe, given the tastes of the American public, some sleazebag producer will wind up with Ming's rights, and create an even more dangerous plot than Survivor. Can you picture the next wave of reality TV, where the contestants have to live in that seven-room apartment in Harlem, throwing those raw chickens through the door and trying to get out alive?

As for Ming himself, last I read, he was rolling gleefully on his back, happy in his new sanctuary and oblivious to his potential stardom.

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