The job

I’m a game show researcher. I was going to take as my topic “television research,” and then in the course of researching that, I found this job description for television researchers and it frightened me. It makes it sound like being a researcher means getting seriously underpaid while also performing three-quarters of the tasks of pre-production:

  • producing and development (“originate or develop program ideas”)
  • writing (“writing drafts, or briefing others who write”)
  • casting (“assess contributors’ potential suitability … and arrange for their appearance”)
  • location (“assess locations for suitability and cost”)
  • clearance (“identify, negotiate fees for, and conclude copyright clearances and legal issues”)
  • publicity (“prepare production materials for external use”)

Pictured: Not Me

Pictured: Not Me

… all under the seriously far below-the-line credit of “researcher.”1 Under this definition, Al Pacino in The Insider—he of the negotiating with terrorists, facing down Big Tobacco, and being the only conscience of all CBS News—was but a researcher.

For the time being in this series, I’ll leave all those items in the official description to Pacino.

Because the job as I (thankfully) know it also has many facets, but they mostly reflect the pleasant task of making sure that what is presented to you on TV as true is, in fact, true.

Or, as I like to think of it, making sure we don’t look as stupid as the original Trivial Pursuit people did with all their partial, debatable, and flat-out wrong answers.

That task is what makes it fun and meaningful. That task is my jumping-off point. It’s true that plenty of Pacino’s duties can intrude on it, but that task is what the job is to me.


  1. And this is completely separate from the “audience research“ done by marketing departments. I have a feeling those people get paid.