I like to think I can see a scam a mile away. But every now and then the Maritimer in me influences my decisions and gets the best of me.

This past week I was invited, by a random mailing list, to attend a television preview. It was explained as an evening showing “pilots” for shows that had a potential of joining the Fall TV line up. The invitation itself was sketchy at best, but I went against my better judgment because I thought I would hate if I actually missed something really cool just because something didn’t seem 100% legitimate.

I should have realized that something was up when the event was held at the Airport Radisson. Would a Hollywood company really be showing TV pilots at the Radisson? This is where the Maritimer in me took over, and I went in anyway.

Upon entering I couldn’t help but notice that for the most part the room was filled with a whose who of fashion disasters, Matlock lovers and EI collectors. Hint of a scam #2 was that they got us to fill out a quick survey of our favorite household products. However the joke was on them, because any friend of mine knows that I use household products as much as a use my pots and pans. Which needless to say, isn’t very much.

The first show they previewed for the audience was called Soulmates. It starred Kim Raver (Third Watch, 24) and it was painful. I’m talking Nickleback concert painful. Finally my warning bells started going off when I couldn’t help but notice this show was not a new show by any means of the imagination. The cellphones and portable phones that were used were at least 10 years old. The audience actually chuckled when they were used, but it didn’t seem to bother them either.

About halfway through the 40 minute preview something strange happened. The main character got called to Hawaii and stayed in the very same hotel I had stayed at just two weeks ago. I thought this was so strange because if you actually think about how many hotels there are in Waikiki and she was actually staying at the same one as I did? For a split second I thought I was on Candid Camera. I slowly looked around the room, looking for hidden cameras or Suzanne Summers. I found neither.

Once that preview was done the cheesy MC asked us to fill-out another quick survey about what we thought about the show. We also had to describe our own demographic. At this point I knew something was up, so I did what everyone would have done. I put that I was a Latino, with 12 kids, who never completed Grade 8 and made $400,000 a year. Sure, not one of those things were true, but I do speak Spanish, so I guess it wasn’t a complete lie.

Before the MC could pop in the second show, I got up and excused myself from the room. One of the workers asked me where I was going and I explained that this event wasn’t for me. He apologized for wasting my time. I felt like I should have made a bigger scene, but I realized that for some of these people it was a highlight just to get out of their houses, so I let them be.

When I got home, I did a little research and saw that this is actually a Marketing Research company that does a little song and dance and distracts its audience while getting important product information. What about the show Soulmates? Turns out it aired on CBS in 1990! A full 17 years ago!

Like I said, I’m not usually easily fooled but I was this time. Has anyone else heard of this scam? I’ve tracked it back at least 5 years ago, so I know there are thousands of people like me who wanted to make a difference in the shows they watch, only to be lied to. What bothers me about this whole the scam the most is that they are sullying the good TV name. TV and I are like best friends and the fact that a company is preying on people who love good TV as much as I do makes me very angry. Where’s Jack Bauer when you need him?

Mike Morrison