A television concept we’re pitching on the coast:

“The Towering Geniuses of All Time People’s Choice Awards and Celebrity Cavalcade.”

Teams of scholars pick finalists in lots of important categories, but the public gets to choose the winners.

For example, Best Philosopher Ever.

The nominees might include Plato. Kant. Descartes. A dark horse like Maimonides could sneak in there.

Or Greatest Conqueror. Will it be Alexander the Great? Julius Caesar? Genghis Khan? Napoleon? Bet this one stirs up the boys at the bar.

And think of how the schools will love this show! Fabulous educational tie-in possibilities!

One great feature is that just about all the candidates will be dead. They can be tastefully represented by big-screen and video stars. Suppose victory comes to Joan of Arc, a sure nominee in the All-Time Teen–Female category. Michael J. Fox rips open the envelope; Winona Ryder steps up to accept the award. “I know you’re with us tonight in spirit, Saint Joan. And”–holding the trophy high–“this is for you!”

It’ll be a night tinged with controversy. Police reinforcements will stand ready outside the auditorium, in the event someone’s favored prophet falls short in a major category and sectarian rioting breaks out.

And expect a lively debate beforehand over whether Jesus should be eligible.

Some will say, let’s restrict the competition to notables from the last thousand years and tie the show in to the turn-of-the-millennium celebrations. But we think not. Why should a vastly underrated geopolitical operator like Otto the Great, founder of the Holy Roman Empire, forego the recognition he richly deserves just because he died 27 years too soon?