Skip to main content

Take me to the middle of the George Washington Bridge

It's a Diana Christensen world and you don't live in it.

The film Network starts on a NYC street with two old friends reminiscing about the early days of Television.  Max Schumacher (William Holden) is telling Howard Beale (Peter Finch) about a time as a young producer he rushed onto the busy New York streets to hail a cab to take him to a morning news live remote shoot. "Take me to the middle of the George Washington Bridge", he yelled at the cab driver. The punch line is the cabbie, thinking Max intends to kill himself, pleads with him not to do it - that he has his whole life in front of him.

The movie parallels this joke when it is recited a second time just before Beale is given the green light to become a modern day prophet on Network TV. Others, off the top of my head, that resonate:

  • Howard hearing "the voice" alone in bed and Howard hearing "the voice of Mr. Jensen in the board room.
  • Frank Hackett's address to the UBS shareholders and Diana's adulation when she takes to the podium.
  • The creative department in NYC and the creative meeting in LA.
  • Max in the screening room looking at bank robbery footage and Diana in the screening room looking at footage of mad prophets
  • The Ecumenical Liberation Army and Arthur Jensen's sermon on the ecumenical corporate paradise.
  • Max leaving his wife Louise and Max leaving Diana.
  • The raw footage of the ELA bank robbery and the highly produced footage of Howard's assassination.
  • Hackett exalting Howard's ratings (Diana passive) and Laureen Hobbs raving about the terms in her contract (Great Ahmet Khan passive)
  • The "old guard" newsmen meeting to decide Howard's fate after his first outburst (suicide) and Hackett's new guard meeting to plan Howard's assassination (murder).
  • The opening exterior shots of the 4 network glass and steel citadels and the "I'm mad as hell" apartment building shots.
But the introductory scene is brilliant - TV, remote shoot, misunderstanding, suicide, half way to George Washington - it tells the story of the movie in a joke where the characters are laughing but the audience is not. The audience is removed from the reality of the event, removed even from the retelling of the event and that my friends is television in a nutshell.

This film, Network, is on my top 5 list - that's a personal statement, not a critical assessment (though I do find it a beautifully crafted, acted and, especially, written film) I mean it's on my top 5 because for me personally it's impact was and continues to be profound. It opened my mind and changed the way I thought and saw the world - it tells a serious truth. Television, and now the Web, programs human beings - it is a tool for programming, a tool used by the machine to dehumanize and turn man into a kind of machine too. Don't believe any of it. As Howard Beale says, before he is reprogrammed by Arthur Jensen, if you're looking for truth then look to God and in so doing look to your true self because that's the only place you'll ever find truth. It's not on TV - it's not in the vast programmed media sphere pulsing around you 24/7. The machine hates this message - this truth - and it want desperately to deny it and control it, but the truth crushed to the ground a thousand times will always rise up.

I watched Network again last week and the DVD came with some bonus interviews and segments - comments by cast and crew, etc. The usual log rolling and inside baseball crap they package up around these movies. But there were a few things worth watching. Sidney Lumet's comments on how he found and prepared his actors for their roles. Walter Cronkite's preposterous claim that Network was not an accurate depiction of what went on at the big three and that, in essence, it wasn't true. On that point, let me tell you, I worked at one of the big three and Network is about as true to life as it gets - only a brainwashed old man could think otherwise. And finally, an interview with the great Paddy Chayefsky on the Dinah Shore show where he spoke the truth - the setting could not have been better - and God bless him for it.

Notice the freedom of 1970's America - crazy cloths, fat, bearded and smoking on the god damn set!
Bring it back America - it's not too late.


Popular posts from this blog

The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson

She was "sexy", but "too much hard work."

I'm a regular Fox & Friends viewer (mostly in protest of the other insipid morning programs like Today and Good Morning America) so over the years I've gotten to know Gretchen Carlson pretty well. Stuck between Steve and Brian she always seemed a prudish scold with an irritating, self-righteous demeanor that I simply put up with because I figured some people in the Fox audience actually liked her persona. It was obvious that Steve and Brian did not, but they were stuck with her like so many talking heads and had to make the best of it - which they did. Besides, she was no worse than any of the other women on morning show TV - I mean, you're only going to find a certain kind of person to do this kind of work and that kind of person is the Gretchen Carlson kind. Then, one day, she was gone and replaced by Elisabeth Hasselbeck and the F&F ratings began to climb, and climb and climb - in two months viewershi…

I've Got You Dumb Motherfuckers Eating Right Out Of My Hand

In 2011 John Lasseter wrote an opinion piece for The Onion which exposed Pixar's production strategy and shocking success in the marketplace: "Yes, after the success of our first few movies we had a hunch you'd continue to enjoy the wonderfully designed animation and our smart, lyrical writing, but I didn't think we'd create a horde of drooling morons ready to drop everything just to watch a fucking rat cook dinner." This observation was in reference to a Pixar film titled "Ratatouille" about a rat who dreams of becoming a French chef which, to my lights, created one of the most unappetizing and subversive stories ever told. The idea of rats running roughshod in a Michelin-starred restaurant is bad enough but when the proposition that "Anyone can cook" is taken to its evil and impossible extreme I must object for France and humanity. Using that movie and others as an example Lasseter makes the point that his audience (he calls them "…

New York Values

“Global Reach :30” CME Group—Commercial Spot from VSA Partners on Vimeo.

Don't mind me, I'm just going to use the island of Manhattan as my own personal driving range. I'm  in the futures and derivatives game and you never know what's going to happen. "Opportunities aren't always obvious" as I like to say and they "drop in" unexpectedly.

Sometimes it works out great.

Other times...

And those poor souls with a lump on their head don't like the game or putting the driving range on top of the Pan Am building. Last nights election was a long par 5 for the Constitutional Monarchist in this years election and he shot a triple bogey. One of the reasons:
"Unsurprisingly, it was Bernie Sanders who won the vast majority of the anti-Wall-Street Democratic vote." New York Democrats are crazy, but a majority of them are not dumb (in truth, a lot of the dumb ones have emigrated to Vermont) so while they'll flirt with "revolution" wh…