Celebrity mah-jongg and Maureen Dowd!


Paddy Chayefsky’s time travel: Has there ever been a movie like Network?

If memory serves, and we’re not sure it does, we were pretty much left cold by the film in real time.

Simply put, TV news wasn’t anything like that when Network appeared in 1976. If memory serves, the film struck us as weirdly over-the-top, a satire with nothing to satirize.

By now, the film has become a monument to time travel, to an astonishing feat of clairvoyance. Somehow, Paddy Chayefsky peered into the future with stunning accuracy.

The last time we watched Network, we were struck by the “Sybil the Soothsayer” character, one of the various gong-show pundits invented for the crackpot Howard Beale Show.

Good God, but Chayefsky called that shot! Starting in 1999, Chris Matthews regularly used a body language expert to soothsay the innards of various politicians, especially those he wanted to slime.

A few years later, Bill O’Reilly introduced a similar segment with a different body language seer. It ran on his program for years.

The body language segments were plainly absurd on their face. They ran on these two programs for years, without a single word of comment from the nation’s “press critics.”

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Abby McGanney Nolan reviewed Dave Itzkoff’s new book about the making of Network. Meanwhile, at the New York Times, Maureen Dowd was embodying another of the Beale Show’s lunatic segments, “Miss Mata Hari and her skeletons in the closet.”

How in the world did Paddy Chayefsky know that Dowd, an unmistakable crackpot, would be coming along? Yesterday, the New York Times gave her skeleton hunt prime exposure.

Pitifully, her column appeared on the front page of the Sunday Review:
DOWD (3/2/14): [A]s the Clinton library tardily disgorged 3,546 pages of official papers Friday—dredging up memories of a presidency that was eight years of turbulence held steady by a roaring economy and an incompetent opposition, a reign roiled by Hillarycare, Vince Foster, Whitewater, Webb Hubbell, Travelgate, Monica, impeachment, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Marc Rich—the looming prospect of another Clinton-Bush race makes us feel fatigued.

Our meritocratic society seems increasingly nepotistic and dynastic. There was a Bush or a Clinton in the White House and cabinet for 32 years straight. We’re Bill Murray stuck at 6 a.m. in Harold Ramis’s comic masterpiece, “Groundhog Day.” As Time’s Michael Crowley tweeted on Friday, “Who else is looking forward to potentially TEN more years of obsessing about Hillary Clinton’s past, present and future?”


The new cache of Clinton papers is benign—the press seems more enamored of speechwriters’ doodles than substance—but just reading through them is draining.
Crowley beat Dowd to The Crazy this time, so she was careful to quote him. As Dowd obsesses about the standard list of misreported, very old stories, Crowley complains about the prospect of obsessing for ten more years.

Dowd finds these tired old stories draining, but she can’t stop obsessing. Nor does she have a single word of interest about what any of this might mean.

(By the way, which version of “us” is feeling fatigued by the prospect Dowd imagines? For better or worse, surveys show that Democratic voters are eager to have Clinton run.)

Let’s turn to those skeletons, the ones which have Dowd feeling drained and fatigued:

People like Dowd will never tire of typing the words “Vince Foster” and “Travelgate.” They seem to think these words mean something all by themselves.

“Whitewater” began with a series of bungled reports on the front pages of Dowd’s New York Times. But her obsession makes her keep typing that too, draining though she finds it.

As far as we know, no one ever said a word about the lunatic body language segments which were invented by Matthews, then adopted by O’Reilly. Virtually no one has ever mentioned Dowd’s obvious emotional problems, for which she should gotten help a long time ago.

Somehow, Paddy Chayefsky saw it coming! But people who work within the guild knew the powerful rules of the game. They weren’t allowed to see these things even after they had appeared!

In the amazing, clairvoyant film Network, “Celebrity Mah-Jongg” was one of the programs the Faye Dunaway character had in development.

Nothing much like that was on the air then. Is anything else out there now?


  1. Agreed! Network was way ahead of its time.

  2. Another day at TDH.

    Maureen Dowd, check.

    Rachel Maddow, check.

    1. And yet you keep coming back. And with your tiresome comment no less.

    2. You do know that at Glenn Greenwald's Intercept they discuss intelligence agencies disrupting important blogs. One tactic is using funny sounding pseudonyms. I know. I read it here in a comment just the other day.

    3. Don't say we didn't warn you Horace Pleigh.

    4. It seems like Anonymous 2:08 was almost as good as Paddy C. at predicitions. No sooner did he warn someone about # 13 the a # 12 rings in.

      "Anonymous February 28, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      At Glenn Greenwald's new site, The Intercept, the discussion of how intelligence agencies might disrupt online websites includes the following troll tactics:

      1. Stream of consciousness – nonsensical and long wearying posts.
      2. Ropadope – compliment the author, then question the source.

      12. Extremism – expression of violent sentiment.
      13. Having a psudonym like “Worzel Gummidge ” or “abbadabba”"

    5. I don't understand #13 but it was listed, so I included it in my original comment about this last week. I guess on other blogs mainly trolls use such names. We also don't get a lot of Muslim bashing here, the other trolls identifier that didn't seem to translate well to this blog. Most of the others seemed pretty apt.

    6. I think you included it so we would be fooled about your NSA ties.

  3. My feeling about "Network" is that it's a much better movie now than it used to be.

  4. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/25/books/dave-itzkoffs-mad-as-hell-recounts-making-of-network.html

    February 24, 2014

    A Chilling Vision of a Television Future and Its Prescient Seer

    The Making of ‘Network’ and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies
    By Dave Itzkoff

    1. The movie would have been nothing without that line and the sentiment. People were mad when the movie came out and they perhaps are now too. No one cared much about the rest of the film, and no one does now. Networks are dead and kids are watching everything on their computers. We should be satirizing social media -- Ellen's Oscar tweet that brought down Twitter, for example.

    2. I found the Bill Holden mid life crisis via his affair with Faye Dunaway instructive. At least he didn't get blown by a 21 year old intern. Now that would have taken the cake on being a soothsaying film. It was a soothsaying film wasn't it?

    3. The old guy lusting after the young woman is one of the themes that isn't timely. We seem to feel different about those things today. It's also something of a recurring theme in Chayefsky's late work, it's prominent in "The Hospital" as well. Chayefsky was someone who was caught between generations. Old enough to remember a time before television, he also owed his reputation to it. Holden, Paddy's spokes person, talks about being a man with "primal doubts". Even when the movie first came out, when I was on the Faye Dunaway side of the age divide, I wondered what the primal doubts were. Now that I am older now than when Holden made the movie (and Chayefsky was when he wrote it), I still wonder what those primal doubts were.

  5. I'm sure Maureen Dowd is looking forward to another Clinton Administration. She doesn't know how to write about anything else, and she really can't even write anything intelligent about any administration.

    1. I as well. And to keep Bob engaged, I suggest the better half of the whole team be nominated. Clinton-Gore 2016

      Clinton II and Tipper Redo

  6. Clinton fatigue exists entirely in the minds and hearts of people who cover the Clintons, or who obsess over them. But to the public, Bill and Hillary remain beloved and admired figures. It's always useful to remember: Bill's approval ratings PEAKED during the impeachment trial --- 70%. And there's a much enthusiasm for Hillary running in 2016.

    "Clinton fatigue" has also been cited as an explanation for Gore's "loss" in 2000. Yet a more compelling critique is that Gore didn't use Bill effectively enough.

    1. More compelling? Yes. Most compelling? Hardly.
      The most compelling explanation is that Chris Matthews, failing to get someone killed in 1999 went for the big score in 2000 by electing Bush through telling tall tales.

      Rarely mentioned? Love Story, a more compelling film in its day than Network, was based on Al Gore and his classmate and early manhood friend Bob Somerby. It predicted the outcome in 2000, when Al's ambitions died and Bob was left to mourn endlessly.

      In either case the death of tens of thousands is on Chris Matthews. Who is Rachel Maddow's dear colleague, BTW.


    2. LOL.

      Well, not taking maximum advantage of a sitting president with higher average approval ratings than Saint Ronnie --- and breathtaking political talent --- plus choosing as a veep candidate a liberal-base-depressing, sanctimonious drone like Joe L, sure didn't help the cause.

      But yes, Maureen, Chris, Frank etc..... All personnages whom Bill managed to foil, win re-election handily, and maintain those high approval ratings!

    3. Let us not forget the four words that changed the course of American, if not world, history"

      "lick the bathroom floor"

      Across America, millions of would-be Gore voters heard those words, slapped themselves in the forehead and said, "Chris is right! What was I thinking?"

  7. In Bill and Al's famous, and reportedly extremely tense, post-election post mortem, I somehow doubt Bill named MoDo, Chris, et al in Gore's defeat.

    1. Do you think he mentioned the Internet?

  8. All though the Carter years Jack Anderson, stung by missing out on the Watergate scoop, led a Fatwa at ABC against the press that was as crazed and shameless as anything Chris Matthews ever did. A lot of the more twisted political programing was left to local TV and radio, but it was there. Paddy didn't have to look into a crystal ball.
    The strange popularity of "Network" is a bit of a head scratcher to me. It's badly dated, fairly overblown, and contains Chayefsky's own bigotries and blind spots. The real time dismissals of the film by John Simon and Pauline Kael stand up pretty well. The first half is lively, but Chayefsky's "The Hospital" with it's truly great George C Scott performance, is a better film and record of the era's chaos.

    1. The Kael review is a classic. Here's how it begins:

      "Television, Paddy Chayefsky says, is turning us into morons and humanoids; people have lost the ability to love. Who has--him? Oh, no, the blacks, the revolutionaries, and power-hungry executive[s] at the fictional UBS network"

  9. Should be, "against Jimmy Carter"

  10. The biggest problem with this blog is the author and what he writes.

    1. I think it is readers who do not care any more for black children than MSNBC. But let's talk. Who knows.

    2. Behold the troll slogan! Sometimes the pithy wisdom of a single sentence takes the breath away. The biggest problem with this blog is the author. The author and what he writes. The two biggest problems with this blog are the author and what he writes.

      Never mind. You'll come in again.

  11. "Behold the troll ... ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  12. Best, funniest scene in Network.

    I sense Karl Rove may have been heavily influenced by this very monologue.

    Worst scene by far- Holden's self righteous, moralistic scolding of the Dunnaway character, while he's the married one! It was designed to redeem him in the eyes of the audience as a man who's come to his senses. Hits a ringingly false note

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