Sequels to Airplane and Network emerge!


Crazy new films write themselves: Let’s give credit where credit is due!

Last night, Bill O’Reilly and Bernie Goldberg produced an impressive segment. It concerned the inanity of much of the cable coverage of the missing Malaysian airplane.

Bernie described the sweep of the cant. Mr. O said he won’t go there:
GOLDBERG (3/17/14): Well, first, let's acknowledge that this is a legitimate news story, that it's just a tremendous mystery, and that in the beginning, a certain amount of speculation was legitimate because, since we didn't know what happened to the plane, we wanted to know what might have happened to it.

But now, 95 percent of what we're watching on television is speculation. And we're being entertained far more than we're being informed.

And basically, the reason for it is there's a lot of time to fill on cable. And as you know, the story gets good ratings.

O'REILLY: Yes, the story has gotten good rating, particularly for CNN. They've, in their primetime line-up, upped it considerably among younger viewers—not older but younger viewers.

And I understand it...People like mysteries, you know.

GOLDBERG: That's right. They do.

O'REILLY: ...They like mysteries and particularly if it's a personal thing like a plane. “What would I do if maybe it's lost in the jungle and dinosaurs are going to come out and we have to fight them?” You know, all of these scenarios.

But as far as I'm concerned, I can't do it. I just can't.
Mr. O does have a good sense of humor. Beyond that, Bernie and Bill were right on all counts in this particular segment.

CNN has virtually gone “all missing plane all the time” in a remarkable orgy of speculation by an endless array of pilots. Mary Schiavo has been locked in front of a camera somewhere with two bathroom breaks per day.

If that.

This morning, we saw why Mr. O did that segment last night. In this New York Times news report, Bill Carter describes the vast rating gains CNN has amassed from this orgy of speculation, in which yesterday’s Official New Fact will be tossed in the trash can today.

CNN even beat Mr. O on several nights last week among those younger viewers! Just as Mr. O said, mystery stories are like that!

(Did MSNBC hope the mystery of the little town by the busy bridge would work the same way? We’re just asking!)

Watching the coverage, we see a new generation of Airplane films approaching. The Airplane spoofs made fun of a generation of all-star airplane disaster films, from The High and the Mighty (1954) on through the Airport series, in which viewers were even forced to writhe as Charlton Heston kept calling Karen Black “baby.”

The troubled airliners in those films featured a predictable cast of characters, sometimes including The Singing Nun. CNN’s coverage points the way to a new type of Airplane sequel, involving newly iconic players:
The new generation of stock players:
*The two Iranians with the fake passports.
*The young co-pilot who keeps inviting attractive young women into the cockpit.
*The improbable cable star with the improbable name, possibly something like “Richard Quest.” In the film, he keeps shouting out his theories in an improbable British accent. Improbably, he has recently taped an interview with the randy co-pilot.
*The fervent young writer at Salon who says the coverage is racist. He should be from the airline’s home country.
The next Airplane sequel will feature these new stock players. That said, we thought we saw a sequel to Network emerging from a news report in yesterday’s New York Times.

The report, which was timed for St. Patrick’s Day, involves the way “the Irish establishment” is upset with New York City’s new non-Irish mayor. People, welcome to Crimea!

Let’s go back to the future:
GRYNBAUM AND STEWART (3/17/14): The prospect of a Mayor de Blasio was never quite cheered by many Irish leaders, most of whom supported Christine C. Quinn, the former City Council speaker, in the Democratic primary.

And Ms. Quinn’s defeat meant that, for the first time in eight years, no Irish official would occupy the uppermost ranks of the city’s elected leadership, another sign of falling influence for an ethnic group whose ranks have fallen 25 percent in the five boroughs since 1990.

Mr. de Blasio’s emphasis on the grass roots, which has made some of the city’s old-line political players bristle, may be creating similar tensions in the Irish community, said T. J. English, president of Irish-American Writers and Artists, a nonprofit group.

“There’s an Irish-American establishment that demands fealty to a certain kind of established order,” Mr. English said. “Rank-and-file Irish-Americans, the kind who make up arts organizations in the city, and kids who are politically active on a grass-roots level—you would find most of those people are very supportive of him.”
Had Christine Quinn been elected mayor, would she be an “Irish official?”

Paddy Chayefsky’s original script satirized the radical/identity politics of the 1970s. (The Faye Dunaway character creates a show called The Mao Tse-Tung Hour, featuring a group of terrorists called the Ecumenical Liberation Army.)

Based upon this news report, Network II may feature a Chayefskyesque flip—a fellow named English who defines the views of Gotham’s “Irish” establishment. Salon’s Joan Walsh could appear in the film, constantly referring to people of Irish descent as “my people.”

“What does that make the rest of us?” a regular person could ask.

For Salon’s unique approach to St. Patrick’s Day, try the rather muddled piece by Andrew O’Hehir. The headline above the piece said this:

“How did my fellow Irish-Americans get so disgusting?”

Granted, headlines at the new Salon rarely convey the substance of the actual piece, which in this case was rather muddy.

But if people are writing Network II, might we suggest that they include a Salon headline writer in the script? Few figures in our emerging press world convey the crassness and craziness of Network I in so faithful a manner.


  1. A weird thing about the Times article was that the headline or lead said something about Irish eyes rolling about de Blasio, but the substance of the article was basically that "the Irish" are ok with him and allowing him to find his footing.

  2. I understand that cable news is going to beat one or two stories to death 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They speculate wildly. They are absolutely looking for ratings and money. Everything about cable news (and most of the news business) is grotesque. That said, I'd much rather have them cover the missing plane non-stop than most any other story they would pick. It's pretty legitimate: somebody deliberately took a plane, turned off the tracking devices and either crashed it (killing almost 300) or landed it in some remote part of the world. And every major country with all our satellite capability cannot figure out what happened. That seems a lot more worthy of major coverage than a cruise ship with no functioning bathrooms or something.

  3. Especially cruise ships with "something." I do, however, think cruise ships without functioning bathrooms are indeed heinous stories worth every minute of coverage they get. That is why famous movies and shows like Poseidon Adventure, Love Boat, and Gilligan's Island, where viewers writhed as Bob Denver called Tina Louise "Ginger" captured such attention.

  4. If MSNBC were a real network like FOX, TDH wouldn't have to wait days to get their transcripts. Bravo to FOX for making the legendary wisdom and wit of O'Reilly available to Somerby and other netizens.

  5. Bob, this continued practice of yours of declaring a story you disagree with "muddled" and "muddy" is really lazy.

    There is nothing muddled or muddy about O'Hehir's piece.

    1. OK trollypants. Then it's fuzzy.