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The unsung TV journalist.

The unsung TV journalist. (photo)

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In anticipation of an upcoming series of films about the newspaper biz at New York’s Film Forum, Stephen Whitty at the Star Ledger takes a look at the history of the genre — and yes, the newsroom is one of the few movie workplaces that could seriously qualify as a “genre.” It has its own stock characters (feisty reporter, cranky-but-secretly-idealistic editor, cub scout-age messenger-boys and indelibly sassy women). As Whitty points out, the newspaper picture more or less took the ’60s off and returned a shadow of its former self — when a movie like “Marley and Me” is where your contemporary cinematic journalist resides, you’re in trouble.

But where does that leave the TV journalist? Nowhere in particular, it seems. Hollywood’s relationship with its competition has often been contentious — two of the earliest titles IMDb has listed under the keyword “Television” include 1933’s “The Whispering Shadow” (man commits crimes with mind-controlling TV rays) and 1935’s self-explanatory “Murder by Television.” In the midst of all this hostility to the medium, the TV journalist was always bound to be a marginalized figure.

Part of that has to do with the shift (or perceived shift anyway) from newspapermen as mavericks doing their best to dig up the real truth regardless of the consequences — or, at best, to cheerfully dig up lurid yellow journalism to increase their numbers — to the more complicated role of TV news reporter, who answers to multiple interests, many of them increasingly corporate and ready to interfere. Think of Al Pacino in “The Insider,” doing battle with CBS: even when the producer/reporter is willing, the corporation may not be. There’s also the gap between reporter, anchor and producer; there’s no clear protagonist.

04062010_frontpage.jpgCertainly the person who most collapsed that gap was poor Howard Beale in “Network,” whose crazed pursuit of truth made him the ultimate martyr of a cynical system. A more reasonable, non-vapidly self-serving figure might be Jane Fonda in “The China Syndrome,” a local news reporter ticked off at how she’s always doing soft-focus stories about pets (which is what local news is like when they’re not trying to convince you that the supermarket is trying to kill you) who stumbles onto real news more or less inadvertently.

More common is someone like Katherine Heigl in “Knocked Up,” who — for reasons she never articulates and that remain unclear — can imagine nothing better to do with her life than stupid E! celebrity journalism; she’s a logical descendant from Robert Forster in “Medium Cool,” who’s fired from his job once he actually starts caring. The bridge-point might be someone well-meaning but cheerfully intellectually inept like William Hurt in “Broadcast News,” who actively pursues whatever’s wanted of him rather than any inherent interests he has. Whoever the reporter is, their interests are almost never their own; whether or not they embrace that is up to them.

There are, of course, heroic exceptions — “Frost/Nixon” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.” come to mind — but they are exceptions. Maybe that’s because there’s nothing to celebrate in the TV newsroom: the print newsroom is all snap and energy, while the TV one is some guy in shorts sitting behind a desk getting make-up put on him. It’s harder to make that heroic, and that’s what it’s all about ultimately: news journalists are heroes screenwriters could relate to, teasing out the story the writers want to see. TV journalists are just there to package it up: they’re the directorial nemesis, taking the edge off.

Here’s Tony Randall mocking TV. If you haven’t seen this movie before, it’s the best thing you’ll see today:

[Photos: “The China Syndrome,” Columbia, 1979; “The Front Page,” United Artists, 1931.]

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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