News

Fading in on the hard questions

FADE IN:

INT. OFFICE - DAY

SOUND: a phone rings, incessantly

Howard Weaver speaks the words he pounds out on his computer.

WEAVER
...NOT -- let me say it again to erase the ambiguity of email -- NOT! NOT! NOT! going to reimburse you for an iPhone because it plays "bitchin videos" from YouTube that you watch to write FADE IN.

Weaver's assistant, Jill, pokes her head into his office.

JILL
He's on the phone.
WEAVER
Who, he?

Jill stands back from the door. Holds up two fingers, then one, then tugs her ear.

WEAVER
Oh, dear God -- don't do this to me, I hate this ga -

Jill tugs her ear insistently.

WEAVER
OK! OK! First word sounds like...

Jill points to the phone.

WEAVER
Uhh... phone... tone... loan -- my refi!

Jill shakes her head, animatedly points to his chair.

WEAVER
Umm... chair... bear... hair -- my haircut tonight!

Jill shakes her head again, stabs at a pencil.

WEAVER
Pencil? Ahhh... umm... what the hell rhymes with pencil?
JILL
Beats me. But Acton's on line 1. He told me to warm you up.

Jill walks away.

WEAVER
That wasn't funny, you know.
JILL
(O.S.)It will be when I tell it.

Weaver grabs the phone.

WEAVER
What?
ACTON
Oh, fine, thanks. How 'bout you?
WEAVER
Great. Just ducky. When my phone rings now, I just conference Legal in right away. Let's see, Ann Coulter wants to meet you on the steps of the Capital for a smack-down on CSPAN. She's giving 8 to 5 on two out of three falls. I've got $50 on her.
ACTON
Sucker bet. I'll wear a cup.
WEAVER
Clinton's campaign wants a retraction that not only was she NOT in a bathroom with Ann Coulter, she wasn't tapping her foot -- but if she was, she was only listening to her iPod and maybe snapping her fingers.
ACTON
That's what they'll all say from now on.
WEAVER
And I hear Jeff Goldblum is pissed off because you misspelled his name.
ACTON
What's he want, one more "f"?
WEAVER
No, one less "e".
ACTON
Typical Hollywood prima donna. Probably going through his Prince phase -
WEAVER
Not one less "e" in "Jeff" you knucklehead. There's not supposed to be an "e" at the end of "Goldblum".
ACTON
Says whom?
WEAVER
Who. Says "who"?
ACTON
Well how the hell would I know? It's your beef.
WEAVER
(exasperated)God almighty, take me now. Goldblum... Goldblum says and he ought to know.
ACTON
He's just an actor, what does he know without a script?
WEAVER
(shouts)Well he ought to know his own goddman name!
ACTON
Look, when my mom's family came through Ellis Island, their last name was Van Schoonhoven, but the Irishman on the desk couldn't pronounce that, so he just cut it down to Van.
WEAVER
So what?
ACTON
So the same Irishman probably dropped the "e" on Goldblum's family name when they came through. I was just using the traditional European spelling.
WEAVER
I'm hanging up now. And if you don't e-mail me FADE IN RFN I'm calling Goldblum and giving him your home address so he can beat the crap out of you.
ACTON
You already beat the crap out of me with that whacked formatting you did on my first episode.
WEAVER
We had a template malfunction.
ACTON
The Janet Jackson defense? You're using the Janet Jackson defense on me? Just how dumb do you think I am?

Weaver feels the worm turning in his favor.

WEAVER
'Bout the same as any other boob.
ACTON
Oh, rah ha! You think humiliating me in front of the dozens of readers you have from all over the U.S. is fair?
WEAVER
No, but it is perk.
ACTON
Well, the joke's on you Tundra Boy, because I just uploaded Episode #2. Try not to make a boob out of me on this one.
WEAVER
Oooo, a challenge. I love a challenge. It'll be kinda like discussing the unified field theory with Britney Spears.
ACTON
You know, this isn't as funny as you think it is.
WEAVER
(happily)Oh, it will be when I tell it-
WEAVER
(a beat)Oh, look -- Episode #2 just popped into my Inbox -
ACTON
-- Wait a minute, there's some stuff I gotta explain -

Weaver hangs up and begins to read...

FADE IN:

SOUND: Dramatic, stirring, serious news music.

INT. CHANNEL 8 STUDIOS - 6 PM NEWS

Modern, high-tech, expensive news set, alive with the army it takes to pump out the local news.

CAMERA PUSHES IN

past two broadcast cameras, boom mics and a snake-pit of cables.

Anchors JIM HAMILTON and SALLY MICHAELS could be models. Mid 30s, impeccably dressed, with perfect hair and teeth, they look just like every other team on every other channel. They're an advertiser's dream come true. The lead-in music plays out as,

ANNOUNCER (V.O.)
From around Puget Sound and neighboring communities, this is the news at 11, on KRAM Channel 8, Eye on the Northwest.
JIM
Good evening. I'm Jim Hamilton.
SALLY
And I'm Sally Michaels.
JIM
Our top story tonight is the same bullshit we reported last night, just in a different order and with even more useless analysis. Let's go to Kevin Westerfield for our first load of crap.
MALE VOICE/BILL MARLIN (O.S.)
You know there's this little outfit called the FCC that tends to want to fine us when we go big potty on the air, right?

INT. CHANNEL 8 CONFERENCE ROOM - DAY

Modern conference room with all the amenities corporate America can afford. A flat screen TV adorns one wall.The usual snack shrapnel litters the table in Starbucks bags and donut boxes.

BRAD FRANKLIN, mid 40s, Station Manager, an optimistic cynic.

BRAD
Yeah, but wouldn't you really want to run that one? Just one time. Just to let them know, we know.

BILL MARLIN, white, late 30s, News Director, pragmatist.

BILL
They know. They just don't care.

JANE LEE, Asian, early 30s, Sales Manager, jerks back into the conversation from her Blackberry.

JANE
Just to let who know? The whales? We're not messing with our money, are we?
BRAD
No, we're just talking about our audience. Nobody important.
JANE
But we're not going to say "bullshit" on the air or embarrass our advertisers, are we?
BILL
Jane, go back to your e-mail, you're embarrassing yourself.

Jane dives back into the Blackberry.

JANE
You can't embarrass me, I'm in sales.

MIKE THOMPSON, black, mid 30s, Programming Director.

MIKE
Much as it pains me to agree with Jane -
JANE
(doesn't look up)Bite down on it, Mike -
BRAD
Do I have to separate you two?
JANE
Not since the divorce.
BILL
May I please go to the bathroom?

Brad points to the three in order.

BRAD
Tie a knot in it... Play nice... What?
MIKE
I was just going to say that I don't know what's wrong with giving our audience what they want. I mean, they expect us to report the same thing as everyone else.
BRAD
Why?
MIKE
Why? Because it shows they can depend on us to...
BRAD
To what? Report what everyone already knows? By the time we reported that Thompson came out on Letterman, everyone with a computer had already read it on CNN.
MIKE
Leno.
BRAD
Leno, what?
BILL
Thompson came out on Leno, not Letterman.
BRAD
Same thing.
JANE
Thompson came out?
BILL
Yeah, where you been?
MIKE
Leno and Letterman are NOT the same thing. Way different.
BRAD
I'll close my eyes and describe them, you tell me when they get different.(puts hand over eyes)Both middle-aged white comedians wearing expensive suits.
MIKE
Yeah.
JANE
Thompson's gay?
BRAD
They both have bands, do monologues about current events, interview people from behind a desk and are on at the same time.
JANE
How can he be gay, he's a Republican.
BILL
For President, Jane. He came out for President.
JANE
Oh, you mean "vote for me" came out, not foot tapping came out.
BRAD
AND the questions they ask make Katie Couric look like Walter Cronkite.
JANE
Hey -- lay off Katie, she's doing the best she can.

Brad opens his eyes.

BRAD
And that's what I'm afraid of. I'm afraid sameness and mediocrity are being substituted for insight and originality.
BILL
Well, yeah, but how you gonna do something different with a pile-up on I-5, or a murder in the central district or -
BRAD
That stuff's gonna report itself, we're gonna be stuck with some me-too reporting. But we gotta do something more -- something better for the Presidential race.

Brad flips the TV. The screen buzzes alive with the snow of a non-signal.

BRAD
Check out some stuff I recorded over the last week on Channel 79.
JANE
79? The wingnuts and lunatics at the public access station?
BRAD
Just because you're a lunatic, doesn't make you wrong.
MIKE
I got a bad feeling about this...

INSERT

Brad's finger as it presses "Play".

SERIES OF SCENES

-- A Latino is being interviewed in a shabby two-stall converted filling station auto-repair shop.

LATINO
... cuz, dude, der's like 45 million Latinos runnin' 'round dis country, so unless anglos want to pick veggies n mow lawns, don't tell our guy he can't speak our language on our own TV. "Richardson" may not sound Latino to gringos, but we got 45 million reason you better start payin' 'tention...

-- a serious young man in an ill-fitting, mismatched suit gives his political analysis from a park bench.

YOUNG MAN
And while Labor Day formally kicks off the 2008 Presidential Race, the betting line favors Giuliani for the Republicans because every Republican who has led the Gallup Poll on Labor Day has gone on to win their nomination. The Democrats, on the other hand, have shown an uncanny ability to snap defeat from the jaws of victory no matter who's ahead on Labor Day.

-- A young black man flying gang colors stands amid other gang members on a bleak neighborhood corner.

GANG BANGER
... das whack, man. One of them said we're gonna stay in Iraq 'til Iraqis can walk around their hood without fear of being shot?
INTERVIEWER
Actually several have expressed that view.
GANG BANGER
We gonna stay 'til the Iraqis can walk around safe? (motions)Look at this. I can't walk around THIS neighborhood without being afraid some fool bust a cap in my ass.
INTERVIEWER
Something like 20,000 Iraqis died last year from the violence.
GANG BANGER
So what? Something like 30,000 people died in the U. S. of Goddamn A. last year from gunshots, you know what I'm saying?(then)Them dumb bastards runnin' for President want to do something? They can put the goddamn National Guard on foot beat in my goddamn hood 'til I can walk around at night without runnin' from dumpster to dumpster. I am sick and goddamn tired of livin' my life on the goddamn floor. Screw Iraq and the white men that put us there.

-- Four black women do their version of "The View".

WOMAN #1
But you gotta like Barack Obama -
WOMAN #2
(interrupts)-- Why do I have to like Obama?
WOMAN #1
Because he's a brother with a plan.
WOMAN #2
He's a brother with a idea -- Hillary's a sister with a plan AND experience.
WOMAN #3
I hear that girl friend.
WOMAN #4
What do you think about a Hillary-Obama ticket.
WOMAN #2
I think that's about as likely as the next Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker movie being named "Rush Hour 4: Still No White People".

END OF SERIES

The TV goes back to snow.

BRAD
There's more if you want to see it.

A long, uncomfortable silence hangs over the conference room. Finally,

BILL
What the hell was that?
JANE
I quit.
MIKE
We're not going to do that are we?
JANE
I can't sell into that. I got a better chance of selling into Mike Gravel's next rock throw.
BILL
No you don't.
JANE
Then I'll quit and remarry Mike.
MIKE
You got a better chance of selling into Mike Gravel's next rock throw than remarrying me.(then)My staff's not going to work with those nitwits at 79. They don't even like it that we share the same building. They sure as hell aren't going to share their technology with them.
BRAD
Everybody just take a big gulp of calm-down juice.
BILL
Brad, I'm as disenchanted as you are with the state of news reporting. But the kid on the park bench was right -- Giuliani's got history on his side. And unless Bill can't keep his dick in his pants, Hillary's a machine that's gonna eat Obama's lunch. Hell, most people have never even heard of half the candidates.
JANE
I thought Tancredo was a tequila.
MIKE
You thought Thompson was gay.
JANE
I have two words for you -- and one of them is "you".
BILL
(ignores the byplay)Why not just lay back, wait for the wheat and chaff to separate and concentrate on the real candidates?
BRAD
Play it safe?
BILL
Play it smart.
BRAD
Yeah, see the problem is that when you let somebody else decide what's smart, it generally winds up biting you in the ass, kinda like when Clinton's campaign said Hsu was 100 percent legit. They want that one back so bad, they're coughing up 850 grand and hoping it all gets buried on page 4.
JANE
Page 4? I'll give you a hundred dollars if you can find New Orleans anywhere in the first section.
MIKE
Here we go...
JANE
You don't have family down there, I do.
MIKE
Your parents are doctors for Christ's sake, they're not standing in a welfare line.
JANE
But they know plenty who are. Tell me this Mr. Ditto Head -
MIKE
-- And there it is: crabs walk sideways and lobsters walk straight, that's why the two can never mate.
JANE
Are you calling me a crab?
MIKE
If the claw fits -
BRAD
Kids, before the recess bell rings, (to Jane)what's your point?
JANE
The reason most people don't trust politicians is that they lie about what they're going to do and then their checks bounce.

Brad's confused.

JANE
OK, so maybe I'm a little prejudice. (a beat)But if we're going to do something different, we should start by asking questions nobody else is and stop waiting for somebody else to supply the answers.
BRAD
And against your better judgment, you have a question, right?
JANE
(explodes)You damn right, I do. Here's a question everybody in America ought to be asking: how is it that we're prepared to rebuild Iraq when we're not even prepared to rebuild New Orleans?
BILL
Well, that's a little different...
JANE
You bet it is. You have any idea how much of New Orleans could be fixed if they "surged" 30,000 troops there for a year?

The room goes dead. Then,

BRAD
So, we're all in agreement. We'll ask the hard questions and team up with some of the 79 lunatics to still up some hate and discontent.
MIKE
What the --?
JANE
Oh, hell no. I didn't -
BILL
Can I please go to the bathroom?

AD LIB animated protests as the meeting breaks up.

SOUND: bring up closing music with a group walk-away, arguing.

CROSSFADEandROLL CREDITSover

INT. CHANNEL 8 HALLWAY - DAY

Brad walks with LU O'NEIL, black, late 40s. Fans herself with a clipboard.

LU
So'd, you tell 'em?
BRAD
That I hired the former GM at 79 to come up with some alternative news ideas?
LU
Yeah, that.
BRAD
Kinda got lost at the end in the Petraeus Report.
LU
So'd a lot of stuff.
BRAD
We're not talking about the same things are we?
LU
I think you better get used to that.
BRAD
What's with the clipboard?
LU
I'm flashing like a bar-b-que.
BRAD
I'm not supposed to know that kind of stuff, am I?
LU
Nope. Thinking about suin' 'ya already.
BRAD
You and my ex-wife would get along fine.
LU
You were married?

FADE SOUND

BRAD
Just the three times.
LU
That your car in the parking lot with the "catch and release" bumper sticker?

FADE OUT

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