"The Agony of Defeat": A Requiem for ABC Sports

Little attention has been paid to the recent news that the Walt Disney Company has shut down ABC Sports in favor of utlizing the ESPN sports operation (announcers, production facilities, identity, etc.) for any and all sports broadcast on ABC.

From a strictly business standpoint the move makes a lot of sense: with common ownership of ABC and ESPN by Disney (which has owned the two since it bought Capital Cities/ABC in the mid-1990s), why duplicate services and personnel when a considerable cost savings can be realized by simply using ESPN's resources for the relatively small amount of sports shown on ABC? The recent transfer of "Monday Night Football" from ABC--where it had been a mainstay since 1970--to ESPN turned out to be only part of the larger effort of dissolving ABC Sports.

Why should anyone care about the demise of ABC Sports? Only because it was the first modern TV sports operation, established by visionary TV executive Roone Arledge in the early-1960s and prospering under Arledge's leadership for twenty years; it featured pioneering sports programs such as "Wide World of Sports," "MNF," and the first great Olympic games broadcasts in the late-1960s and early-1970s; and it set the standard for television sports of all kinds, paving the way for sports departments at the other major networks and at cable networks such as ESPN. In short, without ABC Sports, there wouldn't be TV sports as we know it today.

And so, I thought a requiem of some sort was called for. Below you can reminisce about the forty-five year history of ABC Sports through the video clips and links I have compiled. The end of ABC Sports means, in the famous words from the intro voiceover from "The Wide World of Sports," the end of "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."


Opening to "Monday Night Football" (1982)

Excerpt of Skateboarding Championship from "Wide World of Sports" (1965)

Promotional Montage for "Wide World of Sports" (1982)

ABC Sports-related Links

"Monday Night Football" history page on ESPN.com (updated through 2002)

ABC Sports entry on Wikipedia (with links to major programs and sporting events)

Roone Arledge entry on website for Museum of Broadcast Communications

Roone Arledge entry on Wikipedia

Article on Arledge's accomplishments upon his 2002 death on PopPolitics.com

Internet Movie Database TV entry on "Wide World of Sports"

Special Note: If you are interested in enjoying some of this ABC Sports heritage and see what sports coverage from the 1960s and 1970s was like, ESPN Classic currently airs "Classic Wide World of Sports" early Saturday mornings at 7 am EST/6 am CST.

(Video source: YouTube)


The MediaLog MediaFix: "The Price is Right"

This edition of the MediaFix is a final nod to Game Show Network's "The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time," the countdown for which I posted numerous commmentaries--and MediaFixes. Featured are two clips of "The Price is Right," which came in at #4 on the countdown, but probably should have been higher, maybe even #1 (in my opinion).

This first clip is the opening sequence for what was at the time called "The New Price is Right" with Bob Barker from 1972. It was the revival of the now-nearly-forgotten original "Price is Right" from the late-1950s and early-1960s. There are some noticable differences from the "TPiR" we know and love today, mainly the low level of excitement in the studio audience as the first contestants are announced.

(Source: YouTube; 1 min. 26 secs.)

This second clip is one from the rarely-seen original "Price is Right." It too is the opening to the show and the introduction of host Bill Cullen, who would go on to host many other game shows.

(Source: YouTube; 33 secs.)


"Studio 60" on the Sorkin Strip

Tonight will be the second episode of the highly anticipated new Aaron Sorkin-created TV series "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." If last week's pilot episode is any guide, the show is fast becoming as exhilirating as a ride down the title strip itself.

The new ensemble drama/comedy/show-within-a-show stars (above, from left to right) D.L. Hughley, Nathan Corddry, Sarah Paulson, Timothy Busfield, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, and Steven Weber. Like Sorkin's previous television programs (the recently-departed "The West Wing," the now-nearly-forgotten "Sports Night"), "Studio 60" rests on the talents and dynamics of its ensemble and the strength of its characters. Again, if the pilot is any guide, the show shines with promise and glitters with potential.

In brief, "Studio 60" is a behind the scenes drama of a "Saturday Night Live"-like late night variety program similar to how Sorkin's "The West Wing" was a behind the scenes drama of the presidency. The pilot sets up the central narrative dynamic which is that a pair of former writers for the show--Matt (Matthew Perry) and Danny (Bradley Whitford)--are convinced (blackmailed, really) to rejoin the show as the producers after the current producer (Judd Hirsch, in a brilliant cameo in the pilot) goes on a tirade on the air about how horrible the show has become. In addition to this narrative dynamic, the pilot sets up a series of very interesting character relationship dynamics.

Chief among these is the relationship between Matt and Danny, who have been creative partners for years (in the pilot they are shown at a Writer's Guild awards dinner, where Matt wins an award). Perry and Whitford make the relationship entirely believable, exchanging repartee and even finishing each others' jokes, as if the two actors really had been together for years. More remarkable, the two actors almost immediately make you forget they ever portrayed the other iconic characters (Chandler Bing on "Friends" for Perry; Josh Lyman on "The West Wing" for Whitford) that they each did for so many years. By midway through the "Studio 60" pilot I was thinking "Chandler Bing and Josh Lyman who?"

This accomplishment on the part of the two men is not to be underestimated. Personally, I thought that the two leads would evoke in my mind their former fictional counterparts way more than they did, which is hardly at all. With Perry, it's been a couple of years since the end of "Friends" but Whitford's "West Wing" ended only this past spring. The fact that they were able to so quickly and effectively draw the contours of their new characters not only bodes well for "Studio 60," it's a mark of how talented these two actors--often not fully respected because of the wisecracking nature of their old characters--really are. At the same time, their "Studio" roles build on the wisecrackery they performed so deftly on their former shows.

Perry and Whitford are hardly the whole show, though. The ensemble they are part of includes Amanda Peet as the charming but charmingly vulnerable new president of "Studio 60"'s TV network (NBS, in a thinly veiled alteration of NBC); a shark-like Steven Weber as her boss, the NBS chairman; Timothy Busfield (newspaper reporter Danny Concannon in "West Wing") as the "Studio 60" director; Sarah Paulson as Harriet Hayes, the prayerful Christian star of "Studio 60"; and D.L. Hughley as her co-star. Three stellar cameos light up the pilot as well: Felicity Huffman (a Sorkin regular from "Sports Night" and guest spots on "West Wing") as herself, the guest host of the "Studio 60" episode in which Hirsch wigs out; Ed Asner, in a very short appearance, as Weber's boss, the head of the media conglomerate that owns NBS; and Judd Hirsch, who is historically memorable as the "Studio" producer who decides to salvage his integrity at the expense of his job.

The interplay amongst this group of characters shows great promise. Peet's and Weber's characters have a combative relationship; she represents the young turk at the network eager to shake things up and with nothing to lose, while he is a more conservative, more entrenched, less idealistic, and more cutthroat player. Busfield shares a key scene with the network censor during Hirsch's tirade that firmly establishes his character's professionalism as well as his compassion. Paulson as Harriet, the Christian late night comic, is a little strained, but the idea is fascinating and will probably feel a little more natural as the character is fleshed out in coming episodes. Her interaction with the other characters, both as the leader of the fictional show's cast and as the odd woman out in terms of personal sensibility, is interesting. All the more so because of the fact that she is Perry's newly minted ex-girlfriend, which adds yet another interpersonal dynamic. In addition to Harriet's faith, the revelation of Danny's battle with drug addiction and the representation of Peet's character's ambition should prove to be fruitful sources of character and story intrigue.

Just like for the title setting in "The West Wing," "Studio 60" contains a vibrant setting that has a feel all its own. The interior and exterior of the "Studio 60" studio, its Sunset Strip locale, and the offices of NBS are all imbued with a distinctive character that helps provide the context for the character relationships I have outlined above. Although much has been said about this show's and the other new NBC program "30 Rock"'s derivation from "Saturday Night Live," "Studio 60" (the show within the show) maintains a distinctive identity apart from being an "SNL" ripoff. The (fictional) show is celebrating its 20th anniversary season in the pilot, thus establishing a longevity (as well as, through the other plot machinations, a rising and falling fortune) similar to its inspiration.

"Studio 60" has all the classic Sorkin touches we have come to expect: bantering dialogue, sharply drawn characters, remarkable ensemble work, and a distinctive milieu. This series comes with the added value of promotional possibilities that the producers and NBC are sure to exploit: a weekly guest host celebrity and musical group for the show within the show, snippets of the "actual" comedy sketches being prepared or performed for the fictional "Studio 60" program, and the kind of high-profile cameos and appearances by Sorkin regulars found in the pilot. If allowed the time and space it needs and deserves to develop properly, and if NBC doesn't get skittish at ratings numbers that may not immediately be top ranked, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" will hopefully be entertaining audiences for years.

"Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" Links
Official website for "Studio 60" at NBC.com
Mock website for the fictional "Studio 60"
IMDb entry for "Studio 60"
"Studio 60" page on Epguides.com (episode guide)
Links to reviews of "Studio 60" on Metacritic.com

(Photo source: TV.com)


Postscript on "The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time"

A few weeks ago, Game Show Network concluded its special series "The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time," and last week I finished my commentaries on the countdown here on the MediaLog. I would like now to make some final comments on the GSN rankings and on the television genre of game shows in general.

To start off, let me just reiterate (briefly) the remarks I made over the course of the countdown about the problems I saw in it. There were two big issues that I saw that hampered the integrity and value of the rankings. The first of these is the lack of respect shown by the countdown and GSN for the pioneering game shows of the 1950s. The highest ranked of these shows was "What's My Line?" which came in at #14. Although that could have been a few slots higher, it's not a bad ranking; my problem with GSN's treatment of these oldest TV game shows is in the fact that none were treated by showing full episodes. The other big problem I have is the rigging of the countdown to favor either GSN original shows or shows that had reruns airing on the network. There is simply no other explanation for the fact that shows like "Hollywood Showdown" and "Shop Til You Drop" were even on the countdown. And, although maybe (maybe) it's legitimate for "Lingo" to be on the countdown, its #16 ranking is ludicrously high.

So, the entire countdown has little credibility, at least to anyone who cares about this kind of thing. The one value of the whole series is that it presented some obscure game shows unlikely to be seen again (soon, at least) and special episodes of other, more prominent shows. Shows like "3's a Crowd" and "The New Treasure Hunt" are not likely to be seen again, even on GSN. The special episodes included the "Press Your Luck" episode in which a contestant had figured out the game board patterns and manipulated them to win over $100,000; the "Tic Tac Dough" episode with the show's top winning contestant ever; and the episode of "To Tell the Truth" that featured contestant Frank Abignale, the legendary con artist who was the inspiration for the Steven Spielberg film "Catch Me If You Can."

Having reiterated what I think were the chief problems with GSN's countdown of "The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time," I would like to broaden the scope and ponder a few questions related to the phenomenon of game shows more generally. To begin with, the idea of ranking the greatest game shows begs the question, what makes a game show great? One comment I read online about GSN's countdown is significant: at no time during the several weeks of game show broadcasts was it ever mentioned what the criteria were for selecting the shows, who did the selecting, and so forth, an omission that only makes the countdown more suspect.

What makes a game show great? There are a few key elements, I would hazard. First is innovativeness of the game play and the originality of the show format. If a show is just another retread of a tired idea (fill in your own example), then it's not likely to be too great. However, a new and inventive form of game play that does something original is liable to be great. This is why a show like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," despite its great popularity for a short while, is far from great since it is just a rehash of the big money games of the 1950s (albeit with a lot more money). "The $64,000 Question" has a much more valid claim to greatness as the originator of the big money game show concept (but ranked far lower on GSN's countdown). A show like "What's My Line?" that was the granddaddy of the panel show also has a claim on true greatness.

The next thing that makes a game show great is longevity. A show that lasts a long time, and as a result presumably has a loyal and hardy fan base, is one that is likely great. This is one of the reasons that I was surprised that the top GSN show was "Match Game," which had a run of only several years, ahead of the far greater--and more venerable--"Wheel of Fortune," "Jeopardy," and "The Price is Right," all of which are still airing with runs of well over twenty years. "Family Feud," with a run now of nearly thirty years, has a similar claim to greatness based on longevity. So does the aforementioned "What's My Line?"

"Wheel," "Jeopardy," and "TPiR" are in my opinion the three greatest game shows of all time, due to the two factors I've just discussed. What elements do these shows have that makes them perenially popular that less successful shows do not have? One key element I think is the host. None of these shows would be the same without their longtime hosts: "Wheel" goes round and round due to Pat Sajak; "Jeopardy" (with all due respect to Art Fleming) is a "Daily Double" due to Alex Trebek; and "TPiR" comes on down due to Bob Barker. The engaging game play of all three is also a factor. "Wheel" is based on the simple game of Hangman; "Jeopardy" takes a simple quiz format and gives it added dimensions due to the game board structure and the requirement for phrasing replies in the form of a question; and "Price is Right" thrives on its variety of interesting pricing games.

These three games are still airing all over America, but the appeal of game shows is certainly not limited to current shows. Older game shows are some of the most popular; what is their appeal? In one respect, game shows are timeless. Watching someone win a car on an old game show from the 1970s can be just as exciting as watching someone win one on today's episode of "TPiR." Especially on a game with engaging game play, there is no reason why it has to be current. On the flip side, it is (for me at least) the datedness of old game shows that is also appealing. Watching a 1950s episode of "What's My Line?" with the old celebrities, the quaint occupations presented, and the simpler game play is highly enjoyable. For the shows of the 1970s, it can be fun to see the goofy fashions, the flashy sets, and the archaic products featured (not to mention Bob Barker with dark hair!).

Finally, why is America so obsessed with game shows in the first place? Part of the American character is the ability to rise in one's station, to become successful, to "make it." Game shows offer a glimpse of normal people winning big and achieving that dream--and doing it without that much effort. With very few exceptions (big money games like "$64,000 Question" and "Millionaire" and more erudite games like "Jeopardy" for example), the games played on game shows are ones that anyone could play and win. One of the most pervasive practices related to game show viewership is the phenomenon of talking back to the TV set, shouting answers to contestants who are not replying the way we'd like them to. We do this because we think that we know better than they do, and if only we were there, we might win big. The American Dream may actually be to win valuable prizes on a television game show.


The MediaLog Movies 100: The 20s

"The MediaLog Movies 100" finally returns after an extended absence to finish the countdown. This installment takes the countdown through the 20s, that is, the films ranked #21-30. The "Movies 100" is not a film by film ranking in precise order, though, but rather groupings of ten films which have no additional breakdown within each group.

The films are listed in alphabetical order, with the year of release, and in the case of foreign films, the country of origin (and English translation where applicable), in parentheses after the title, with the film's director listed after that. This is followed by a brief annotation on the film.

These are not my favorite movies (necessarily) or what I think are the "greatest" movies of all time. They are movies that made an impact on me and my cinematic sensibilities, tempered by considerations of the traditional film "canon" and the conventional wisdom regarding what are the all-time "best" movies.

Soon the "Movies 100" will reach its apex, featuring the Top Ten that all of the blogosphere, not to mention the nonblog world, has been eagerly awaiting. In the meantime, feel free to make comments on the countdown and the films in it.


The MediaLog Movies 100: The 20s

American Beauty (1999) Sam Mendes. Although this popular recent film has gotten some critical backlash, I really like it and think that it is a solid and engaging piece of cinema. An Oscar-winning Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, a family man who goes through a midlife crisis when he loses his job due to downsizing, discovers his wife (Oscar-nominated Annette Bening) is having an affair, and realizes that his adolescent daughter (Thora Birch) thinks he's creepy. A stellar supporting cast includes Peter Gallagher as Bening's new squeeze, Mena Suvari as the Lolita-like sexually-assertive friend of Birch who Lester apes over, Wes Bentley as the odd next-door neighbor boy that becomes Birch's boyfriend, Chris Cooper and Allison Janney as Bentley's repressed parents, and Scott Bakula as the Burnhams' gay other next door neighbor. Lester's midlife crisis includes getting a carefree job flipping burgers at the local fast food joint, buying a hot rod, pumping iron, and taking up pot smoking with the clandestinely drug-dealing Bentley--all of which apparently makes Lester think he's a teenager again, as he lusts after a secretly virginal Suvari. Wrapped around all this great acting and parent-child conflict are profound themes of stopping to smell the roses, the dangers of unchecked familial dysfunction, and the recognition of beauty in simple, everyday occurances (such as the famous plastic grocery bag blowing in the whirlwind). The film is expertly crafted as well, by director Mendes (in his feature directorial debut), legendary cinematographer Conrad Hall, and screenwriter Alan Ball (all of whom were also Oscar winners). American Beauty, on top of all its other honors, won the Best Picture Academy Award, earning its place as one of the key cultural indicators at the close of the millenium.

Casablanca (1942) Michael Curtiz. Few films are as well-known or as well-loved as Casablanca. It is the epitome of everything related to the Hollywood studio system of the 1930s and 1940s. It is a great example of studio factory filmmaking, with Warner Bros. staff director Curtiz at the helm and every department of the vast WB production machine contributing to the film's creation. It is a great example of studio-era narrative form and style. And it is a great example of the star system, with Humphrey Bogart as Rick, the proprietor of a nightclub in wartime Casablanca; Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa, his old flame that happens to walk into his club "of all the gin joints in all the world"; Sydney Greenstreet as the owner of a competing club; Peter Lorre as a ne'er-do-well playing the expats against the Nazi occupiers; Claude Rains as a corrupt but charming French police captain; Hans Conreid as Lazslo, Ilsa's current flame who is a Norwegian resistance leader; and Dooley Wilson as Sam, who was never asked to "play it again," even though everyone thinks he was. The plot involves Rick's transformation from disinterested expatriate to committed resistance member, as he tries to rekindle his and Ilsa's former romance and make sense of the disintegrating world around him. Casablanca is the source of many famous movie quotes and legendary scenes, as well as the source of great cinematic enjoyment.

Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964-British) Stanley Kubrick. This is the film that made Kubrick's career. A trenchant black comedy about nuclear annihilation, Dr. Strangelove is a satire on the Cold War, the potential "hot" war that at the time was still a very real possiblity, and on the film genres of the war film and the espionage thriller. Peter Sellers in a remarkable comic performance plays three roles: the farcically-named President Merkin Muffley; a military commander named Lionel Mandrake; and the wickedly funny title character, Dr. Strangelove, a maniacal wheelchair-bound scientist who has created a superweapon called the "Doomsday Machine." This machine is at the center of the black comedic plot as it serves as the ultimate pinnacle of arms race oneupsmanship between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. (represented deftly by the Soviet ambassador played by Peter Bull). George C. Scott plays the cocky general who gets into an argument with Bull's character as the characters try to avert apocalypse while holed up in the U.S. command bunker. This exchange is the set-up for the line by Sellers' Pres. Muffley that goes down as one of the greatest punchlines in cinema history: as Scott and Bull go at it, Sellers tries to calm them down by shouting, "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

The General (1927) Buster Keaton. Along with the next film, Chaplin's The Gold Rush, this Keaton film is often listed as one of the best films ever made and one of the high points of silent film comedy. It's not my favorite Keaton film (that's yet to come in the countdown), but there's no doubt that The General is a masterpiece. Buster plays Johnnie Gray, a Civil War Confederate train engineer (Keaton had a strong love of trains). The title "General" is Johnnie's locomotive, which is stolen by Union troops, causing Johnnie to follow in another train engine in a lengthy chase that is the comic centerpiece of the film. Keaton engineers (pun intended) many sight gags and physical stunts based on the locomotive and railroad setting, including one monumental (and genuine) crash in which two engines collide in the middle of a trestle bridge, sending both vehicles and the bridge itself toppling into the ravine below. The film contains more subtle sequences as well, such as a scene in which Johnnie unwittingly wanders into a Union headquarters house in search of food and ends up learning valuable enemy secrets while hiding under the dining room tablecloth. And there is a love interest, Annabelle Lee, who does not respect Johnnie until he proves his courage through the locomotive chase. Keaton's romantic entanglements were much different than Chaplin's--and "entanglement" might be the best word to describe them; whereas Chaplin's Tramp tended to worship his usually unattainable amours, Keaton tended to not only treat his as functional equals, which he does when Annabelle joins him in attempting to recapture the General, but to actually get the girl at the end of most of his movies, which is the case here.

The Gold Rush (1925) Charles Chaplin. This is my favorite Chaplin film and is also considered by many to be his best and one of the best films of all time. Made at the peak of Chaplin's silent feature career, The Gold Rush has the Tramp in the Yukon with hordes of other prospective prospectors. No gold is struck, although the film is a goldmine of ingenious comic situations. The centerpiece of these is the sequence in which the Tramp and a tall hirsute mining companion are snowed into their ramshackle cabin with scarce provisions. They sit around dreaming of a good meal, and the miner imagines the Tramp as a giant chicken that looks good to eat. Then, in one of the most famous scenes in all of cinema, the Tramp boils his shoe and proceeds to eat it, treating the nails holding the soles to the uppers as if they were chicken bones and the shoelaces as if they were spaghetti. Since the Tramp always gets the short end of the romantic stick, he also meets the beautiful Georgia, a rustic dance hall denizen, and pines away for her even though she is spoken for by a burly brute. The Gold Rush is silent comedy at its zenith, made by one of its greatest practicioners at the top of his form.

M*A*S*H (1970) Robert Altman. Known by most people as the movie precursor to the long-running TV series of the same name, M*A*S*H was many other things as well. First of all, it was the movie that launched Altman, at the time a longtime journeyman TV director with a few obscure features to his credit, into the top tier of American film directors. He capitalized on this film's commercial and critical success to make some of the greatest films of the early-1970s "New Hollywood" movement--including McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Thieves Like Us, and Nashville. Second, M*A*S*H was a potent critique and indictment of the Vietnam War, using the film's setting during the earlier Korean War as a smokescreen to make caustic comments on the nature of warfare. Next, it was an innovator in both filmic content in the new ratings-system era (inaugurated two years earlier with the adoption of the ratings code) and in narrative form with its episodic, meandering structure. Oh, and it was the inspiration and basis for the TV series (which Altman hated) that ran for eleven years and was one of the most popular programs of the 1970s. The story is set at a Korean "Mobile Army Surgical Hospital" near the frontlines and chronicles the misadventures of a group of surgeons and nurses who are there to patch up the wounded and save as many as possible from grisly death. Black comic tones seep through the film, as Hawkeye (Donald Sutherland), Trapper John (Elliott Gould), Duke (Tom Skerritt), Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan (Sally Kellerman), Frank Burns (Robert Duvall), and "Radar" O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff, the only movie cast member to reprise his role in the TV series) attempt to stay sane while acting at times insane.

Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantino. This is perhaps the charter member of the 1990s fractured-narrative movement that I have discussed in connection with several other films in the Movies 100. John Travolta (in the role that caused his 1990s comeback) and Uma Thurman star in Tarantino's innovative story of gangster intrigue and pop cultural minutiae. Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Harvey Keitel, and Ving Rhames also populate the cast in this narrative that is broken into three asynchronous, interweaving parts. The film's three segments criss-cross their timelines and mix their characters and incidents in such a fashion that the final scene of the film actually (in terms of strict chronology) comes immediately before the film's opening scene. In addition to narrative experimentation for the sake of experimentation, Tarantino engages in this storytelling mixture for thematic reasons. And as with all of his films, the director also includes here a playful soundtrack of 1970s tunes to spice up the cinematic broth.

Sunrise (1927) F.W. Murnau. Sunrise is the film that by conventional wisdom represents the peak of silent film artistry, and for those that appreciate the lost art of silent cinema, it is a sight to behold. The film begins as a love triangle between a farmer husband (George O'Brien), his simple and plain wife (Janet Gaynor), and a woman "from the city" (Margaret Livingston) who has seduced the man. The city woman convinces him to return to the city with her, but encourages him to murder his wife first. The man takes his wife out in a rowboat with the intent of capsizing the boat in an apparent accident that will cause her drowning death. When they get out on the water, though, he has a change of heart, although he frightens his wife greatly. As he pleads for forgiveness, they proceed to the city without the city woman, and while there they spend a day renewing their romance. They ride the trolley, peek in on a wedding, get their portrait taken, enjoy a meal, and stroll through the city streets, all the while realizing their love. On the return trip to the farm on their rowboat, a storm comes up and threatens their life, causing the man to save his love and the city woman to stalk off in defeat. I was lucky enough to see this film several times (on the big screen with live pipe organ accompaniment, no less) while an undergraduate student, as my film professor and mentor was a dedicated silent cinemaphile and film restorationist. The education I received as I was exposed to the many silent films that he presented to his classes is priceless, and Sunrise is near the top of the list of silent cinema masterpieces that I would never have fallen in love with had it not been for him.

Thelma and Louise (1991) Ridley Scott. This story of female empowerment was one that I saw when it was initially released to theatres in a period of my life when I had just started to study film. In that context, it made a powerful impression on me and helped me to begin to understand how to analyze cinema and appreciate its artistry. Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) are a feminine odd couple (Louise is neat and methodical, Thelma is an impulsive mess) who are best friends and who are both stuck in dead-end jobs and relationships. On a whim, they abandon their mates for a girl's weekend, only the weekend goes awry when Thelma accidentally kills a would-be rapist in self-defense. They go on the lam as cop Harvey Keitel leads the posse that pursues them and their men (a comically uptight Christopher MacDonald for Thelma and a studly Michael Madsen for Louise) fret about their whereabouts. As the two women get more and more desperate they get more and more liberated: Thelma has an irresponsible jump in the hay with country boy Brad Pitt (in a star-making turn in his first big role), Louise loosens up (relatively speaking), and the two explosively confront a lecherous trucker who has been ogling them. As Thelma and Louise's options get slimmer, the expansive Southwest desert setting gets more stark, their spirits get freer, a sympathetic Keitel's posse gets closer, and the women get a final release from their predicament in a remarkable (and somewhat controversial) ending to the film.

Touch of Evil (1958) Orson Welles. Citizen Kane, of course, is considered Welles' greatest film, but this one often comes in second. It's a tale of border town intrigue, as Welles portrays the corrupt police captain Hank Quinlan, while Charlton Heston is Mexican narcotics agent Mike Vargas who has just married American Janet Leigh. Touch of Evil is famous for its opening shot, a tracking, arcing, craning, continuous shot of several minutes in length that follows Heston and Leigh as they cross the U.S.-Mexican border only to witness a car bomb explosion. Vargas begins to investigate the crime and uncovers not only a drug dealing hotbed in the form of the Grandi crime family, but deep-seated corruption on the part of Welles' character. A number of significant supporting parts fill out the cast: Marlene Dietrich (in one of her last roles) plays the madam of the local brothel who is an old flame of Quinlan's; Akim Tamiroff is "Uncle" Joe Grandi, the leader of the crime family; Mercedes McCambridge is a terrorizing gang member; Ray Collins is the local D.A.; Joseph Calleia is Quinlan's partner who is disillusioned by his friend's corruption; and Dennis Weaver plays a motel clerk whose creepiness is second only to Psycho's Norman Bates. In many circles, this is also considered to be the last significant original film noir. The film certainly has a gritty yet artful visual style, as the harsh contrasts of night and day, Mexican side and American side, corruption and integrity are all dramatized and visualized to potent effect. Whether or not Touch of Evil is Welles' second best film, it is definitely the last great film he ever made.


And the Number One Game Show of All Time Is....

The #1 game show of all time according to Game Show Network's "The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time" is.... Since the top game was announced two weeks ago, if you care you likely know already by now. The MediaLog has been on hiatus since then, so I'm only now getting around to commenting on the top six game shows.

Prior to the final week of GSN's countdown, I made a prediction as to what the top six shows would be. I predicted that they would be "Family Feud," "Match Game," "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," "The Price is Right," "Jeopardy," and "Wheel of Fortune," with the last three as the top three, and any one of those three potentially landing the top spot. As it turns out, I was totally right on which shows would make up the top six, totally off on what the sequencing would be.

Since the countdown is long over--not to mention the fact that these final six game shows are well-known and don't require great explanation--I am going to dispense with detailed discussion of the game play and format of these shows. Rather, I am going to indulge in something I have been doing in small doses throughout my commentaries: point out where I think GSN got it all wrong!

The number six game show was "Wheel of Fortune." I honestly thought that this would very likely be the number one game, so I was a little shocked to see it at this rank. Further, GSN did not air an episode of the venerable and monumentally popular show (presumably because they did not have the rights). "Wheel" was the highest rated syndicated television show in American for something like fifteen years running. It became a cultural touchstone in the mid-1980s, at the height of its popularity, when (for some godforsaken reason) letter-turner Vanna White reached superstardom. I've never cared much for "Wheel" but it probably should have been the number one game show.

Number five was "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," the juggernaut turn-of-the-millenium show hosted by Regis Philbin. I always thought "Millionaire" was a little overrated, and so I find its position in the top five to be unfortunate. There's no question the show was hugely popular for about two years, and it remains a top syndicated show (hosted in that version by Meredith Vieira). But--is it really a greater show than, for example, the longtime (now over twenty years running) "Wheel of Fortune"?

"The Price is Right" was the number four greatest game show of all time. I thought that this too might have landed the top spot, but GSN did not even show an episode of it. I guess almost thirty-five years as the most popular game show ever on daytime television, cult status in the minds and hearts of a few generations of young people, and what is perhaps the most interesting and versatile game play of any game ever isn't enough to get it any higher than number four.

The number three game was "Family Feud." "Feud" has become almost as venerable as "TPiR," even if it has done so in fits and starts with several different hosts and iterations. Believe it or not, "Feud" this fall celebrates its 30th anniversary, although it has not been on continously, leaving the air for a few years in the mid-1980s then for a few more in the late-1990s. I don't have a big problem with this ranking for the show, except for the fact that it puts "Feud" ahead of "Wheel" and "TPiR," two shows which are clearly greater.

The runner-up game show was "Jeopardy," also a venerable show that in its current version with host Alex Trebek has been on the air for over twenty years (in addition to the original version's eleven years). This is the only of my predicted top three that actually ended up in the top three. Its ranking is justified and absolutely right. The problem that I have here is the fact that GSN did not show an episode of it.

Now, GSN's use of voiceover and still photo treatment in lieu of airing an episode for a great many of the game shows in the "50 Greatest" has been one of my biggest complaints about the countdown. It's simply unfortunate that many of these great game shows were not given proper respect by showing a complete episode. If a show is great enough to make the top fifty of all time, isn't it great enough to show an episode of?

The underlying issue, of course, is that GSN did not have the rights to show some of the shows in their countdown, and I understand and appreciate that. If the choice was between having shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" in the countdown, but only with a voiceover because rights to show an episode could not be secured, and not having these shows in the countdown at all, then it's better to feature them with only a voiceover. In some cases, though, it seems like GSN just didn't try hard enough. Take, for example, a show like "The $64,000 Question." I know that there are at both excerpts and at least one full episode extant of the show, so wouldn't GSN want to make every effort possible to try to show at least a clip of it on their countdown? Apparently not (which points up my other big complaint with the countdown, that it did not give proper respect to the pioneering game shows of the 1950s).

There should, however, have been no reason why GSN couldn't have shown an episode of "Jeopardy." They air the program currently on their daytime schedule, so getting the rights couldn't have been an issue. For some reason, the dubious executives or programmers who made the decisions about the rankings and episode choices (or choices not to show episodes) made the determination that the game show that is legitimately the 2nd best of all time did not deserve to have an episode shown.

The #1 greatest game show of all time, according to these same executives and programmers, was "Match Game." I like "Match Game." I occasionally watch "Match Game" on GSN. I enjoy as much as anyone the goofy celebrity interplay and sharp sexual innuendo of the show. Gene Rayburn is unquestionably among the best game show hosts of all time, and the show would not have been the same show without him. I predicted that "Match Game" would in fact be one of the top six shows in the GSN countdown, a relatively lofty perch that the game deserves. But number one?

My beef here is not based on whether or not "Match Game" should or should not be considered the best game show of all time. My beef is that there are at least three games ("TPiR," "Wheel," and "Jeopardy") that are greater. Number four, behind these other three, would have been just fine for "Match Game." Here's my theory: throughout the countdown, GSN jerryrigged it with their original shows (seriously, what the hell is "Hollywood Showdown" doing in the fifty best game shows of all time?) and shows that they are currently airing reruns of (such as "Blockbusters" and, indeed, "Match Game"). Several of the lower rankings were filled easily and unthinkingly with GSN original shows which they didn't have to worry about getting rights to. Although most of these no longer air on GSN, the ludicrously high ranking for "Lingo" (#16) can only be interpreted as a promotion for the show, since it still airs regularly. GSN's main interest (surprise, surprise) does not seem to have been formulating what might have been seen as a legitimate countdown with integrity, but rather self-promotion in the form of rigging the countdown to highlight shows that in one form or another are on the network's current schedule.

Which sheds a lot of light on the number one position for "Match Game." "Match Game" is GSN's favorite vintage game show right now, and the network promotes it to the exclusion of most other vintage shows (they bill the hour of "Match Game" episodes as the "Seventies Hour," even though "Match Game" is the only show that ever airs under that billing). And these are the reasons why "Match Game" is the so-called number one game show of all time.


The Popular Culture of 9/11: A Look Back and a Current Assessment on the 5th Anniversary (Part 2)

This article is dedicated to the victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of September 11, 2001.

Everyone copes with tragedy in their own way. I am a student of media history and popular culture, and so part of how I cope with tragedy (as well as many other things) is by attempting to understand it through the prisms of media history and popular culture. And so, as we recognize the 5th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, I offer this analysis of how the tragedy has been reflected in American popular culture.


Historically, it has usually taken some time for American popular culture to begin to deal directly with an event, especially a traumatic one, in fictional form. The first motion pictures dealing with the Vietnam War in a substantive fashion did not appear until several years after the end of our nation's involvement in that conflict. The same has proven to be true with 9/11. It is only this spring and summer, in the lead up to this week's 5th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, that the tragedy has begun to appear on American movie screens.

Attempts to treat 9/11 in fictional form remain fraught with controversy. The ABC miniseries "The Path to 9/11" that aired Sunday night and last night is the most immediate example of this. I did not view the program, but Clinton admininstration officials, as well as the former president himself, protested and submitted petitions to ABC objecting to what they say are the broadcast's inaccuracies regarding the Clinton White House's supposed missteps in the months and years prior to the attacks. Although the network reportedly re-edited some scenes, it disregarded calls to cancel the broadcast of the miniseries and it aired as scheduled.

The two motion pictures that have so far dealt directly with the attacks, "United 93" (which came out this past April in theatres and just last week on home video) and "World Trade Center" (which came out in theatres last month), have also not been free of controversy. Some minor uproar surfaced when the trailers for "United 93" started to play in theatres to audiences unprepared for the intensity of the action therein. Fear of renewed anti-Muslim sentiments also accompanied the film's release, and the portrayal of one German passenger urging appeasement with the hijackers was thought inaccurate and potentially inciteful.

The fact that the director of "World Trade Center" was the famously controversial Oliver Stone did nothing to allay fears of misrepresentation or even of the dramatization of 9/11 conspiracy theories in the film. (The general consensus, though, which I agree with, is that the film is one of Stone's most restrained. The only group dismayed by Stone's directorial performance are the 9/11 conspiracy theorists who are upset that he didn't include such speculative material.) Some of the families of victims portrayed are reported as being upset with the very existence of the film (although the families and real life counterparts of the two main characters, Will Jimeno and John McLoughlin, cooperated fully and support the film).

The two films, "United 93" and "World Trade Center," are very different and yet they share one key characteristic: they are both hopeful stories of 9/11. "United 93" is about the only of the four planes on which the terrorists' goal was thwarted. Due to the fact that it was the last to be hijacked, the passengers of United 93 were able to learn of the earlier attacks and prevent the plane from hitting its target, the U.S. Capitol. "World Trade Center" is about two of the very few people (only twenty total) who were rescued from the rubble of the WTC. That the filmmakers in each case (as well as the studios releasing the films) chose these stories to tell says a lot about the state of popular culture in relation to 9/11. The subject matter in general is still volatile enough that telling these kinds of hopeful stories is one way of appealing to audiences and mitigating potential controversy.

Although both films are naturally intense, "United 93" is probably the more intense of the two, due to the fact that the bulk of the action claustrophobically takes place on board the title plane. Director Paul Greengrass utilizes handheld camerawork throughout pretty much all of the airplane scenes, which further destabilizes the imagery. "United 93" is populated by mostly unknown actors, which helps to make it seem more documentary-like in nature (since there are no movie stars with which to identify). Besides the on board sequences (which make up the last third of the film exclusively), there are scenes showing the activity in both the national civilian air traffic control center and the NORAD military air control center, as both track all four hijackings and come to realize separately what is happening. As a result, the unfortunate lack of coordination between the civilian and military air authorities serves as a subtle theme in the film.

In contrast, after the sequence in which the twin towers collapse on top of the Port Authority police officers that are its central characters, "World Trade Center" becomes almost a minimalist drama of small gestures and big hopes. The two officers portrayed by Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena are for most of the film trapped in the rubble, pinned under large slabs of concrete. The two actors' performances under these circumstances are rather remarkable since they consist almost completely of relatively subtle eye and mouth movements. More activity occurs in the scenes featuring the two officers' families (which are intercut with the scenes under the rubble) than occurs with the officers themselves. If there's anything to criticize about "World Trade Center" its that the film gets a little melodramatic during and after the rescue of the two men, although given the timing and the subject this is perhaps understandable.

The most hopeful thing about "World Trade Center" is in the dramatization of the selflessness of the rescuers. The theme of goodness and civility in the face of great tragedy and disaster runs deep in the film. The rescue of John McLoughlin (Cage) and Will Jimeno (Pena) is not just a hopeful story but an example of the many, many, often lesser but still important acts of kindness between strangers that took place not just in New York City and Washington, but all over America on September 11, 2001. For a short time (too short), America was a different place, sadder to be sure, but in some ways better. If only the instincts that were shown that day and week could have been preserved and extended.

One of the things that "World Trade Center" and "United 93" do for probably most viewers is serve as reminders of what happened on 9/11. For those of us that were not directly involved in the attacks, know no one that perished, and have never lived in NYC or DC, these films make powerful impressions that remind us of the human toll of that day. We need reminding. Undoubtedly, there will be in the future more films, more treatments in the popular culture of the horrific events of 9/11. None of them will be as immediate and emotional as the first Letterman shows after the attack or the celebrity-studded benefit telethon shortly afterwards. Now several years removed from the events, they will not be as subtle as the baseball uniform patches and background set decorations of those first few months. Gestures such as Bono's flag-lined jacket and Springsteen's potent anthems would now be drained of meaning. And not all future fictional treatments of the attacks will offer hopeful stories such as "United 93" and "World Trade Center." But 9/11 is now part of American popular culture and of American culture in general, so we will continue to see it reflected in the products of our culture.

In the end, five years and counting since the tragedies of 9/11, it is perhaps this role that popular culture can serve in regards to the attacks: to remind us of what happened that day and to keep the emotions of that day alive in us. Not for reasons of vengeance or for reasons of nationalism, but for reasons of humanity, to make sure we remember the good that people are capable of under the most horrible conditions of duress and disaster. If we can find a way, some way, to keep at the forefront of our lives the impulse towards true civility and the instinct towards true kindness regarding our fellow men and women, then those that died and suffered on 9/11 will not have done so in vain. Popular culture, created and used in this fashion, might be one way to realize that need.


"9/11 showed us what human beings are capable of. The evil, yeah, sure. But it also brought out the goodness we forgot could exist. People taking care of each other for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. It's important for us to talk about that good, to remember...."

--Nicolas Cage as John McLoughlin in "World Trade Center"


The Popular Culture of 9/11: A Look Back and a Current Assessment on the 5th Anniversary (Part 1)

This article is dedicated to the victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of September 11, 2001.

Everyone copes with tragedy in their own way. I am a student of media history and popular culture, and so part of how I cope with tragedy (as well as many other things) is by attempting to understand it through the prisms of media history and popular culture. And so, as we recognize the 5th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, I offer this analysis of how the tragedy has been reflected in American popular culture.


On the morning of September 11, 2001, two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, one plane hitting each tower. Not long after, another plane crashed into the Pentagon building in Washington, DC. A fourth plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Later that morning, the two WTC towers collapsed in a thunderous quake that shook not only the island of Manhattan, but also the entirety of the American nation.

We soon learned that the planes were hijacked by terrorists belonging to an international terror organization called al-Qaida, which was based in Afghanistan and led by the nefarious Osama bin Laden. We learned that the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania was supposed to be flown into the U.S. Capitol and failed in that goal only because passengers learned of the earlier crashes and courageously fought back against the terrorists. We also learned that the attacks were orchestrated to disrupt American commerce and government and inflict the maximum possible symbolic damage, with the physical destruction, including the thousands of deaths, merely a corollary to that goal.

Unfortunately, the terrorists succeeded in disrupting American life, at least temporarily. Airports were closed and airplanes grounded countrywide for nearly a week after the attacks. A siege mentality gripped the nation for a week or two in the tragedy's aftermath, as the uncertainty of what was happening and the spectre of potential follow-up attacks led some citizens to stockpile food, gasoline, and emergency supplies. Businesses, national landmarks, and schools across the land either closed for a few days or witnessed drastic alterations to their normal routines.

In New York and Washington, the circumstances were more dire. Washingtonians lived for days (if not weeks, and to a certain extent still do) realizing that their home was now a giant target for those who sought to destroy America. (I have a friend who lives in DC and has often referred since to his city as the "Big Bullseye.") New York City, where the destruction was more severe and widespread, sifted through the rubble of the WTC and saved precious few of the thousands who were trapped. NYC leaders, especially Mayor Rudy Guiliani, responded compassionately, resourcefully, and effectively. Although death tolls were thought initially to surpass 5,000, the final count was in the vicinity of 3,000--still 3,000 too many.

All of the above is well-known, and I recount it to refresh our memories of the context of what happened on 9/11 and in the immediate aftermath. Although much less important, the entertainment and popular culture that Americans enjoy so much was also affected by the attacks of 9/11. This article (in two parts, today and tomorrow) will analyze and discuss the effects of 9/11 on American popular culture. The remainder of this part will discuss popular culture in the immediate and short-term aftermath of the attacks; tomorrow's installment will look at more recent 9/11-related developments, including discussions of this year's two motion pictures on the attacks, "United 93" and "World Trade Center."

Although news coverage of the attacks is outside the purview of this article, I cannot proceed without at least mentioning the role that the news media played in the days following the attacks. Similar to how network television news came of age with the Kennedy assassination in 1963 and how cable televsion news came of age with the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Internet news coverage matured on September 11, 2001. Although television news (network and cable) remained the primary means by which Americans learned of the attacks and followed the aftermath, most people supplemented that viewing with news updates, in-depth reportage, and images found on the websites of TV networks and print periodicals. For those interested in revisiting this online coverage, there is a detailed and fascinating archive of all forms of news reportage from 9/11 called "September 11 News.com." (In addition to the archive of webpages from 9/11/01, the site has screen grabs from news coverage and facsimiles of the front pages of dozens of newspapers and magazines from that day and the days following.)

Some Americans even first learned of the terrorist attacks through online means. I happen to be one of these people. Like everyone, I will never forget how I first found out about 9/11: I was chatting with a friend through instant messaging. As I did many mornings that fall, I woke up and logged onto my chat service. A regular chat friend IM'd me and asked me if I had heard about the attacks. I had not, and after a short briefing from my chat buddy, I turned on the TV set and switched my news consumption to more traditional forms.

My experience is probably not unique; the significance of it lies in the new prominance of online forms of communication. I come from a large extended family, several members of whom live in the NYC and DC areas. Not long before 9/11, a family web group had been started, and that day it was busy with messages both from those who lived near the attacks letting the family know that they were alright and from those expressing concern about their safety. These personal anecdotes of mine serve simply as examples of how 9/11 caused online communication to become a force in American popular culture.

To the greatest extent, in the days immediately following 9/11, most forms of American entertainment and popular culture came to a halt. Movie theatres, if they were open at all, sat largely empty. Broadway plays stopped performances and left their marquees dark in tribute to the victims in their city. Every major sports league cancelled games for a number of days. TV's Emmy awards, scheduled for a few days after the attacks, were postponed--twice, after the attacks and then again when the rescheduled date fell only a day or two after the retaliatory invasion of Afghanistan in early-October. Television networks of all kinds suspended regular programming in favor of news coverage of the tragedies. Even non-news channels carried news coverage from sister networks; MTV and VH1, for example, carried CBS news coverage (all three owned by parent company Viacom). When regular programming did resume after a few days, some programs did not return until several days later.

Perhaps the most well-known and respected return to normalcy was that of "The Late Show with David Letterman." Letterman's first broadcast after the attacks, on September 17, has become almost as historic as the news coverage of the tragedies. The normal opening credits sequence and raucous band fanfare was replaced with the simple image of an American flag that dissolved to an already-seated Letterman. The host then gave a heartfelt and emotional noncomic monologue in which he expressed dismay and disbelief at the attacks, expressed on behalf of New Yorkers the palpable sadness that permeated the city, and stated that that he needed to hear himself talk for a while if the show and those of subsequent nights were to continue. Letterman's two guests that night added to the show's solemn yet determined tone. Then-CBS News anchor Dan Rather wept as he tried to discuss the attacks. Regular guest Regis Philbin served as he often did for Letterman, as the amiable foil to Letterman's now-guarded repartee.

Once television and popular culture in all its forms returned to activity, small and sometimes subtle tributes to 9/11 could be found. Television programs featured muted signs of respect to the fallen, usually in the form of an "FDNY" or "NYPD" t-shirt or logo in the background, or similar such touches. For the remainder of the baseball season, the uniforms of major league baseball players from all teams sported a tribute patch (seen in the image at the beginning of this article). In other places, the attacks affected plans for future entertainment. Perhaps the most publicized example of this was with the teaser movie poster for "Spiderman" (to come out in summer '02); a planned poster featuring Spidey slinging his webs between the twin towers was recalled in the wake of the tragedy.

Popular recording artists responded in a number of ways to the terrorist attacks. The most high-profile example of this--an endeavor for which the popular music community was joined by the major television networks--was the telethon entitled "America: A Tribute to Heroes" that was broadcast on September 21, a mere ten days after 9/11. In a historic show of support, all the major networks simulcast the program, which included the participation of many actors presenting pledge-drive style appeals in between musical performances. Actors included George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Robin Williams, Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, and Julia Roberts. Musicians included Stevie Wonder, U2, Faith Hill, Neil Young, Billy Joel, Limp Bizkit, Dixie Chicks, Dave Matthews, Paul Simon, Celine Dion, and Bruce Springsteen, who penned a new song, "My City of Ruins," for the broadcast and fundraising effort.

Additional efforts by recording artists followed in the months after 9/11. In the summer of 2002, Springsteen released a concept album called "The Rising" that expanded upon "My City of Ruins" and featured several songs that were inspired by the events of 9/11. Earlier in 2002, U2 offered a 9/11 tribute as part of their Super Bowl halftime performance. While U2 sang "MLK" and "Where the Streets Have No Name," the names of the victims of 9/11 were projected on a scrim behind the band (seen in the picture) and lead singer Bono dramatically revealed the American flag lining of his trademark leather jacket. While these tributes were liberal leaning, country music performers provided their own, more conservative tributes. Toby Keith released the song "Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)," while Alan Jackson offered the more restrained "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)."

All of the 9/11-inspired pop culture that I have discussed thus far are very specific songs or events. A more generalized and vague effect followed the attacks as well. For some time after 9/11, engagement in entertainment and popular culture by fans was muted and restrained. Relishing in the tabloid details of celebrities' lives or enjoying the frivolity of mindless entertainment were thought in many cases to be inappropriate in light of the horror of the attacks. There was some chatter in the media about the "death of irony" in American mass culture, and the signalling of a shift in sensibilities on the part of large segments of the audience. These ideas turned out to be mere speculation on the part of media wags rather than reality in the lives of viewers or changes in strategy on the part of producers. One more substantive shift in media habits was the phenomenon of "cocooning" in which people opted to stay at home and watch television or rent DVDs in lieu of going out of the house for public entertainments, especially in those cities or areas where it was, in the months immediately following 9/11, sometimes still potentially hazardous to do so.

As far as a lasting effect on American popular culture, 9/11 faded from memory for the most part. Eventually, world events shifted away from the immediate concern for the terrorist threat and the changes it wrought on society. American entertainment did proceed with new movies and TV programs, new music and fads. The chief lingering legacy of 9/11 on American popular culture lies in the ways in which the story of that day has begun to be told in the various forms of media. Part two of this article tomorrow will discuss these ways with an emphasis on the movies "United 93" and "World Trade Center."