A pioneer of broadcast journalism, Edward R. Murrow set the bar for integrity in the medium through his famed reporting from Europe during World War II, and later with his uncompromising coverage of n...
The brouhaha that erupted over Stephen Colbert being named as successor to David Letterman's chair as host of CBS' The Late Show once again shined a light on the ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of the American public that is still raging between comedians and conservative pundits.
When news broke of Colbert's new role — providing him with potentially a much larger audience than his Comedy Central show The Colbert Report — right-wing commentators, especially Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh went on the offensive, decrying CBS' choice as the potential undoing of America.
It was just the latest volley in the feuds that have been going on for years… or at least since Jon Stewart took over The Daily Show in 1999. When the Hollywood Reporter released its list of the 35 Most Powerful People in New York Media, the list included a healthy dose of both conservative commentators (O'Reilly, Fox News' Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity) and comedians (Stewart, Colbert, Jimmy Fallon).
It used to be that comedians made fun of politicians and the political types would just ignore it. That was in the days before cable gave comedians significantly more leeway to discuss politics than Johnny Carson could've ever imagined. To counter what they viewed as liberal bias, conservatives developed their own media stars to keep politicians from having to get dirty. So, who's winning the battle?
O'Reilly seems to by turns enjoy his tete-a-tetes with Stewart and to be infuriated by the platform that Comedy Central has given Stewart and Colbert to promote a "liberal agenda." Where he seems to have fun with Stewart, that playfulness doesn't always extend to Colbert, who based his character and show largely on O'Reilly. "Colbert has built an entire career on pleasing the left," O'Reilly said on his show. "It'll be hard to fathom that 40% of Americans who describe themselves as conservative will watch Colbert."
O'Reilly isn't alone in his view that comedians are undermining the message that conservative policymakers are trying to deliver. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter has long sparred with Bill Maher over the views that he expresses on his HBO show. Coulter, whose books include How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must), is a frequent guest on Real Time with Bill Maher, offering a counter to the host on everything from welfare reform to immigration. Elisabeth Hasselbeck, first on The View and now on Fox & Friends, has also frequently called out comedians — most notably her former View co-hosts Rosie O'Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg — while promoting her own largely conservative views on subjects. As President Barack Obama found out, the conservative pundits don’t want politicians in on the joke either. When the President appeared on Zach Galifianakis' web series Between Two Ferns, O'Reilly and others went after what the felt was Obama's flippant treatment of a serious issue (healthcare reform). Of course, when O'Reilly said that "Abe Lincoln wouldn't have done it" it led to a series of jokes.
Really, the comedians largely have it easy. Making fun of politicians is a time honored tradition, and an American birthright. From newspaper cartoonists to Will Rogers to Saturday Night Live, there's always been someone taking shots at the powers-that-be. The difference is that more and more, comedians are offering an actual opinion on their beliefs beyond just the jokes, something that Maher on Politically Incorrect and one of his HBO predecessors Dennis Miller (now a conservative radio host) helped make fashionable. O'Donnell and Janeane Garofalo have long been outspoken on their views on gun control, women's rights, and a variety of other issues. While Stewart, Colbert, John Oliver and the rest of the Daily Show group point out hypocrisy in both political parties — similar to what SNL has done for nearly 40 years — they make little effort to conceal their glee at puncturing holes in the façades of conservative political figures like Michele Bachmann, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum. In a recent commentary on The Daily Beast, comedian Dean Obeidallah opined that conservatives "fear comedy because they aren't good at it."
Not everyone is thrilled with the political influence that comedians like Stewart and Colbert have come to wield. "The problem becomes, are they the principle source of information for the country? Do they begin to move in and occupy the place that Walter Cronkite occupied or Edward R. Murrow occupied?," media analyst Marvin Kalb said. "The unfortunate answer now is 'Yes,' they are occupying that space. The danger there is that people begin to take it too seriously and they begin to think that the joke is the reality."
Whether it's good or bad, there's little doubt that potshots from both sides, pundits and comedians, will continue unabated for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, we know enough as a society not to take either side too seriously… whether they're joking or not.
Recently a Boise, Idaho sportscaster, Paul Gerke, did his whole segment on the local news in character as Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy. Yes, part of it was because it was Halloween and also partly because Anchorman 2 previews have begun airing. I found it amusing and then I thought about it: more news teams should do things like this more often. It'd help break down some of the walls that stand between the viewing public and the media, which has really become quite skeptical about the nature of the messages that are being conveyed.
The mainstream media just really seems to take itself way, way too seriously sometimes. Yes, I understand that they are the purveyors of news, but they act like they are afraid the ghosts of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite would haunt them if they did the news as anything less than the ULTIMATE truth. Sports did offer more opportunity for levity than say the main anchor talking about the Washington Shutdown in the style of Steve Carell's Brick Tamland.
This is why people like shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Yes, they know the news are spun with a comedic tilt, but they also aren't so busy genuflecting at their own altars. They may also be aware that these two shows are pushing an agenda but it's not like they are pretending to be unbiased as opposed to other networks who do say that ('Fair and Balanced News', my foot) and are pretty much the opposite of that.
Breaking down that barrier would be a good thing. Like I said, just something to keep us on our toes and show us that these are not all talking heads who seem to be puppets controlled by a bigger entity - then again, why do we only see the newscasters from the waist up most of the time? Hmmm.
Maybe more newscasters could don fake mustaches every now and then in the future, not just on Halloween. People would probably tune in even more. We could even have a phrase for it: doing a Gerke. So... stay classy, everyone.
"On Twitter someone will write, 'Your an idiot,' and I'll go, 'No, you're an idiot,' and all my Twitterphiles will go, 'Hey, Sam Jackson, he's the grammar police.' I'll take that. Somebody needs to be. I mean, we have newscasters who don't even know how to conjugate verbs, something Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow never had problems with." Samuel L. Jackson hates bad grammar.
So you think the Grammys are predictable? Think again. The all-time winners list is more diverse than you’d think. With the 2012 Grammy nominations being announced tonight (along with a pretty incredible lineup of performers including rock legends The Who) it’s hard not to play a little prediction game in your head: Frank Ocean will definitely get a nod or two, fun. will get a little love, and there will probably be more than a little something for Mumford & Sons. But it’s the surprising nominees that are the most fun, like last year’s handful of Skrillex nominations. What’s stranger still is when those wild cards win and we’re all left to scratch our heads. As you look through the nominees later tonight, keep this in mind: the following 12 people won Grammys. So, basically, it’s anyone’s game. President Barack Obama (2008) Our president truly is a renaissance man. He’s an Ivy Leaguer, jazz fan, avid Homeland viewer, basketball proficient, leader of the free world, and… a Grammy winner. He won his gold gramophone for his recording of his book The Audacity of Hope, and while he may be the most recent winner, he joins other Grammy-winning presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. God Bless America, amirite? Joaquin Phoenix (2005) Thankfully, Phoenix didn’t receive any reward for his giant joke of a rap career. He did, however, get a little trophy for his work on the soundtrack to Walk the Line. He should keep in mind, however, that the Academy isn’t above revoking those awards, so maybe he should continue to keep as far away from the rap game as possible. Just a thought. Milli Vanilli (1990) To be fair, the Academy later revoked the Best New Artist award when it was revealed that Milli Vanilli’s vocals were not their own. The scary thing is that if those pipes had belonged to Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, nothing would have stood between them and Grammy glory. Shudder. Zach Braff (2005) Remember back in 2005, when everyone you know said that Garden State had changed their lives? And that the soundtrack was a gift from the music gods? Well, the Grammys agreed and awarded the architect of the compilation’s greatness a shiny trophy. See? Braff has more to him than a legacy of awkward moments on Scrubs. Edward R. Murrow (1967) I’d give the guy a Grammy for having the best news anchor sign-off, but they don’t have that category and the Academy seems to be ignoring my letters. Luckily, the beloved journalist already has a Grammy for his audiobook recording of Edward R. Murrow - A Reporter Remembers, Vol. I The War Years. Right. Because we didn’t have enough reason to idolize the guy as it is. Art Garfunkel (Sans Paul Simon) Garfunkel without Simon was a bit of a joke in the music industry. After Simon and Garfunkel disbanded, Paul Simon went on to win plenty of Grammys, while Garfunkel was left wanting. That is, until 1998, when he won for his children’s album, Songs From a Parent to a Child. It sounds more like a manual than a work of art, but hey, good on ya, Artie! Creed (2001) You’d think a band that was once the number-one result for the Google search term “worst band ever” wouldn’t have an award for what many music lovers regard as the worst song ever, “Arms Wide Open.” But then again, we’ve got an iPhone appthat you hold in front of your mouth to simulate a mouth saying the words your mouth is already saying. Sometimes life doesn’t make sense. Martin Scorsese (2005) When you do a documentary about one of the greatest musicians of all time, you become eligible for a Grammy. And that’s exactly how Scorsese ended up with a shiny gramophone for his Bob Dylan flick No Direction Home. Now, if only we could get this guy to write a musical about the mob, we could get him an EGOT. Men At Work (1983) Look, we all want to get down to “Down Under” from time to time, but giving Men at Work the award for Best New Artist just makes me think that the term "best" does not mean what the Academy thinks it means. Baha Men (2000) Thankfully, someone finally rastled those damn dogs and we stopped having to try and answer the question that dominated the year 2000. We don’t know “Who Let the Dogs Out,” but they can stay in whatever kennel they were finally corralled in. Still, the Grammy powers that be felt it necessary to encourage this nonsense with an award for Best Dance Recording, proving that when it came to that song, no one was safe. Cameron Crowe (2000) And in what we’re going to go ahead and let be a redeeming moment in Grammys 2000 history, the Academy gave director Cameron Crowe an award for the soundtrack to Almost Famous. There’s no video, but I’d like to think Crowe accepted the award while yelling, “I am a golden god!” Tia Carrere (2009, 2011) The hot girl from Wayne’s World has not one Grammy, but two! It turns out, she’s something of a Hawaiian music star. Stop calling her that hot girl now, please. Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler [Photo Credit: Wenn (3)] More: American Music Awards Winners' List: Did Justin Bieber Best Rihanna For Top Honors? Taylor Swift Storms the 2012 American Country Awards Nominations The 2012 MTV Video Music Awards Winners Are...
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Election Season is far enough behind us to forget who Barack Obama even ran against (I wanna say it was Matt something?), the World Series has come and gone, and the vociferous campaign for People Magazine's Sexiest Man has landed a much less contested candidate than last year. You might think we have nothing left to debate — no polarizing argument in which to invest ourselves so vehemently to the point of popping veins and losing friendships. But you're overlooking one all-important dichotomy that has plagued our culture for the past several years: Edward Vs. Jacob.
The Twilight Saga heroine Bella Swan might have made her choice in the vampirious Mr. Cullen, but there are doubtlessly many who reserve affection for Edward's werewolf rival. The Team Edward/Team Jacob battle broke out between the installments of the book-turned-film series, plaguing the American populace with an intense animosity for the opposing sides. Some thought Edward to be Bella's meant-to-be, her first love, her soul mate. Others considered Jacob the more suitable partner, purer of heart and more capable of a giving, healthy relationship.
This is a phenomenon that has tread beyond the parameters of Twilight fandom into popular culture, affecting not only Twihards but the human species on the whole. And in its widespread outbreak, this pandemic has affected two particular communities the most: actual people named Edward and Jacob. No longer are these innocent men able to go about their days, enjoying the moniker supplied by loving parents. Now, there are connotations. They are unwittingly thrust into this bloodletting warfare, forced to defend their nomenclature against the opposing side.
But what's in a name? How does one state a case for the superior quality of his given handle? Simple: by citing some of the best examples of figures who have borne that same praenomen. So without further ado, we present to you just that. The ultimate showdown, broken down into nine disparate battles in the form of our very own additions to the Twilight Saga — other Edwards Vs. Jacobs... in pop culture, of course.
The Scorsese Saga: Fast Eddie Felson Vs. Jake LaMotta
Team Edward: Fast Eddie Felson, played by Paul Newman in The Color of Money
Powers at His Disposal: The almost unteachable skill of pool hustling, and the rare ability to teach it.
Team Jacob: Jake LaMotta, played by Robert De Niro in Raging Bull
Powers: A bull-like rage (also his undoing)
Winner: Jake LaMotta — Raging Bull is a classic (0/1)
The Seven Seas Saga: Blackbeard Vs. Jake of the Never Land Pirates
Team Edward: Real life 18th Century pirate Blackbeard, born Edward Teach
Powers: An iconoclastic reverence among enthusiasts of pirate culture and facial hair alike
Team Jacob: The starring player in the Disney cartoon Jake and the Never Land Pirates
Powers: The greatest power of all: the ability to teach children
Winner: Jake of the Never Land Pirates. It's good to be educational (0/2)
The Journalistic Saga: Edward R. Murrow Vs. Jacob Riis
Team Edward: Cold War-era CBS news reporter Edward R. Murrow
Powers: The ability to take down Joseph McCarthy with a single bound!
Team Jacob: Jacob Riis, turn-of-the-20th Century Danish-American reporter/social reformer
Powers: Laser-powered muckraking!
Winner: Edward R. Murrow... you can thank him for the lack of xenophobic oppression you might be facing today (1/2)
The Lost Saga: Edward Mars Vs. Jacob
Team Edward: Edward Mars (Frederic Lehne), the ill-fated U.S. Marshal assigned to the arrest of Kate Austen
Powers: A superhuman devotion to justice
Team Jacob: Jacob (Mark Pellegrino)... you know, the dude who's pretty much God
Powers: The dude is pretty much God
Winner: You might be surprised by this one, but Edward — at the end of the day, Jacob was kind of a bulls*** artist (2/2)
The Ramis Saga: Cousin Eddie Vs. Joliet Jake Blues
Team Edward: Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) of the National Lampoon's Vacation franchise fame
Powers: The ability to show up, unannounced, anywhere in the country that might provide peril to his cousin Chevy Chase
Team Jacob: Joliet Jake Blues (John Belushi), one half of the titular pair in The Blues Brothers
Powers: Just listen to the music, people
Winner: Belushi all the way, of course (2/3)
The Talking Dog Saga: Eddie McDowd Vs. Jake the Dog
Team Edward: Seth Green's forgettable Nickelodeon antihero from 100 Deeds of Eddie McDowd
Powers: Does shapeshifting count when you can't control it?
Team Jacob: Jake the Dog from the Cartoon Network series Adventure Time
Powers: That arm-stretching thing, and loyalty
Winner: Eddie McDowd, if only for that nostalgia factor with which so many of us are plagued (3/3)
The Sitcom Children Saga: Eddie Munster Vs. Jake Harper
Team Edward: In a strange inversion of fate, this Edward is a werewolf: young Eddie Munster (Butch Patrick) from the classic '60s sitcom The Munsters
Powers: Near immortality, transformation into full-on wolf come full moon, a snazzy fashion sense
Team Jacob: Jake Harper (Angus T. Jones), Jon Cryer's son on Two and a Half Men
Powers: Bodily functions.
Winner: Eddie Munster, because... well, you know (4/3)
The Mutant Pariah Saga: Edward Scissorhands Vs. Jake "The Snake" Roberts
Team Edward: Tim Burton's greatest creation, Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands
Powers: A love unparalleled
Team Jacob: Retired professional wrestler and python wrangler Jake "The Snake" Roberts
Powers: The snake, mostly
Winner: Another obvious victory for the Edwards... man, we all love that movie (5/3)
The Definitely Talented But Kind of Generic White Male Actor Over the Age of 30 Who Has Been in a Bunch of Good Things, Sure, But Hasn't Ever Really Taken Off as a Star — At Least Not Yet, Anyway Saga: Edward Norton Vs. Jake Gyllenhaal
Team Edward: Edward Norton of Fight Club, American History X, and Death to Smoochy
Powers: He used to be able to turn green and smash stuff, but Mark Ruffalo took that from him
Team Jacob: Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain, and Zodiac starJake Gyllenhaal
Powers: Those eyes.
Winner: Edward Norton. Go see Moonrise Kingdom, by the way (6/3).
And so, just like in the movies, Team Edward takes the victories. Catch The Twilight Saga's final chapter, Breaking Dawn - Part 2 in theaters on Friday, Nov. 16.
[Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment]
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There's a moment in my own personal history when The Newsroom — Aaron's Sorkin's earnest, optimistic, frenetic return to television —would have been my favorite show on the air. The one I'd endlessly pressure my parents into watching whenever I returned home from my name brand liberal arts university, to passionately recount all of the life-changing lessons I had learned about the morally decrepit state of American media. This moment was second semester, sophomore year, when a "Politics and Propaganda" class taught by a particularly bellicose and well-informed professor included a viewing of Good Night, and Good Luck on the syllabus.
For an optimistically naïve liberal with a still-intact faith in the almighty journalism, this film was a game-changer. The good old days of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite (who are both mentioned during the pilot of Newsroom, natch), weren't that far behind us, and dammit, they could be here again! All we needed was a few good (wo)men who were brave enough to shift the focus from the latest blonde missing in the Caribbean to the real news, and the ignorant American public would suddenly become interested and informed.
If 2006 me had had an impossibly quick wit and a tendency toward perfectly crafted off-the-cuff long-winded speeches, she would have made a great intern at Newsroom's fictional News Night. But one of the inherent problems in Newsroom is exactly that: it's fictional. It's fictional, but focusing on real events from the very recent past (2010), so the stories it's telling are ones we've already heard, just... different. In the pilot, the new staff of Will McAvoy's (Jeff Daniels) beleaguered show (he's being called the Jay Leno of nightly news — ouch) come together to break the story of the BP oil spill. But instead of focusing on the search-and-rescue mission like every other lazy outlet, McAvoy, suddenly inspired by his new EP-slash-ex flame MacKenzie MacHale (played by a frustratingly skittish Emily Mortimer), aim right for Haliburton's jugular. This plays out like some highly idealistic fan fiction: the backdrop and many of the characters are the same (an upcoming episode features the shooting of Gabby Giffords), but the rest is all Sorkin's fantasy-land version of what should have went down on television news two springs ago. It didn't, and most of us have moved on to just being really pissed off about the economy.
I'm not saying that Sorkin's frustrations with the news media are not warranted, or that a show about a ragtag group of earnest, capable, fightin' journalists couldn't be fascinating. It's just that the ideas presented in Newsroom are well-trodden and repeated to the point of exhaustion, and the journalists we've met thus far can be summed up with one adjective. Much of this (even the maddening 2010 backdrop — couldn't they just have made up stories, like on West Wing?) could be forgiven when partnered with some nuanced, well-rounded characters and good storytelling, but the pilot leaves much to be desired in that department. Alison Pill's Maggie is likable, but her love triangle with the smug, totally wrong for her Don (Thomas Sadowski), and the brilliant-slash-humble-slash-adorable Jim (John Gallagher, Jr.) doesn't really stick in the pilot. It's almost as if Sorkin spent so much time crafting his mad as hell, "let's save the news" verbal symphony that he scribbled in the rest on the fly. Particularly underused is Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel, who is the subject of a racially-motivated IT guy joke. That's about it.
All in all, Newsroom's woefully flawed pilot leaves a lot to be desired, but I'm still going to give this one another go. The actors are all capable enough to make this interesting down the line, and, since it's Sorkin, a lot of the dialogue was pretty damn funny. Moments like an indignant McAvoy shouting "I'm affable!" after learning that his staff had deserted him due to his brusque personality showed promise, and again, that Jim is very, very cute. Sam Waterston gives a fantastic performance as cable-news-division president Charlie Skinner, and Jane Fonda should be making her debut any day now. Any Sorkin project is going to suffer from the weight of high expectations, but if he tones down the condescension and adequately uses his superb cast, Newsroom can be saved. And hey —isn't this the weirdest companion to True Blood you could possibly imagine?
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: HBO]
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George Clooney has four feature film directing credits to his name — too few to accurately assess his sensibilities and broader obsessions. But with the announcement of his next project, which THR reveals is a film based on a May 28 New Yorker article detailing the life of William Alexander Morgan, an American who aided Fidel Castro in overthrowing the Cuban government, a sense of what drives Clooney's filmmaking side becomes a bit clearer. Clooney is solidifying himself as the premiere political filmmaker of the modern age.
Political dramas have been a common staple in Hollywood since cameras first started burning images into celluloid, but the genre swelled in the 1970s and '80s with domestic and international tension at a high, war bubbling across the globe. Filmmakers like Sydney Pollock, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski were examining politics and the general state of the world through human drama and broader backdrops. Perhaps the most influential of them all was Alan J. Pakula, who delved into political conspiracy with films like All the President's Men, The Parallax View and, arguably, Klute. Oliver Stone carried the political torch into the '80s, aggressively depicting the faults of government while praising the faint glimmers of hope that were left in the country. Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK — movies that tackle relevant subjects with little constraint.
Jump to today. Sensibilities (and business models) of Hollywood evolved, and now political films are few and far between, low-budget documentaries being the suitable form of dissection, rather than multi-million dollar studio gambles. The sea change helped Michael Moore become a household name, but those looking for the qualities of a written, dramatic experience are out of luck. Popcorn entertainment trumps real world reflection. Even our Oscar-friendly movies fit that bill — not to slight it, but what did The Artist say about the life and times of today?
But Clooney is using his power to revive the old school method. Really, he's the only one with the clout to do it. The A-list actor made his political drive well-known: Clooney routinely trots the globe promoting social issues and reform for less-than-ideal governments. He's taken part in protests in Washington D.C. — and even found himself in handcuffs a few times. He's an advocate, and now he's using his position in Hollywood, his newfound position as a top-notch director, to reach a broader audience. Leatherheads aside, his films have all been prisms for reflecting politics: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was steeped in that Paluka-esque paranoia; Goodnight and Good Luck depicted the hardships of journalism during the McCarthy era that feel all too familiar today; and Ides of March was is most on the nose effort to date, diving directly into the terrifying underbelly of election season. Unlike Oliver Stone, Clooney has the tenderness of being an actor too, helping to bring dimensionality to his characters. A great political film needs real people, not pawns, and Clooney avoids didacticism through performance. He may have his own political slant, but he's not one to drive home a singular message. Politics is a grey zone, and Clooney paints it as such.
If Clooney continues to tackle political films, the genre will be seen as his wheelhouse, which often translates to a comfort zone. That's narrow thinking — really, who else could be bringing these stories to life other than Clooney? With the actor-turned-director at the helm of heady political tales, audiences will have a few sizzling, undefinable pictures sprinkled among the usual biopic dramas of deceased celebrity or sweeping historical epics that often flood award season. If the guy can get a political drama made in the current Hollywood climate, he should. As Edward R. Murrow puts it in Goodnight and Good Luck: "This instrument can teach. It can illuminate and, yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it towards those ends."
Go forth, Clooney. Make movies that teach us something.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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[Photo Credit: WENN.com]
David Strathairn, as newsman Murrow, 'interviewed' pianist Liberace for the programme as part of Clooney's film Good Night, And Good Luck and the movie star is thrilled the series has been brought back by CBS bosses.
Clooney gave Charlie Rose and Lara Logan a guided tour of his house, which he bought from singer Stevie Nicks in 1995, revealing, "It's just a fun place to be."
In the show, which airs in America on Wednesday (08Feb12), the Oscar nominee also talked about his 2012 health kick with the hosts as he showed off the contents of his refrigerator.
He explained, "There's some lady that makes salads for me and I eat salads and some sort of juice thing because one of my New Year's Eve resolutions was to eat better and to sort of do one of these cleanses."
The movie star admits he wrote the role so he could play the beloved broadcaster - but quickly came to the conclusion that film fans wouldn't believe he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Appearing on indepth U.S. TV talk show Inside The Actors Studio, Clooney explains, "The thing about Murrow is there always seems like there's the weight of the world on this guy's shoulder and no one feels that way about me."
Clooney cast British actor David Strathairn to play Murrow and he took a supporting role as TV mogul Fred Friendly.
He adds, "It was the right call. I couldn't have done that part."
Smirk knowingly. Mutter something clever. Look at the camera. These three steps are what we like to call the "Krasinski Method"—an acting technique developed by film and television actor John Krasinki for his iconic role as The Office’s Jim Halpert.
From the get-go, Krasinski was thoroughly charming on his NBC sitcom. Through the series’ strong years and its more recent weaker ones, Krasinski has maintained a “saving grace” position that keeps many of us watching despite faltering interests with other, more worn out characters and storylines. And playing a well-received character for such a long time has an effect on an actor’s image: he and the character will, more often than not, become one and the same. It happens to television actors all the time: Seinfeld, Friends, Policewoman—and as the Jim Halpert-type is demanded of him in a large percentage of the movies in which he stars, not excluding this Friday’s Big Miracle, it looks like it is happening to Krasinski.
Past years have seen Krasinski break out into film roles. Most of his movies land safely in the comedy realm, and many of which bear at least an element of romance—naturally, as the Jim thing is a perfect fit for the genre: Krasinski plays wholesomely charismatic, even-tempered and quick-witted in supporting roles in films like It’s Complicated and The Holiday, and leading ones in films like License to Wed and Something Borrowed. Considering his movie roles of this sort, you might think that Krasinski is a one-trick pony. Only capable of playing pleasant. But the thing is, this is quite a long leap from the truth.
Krasinski has had other roles—roles that stray significantly from the Jim Halpert style. Krasinski played a serious, sexually repressed patient of the title character in the biopic Kinsey. He played a socially inept nerd in the bizarre comedy Smiley Face. And, in the most un-Halpert move of his career, Krasinski directed and played a memorable role in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, in which he delivered a dark, angry monologue that resonates as one of the movie’s greatest scenes. So why then, if the actor is so capable of this variety of characters, do we seem to be stuck with this pervasive typecasting?
The answer to that: Edward R. Murrow.
Edward R. Murrow was a broadcast journalist during the Cold War, and an outspoken critic of the practices of Joseph McCarthy. Murrow, though nationally renowned throughout his career, is a fragment of a sort of sophisticated piece of cultural history that The Office seems to think only the upper echelon are privy to. In a Season 2 episode of the sitcom, Dunder Mifflin employees celebrate “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” In an effort to impress the lot, Michael Scott shows a personal video of himself appearing on an old Sesame Street-like children’s show that featured a “cat reporter” puppet named Edward R. Meow. The camera pans to Jim to let us know—with agonizing fury—that Jim is one of the only people in the office who gets this reference.
And this is not an isolated incident. The Office has taken countless efforts to remind us that we are supposed to like Jim, not excluding an out-of-the-blue trademark handshakes with “cool warehouse worker” Darryl, with whom Jim had never before been shown to have any real interaction. Every once in a while, the show decides to beat us over the head with the idea that it was mandatory that we love this character. He’s smarter than everyone else. He’s calmer than everyone else. The show even removed him rapidly from his managerial position after a backlash from the viewing public. No one is allowed to dislike Jim Halpert.
Somewhere along the line, the line was blurred between Jim and John. We already knew we weren’t allowed to dislike the Scranton-based paper salesman. But we eventually got it into our heads that we weren’t allowed to dislike the man who plays him and Hollywood has been pushing that maxim persistently. We haven’t seen Krasinski play a villain, a fool, a weirdo—nothing too far out of the realm of “smart, low maintenance nice guy,” in any major productions. Not because he’s not capable of the task—Krasinski is an adept performer who, I do believe, would fare quite well with a role outside of his usual type—but because we don’t think we’re allowed to associate the man with anything unpleasant.
And perhaps this stems from our comfort with what Jim, and now Krasinski, represents. He’s smart, but not ambitious. He’s happy, but constantly allocating flaws in everything around him. He’s sweet, but sarcastic. Jim is easy. He doesn’t challenge anything or anyone, least of all himself. He’d rather make jokes about the world around him than work to rectify the things that he thinks warrant mockery. Jim would not be a difficult person to work toward becoming—and maybe we all want a hero who isn’t too far off from something we can be. He’s an easy goal. And to keep him constantly pleasant is to convince ourselves that he is a worthwhile goal. In conclusion: let’s all be like Jim. Everybody likes Jim. And it doesn’t look too hard. The slacker movement lives on.
But Krasinski is worth more than this. He’s a talented actor who deserves to extend beyond some happy framework for some feasible hero for those of us who want to be satisfied without having to work too hard for it. So how can Krasinski combat this? Simply, by going for broke. Do what John Lithgow did: impress the world by proving his comedic prowess is nothing compared to his skills with the dramatic. Play a jackass, a criminal, a murderer. You owe it to yourself, Krasinski, to be the great, hard-working, risk-taking actor you are meant to be. And, in some bizarre way, you might even owe it to the world. Remind everyone that there are better things to be than Jim.
…Like great actors! Not murderers. I want to make sure I stress that.
A pioneer of broadcast journalism, Edward R. Murrow set the bar for integrity in the medium through his famed reporting from Europe during World War II, and later with his uncompromising coverage of national and world events for CBS News. Murrow was largely credited with providing the turning point in national opinion towards Senator Joseph McCarthy's Communist accusations during the Red Scare of the 1950s, though his rise to prominence came at a heavy price. Murrow's steadfast adherence to journalistic ethics and principles led to outspoken criticism of network programming and news coverage, which in turn led to his ouster from the network that he had helped to build in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Murrow languished in the latter half of his career before an untimely death in 1965, but the path he blazed for generations of news reporters and journalists remained a high-water mark for the medium, as well as a reminder of the duty all journalists shared in presenting the facts of the day in clear, concise and honest terms.<p>Born Egbert Roscoe Murrow at Polecat Creek in Guilford County, NC on April 25, 1908, he was the son of Quaker parents who raised their three sons in a log cabin without electricity or plumbing. Murrow would later credit his parents' dedication to their faith with informing his intensely ethical viewpoint, which began to develop as a high school student in Edison, WA. There, he served as both president of his student body as well as a skilled debater on the school's team. Murrow continued to be involved in school politics at Washington State College, where he delivered a convention speech to the National Student Federation of America that urged young people to take an interest in national and world issues. After graduating in 1930, he worked at the Institute of International Education, where he aided displaced German scholars who had been removed from their positions due to the conflict in World War I. In 1935, Murrow became director of talks and education for the CBS network, for which he would coordinate appearances by political and social commentators. A former speech major, Murrow began studying the on-air delivery of announcer Bob Trout, and would apply these new skills after heading to Europe to serve as director of the network's operations there.<p>Murrow's journalistic career began with the dawn of World War II, where he developed the first live multipoint reporting from various sites across Europe to cover the annexation of Austria by Adolf Hitler. In 1938, he assembled a cadre of international journalists to cover the event from various locations across the continent for the "European News Report," the first live multipoint coverage on the radio. Murrow himself reported from Vienna, and would continue to provide uncensored, improvised and highly evocative reporting of the London Blitz during 1939 - again, the first of its kind for the medium, which prior to Murrow, had broadcast the news via a studio announcer, who read incoming reports. Murrow's reporting, which reached dramatic heights with his signature introduction of "This is London," minted him as a pioneer in broadcast journalism. With the conclusion of the European Theater and launch of the war in the Pacific, Murrow expanded CBS London with a team of stellar reporters, including such future stars of the medium as Eric Sevareid, Howard K. Smith, Bill Downs and Charles Collingwood. Among their accomplishments during this period was the first reporting from a Nazi concentration camp in Germany, where Murrow depicted the horrors of the scene in harrowing details.<p>After the war, Murrow was briefly appointed head of CBS News, but left the position to return to broadcasting as anchor of the 7:45 p.m. Eastern newscast. From 1951 to 1955, he hosted "This I Believe" (CBS Radio, 1951-55) a series of five-minute essays penned by famous and everyday citizens alike about their personal motivations, as well as "Hear it Now" (CBS Radio, 1950-51), a weekly radio news magazine produced by Murrow and Fred W. Friendly. The series came to network television in 1951 as "See it Now." Its celebrated seven-year run, which amassed four Emmys and a Peabody Award, tackled controversial topics on a regular basis, but entered the realm of history for its 1954 telecast about Senator Joseph McCarthy's pursuit of alleged Communists in American society. Murrow and Friendly were prevented from using the CBS logo or network funds to promote the episode, and paid for its advertising themselves. The broadcast was a landmark moment in American television, turning not only popular opinion against McCarthy's witch hunt, but also giving credence and character to a medium largely considered by audiences and critics alike as lacking the moral fiber of its print and radio predecessors. During this period, Murrow also hosted "Person to Person" (CBS, 1953-59), an informal but Emmy-winning talk show that featured the broadcaster in conversation with various figures from politics and entertainment in their own homes.<P>However, Murrow's hard-hitting approach to the news did not endear him to network executives. "See it Now" was only an occasional ratings hit, and when the quiz show phenomenon of the 1950s reached full blossom, its sponsors withdrew their funding, and the show was relegated to occasional specials. Murrow took these actions personally, which placed him in direct conflict with CBS chairman Bill Paley. His speech at the Radio and Television News Directors Association in 1958 that lambasted television's trend towards entertainment and commercial gain over news permanently damaged Paley's relationship with Murrow. He was dispatched to the short-lived "Small World" (1958-59), which, despite its groundbreaking technological advancements in connecting political figures from across the globe for one-on-one debates, failed to generate an audience. After contributing to the first episodes of the news documentary series "CBS Reports" (CBS, 1959-1981), Murrow stepped away from television due to the mounting stress from his battles with the network. In 1961, he resigned from CBS to accept President John F. Kennedy's offer to head the United States Information Agency, which oversaw the Voice of America broadcasts and other national public relations efforts. The position granted him considerable access to the Oval Office, where he consulted with Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson on a variety of subjects, most notably the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.<p>However, Murrow's prodigious cigarette habit - he smoked over 60 cigarettes a day and was rarely seen on-air without one in hand - had resulted in lung cancer, which required the removal of his left lung and diminished ability to carry out his task with the Information Agency. He resigned in 1964 and died the following year on April 27. His distinguished career was paid tribute with the creation of the Edward R. Murrow Center of Public Diplomacy at Tufts University and the Edward R. Murrow Communications Center at his alma mater, which later renamed its department of communications as the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. In 1971, the Radio and Television News Directors Association established the Edward R. Murrow Award, which honored outstanding achievement in electronic journalism. Murrow was twice portrayed on screen, first by Daniel J. Travanti in the HBO made-for-cable film "Murrow" (1986) and later by David Strathairn in an Oscar-nominated turn in George Clooney's black-and-white drama "Good Night and Good Luck" (2005). <p><i>By Paul Gaita</i>