A mass murder is arranged by a TV news producer to exalt the love of his life, a lady co-anchor, and incriminate her husband.
The setup to this is new management at the station, out of Meet John Doe. All of the red herrings which lead circuitously to the final revelation have great interest and are plotted in such a way that they give rise to several allusions out of Hitchcock (the murder scene resembles the aftermath of the bar killings in Frankenheimer’s Dead Bang).
The anchor, now covering the story, is home at night alone when a masked intruder attacks her. He just escapes being stabbed with a pair of scissors she uses to clip press coverage of the case for her notes, out of Dial M for Murder.
In the newspaper morgue. she follows a lead by scrolling up her husband’s Vietnam involvement with a massacre investigation (Shadow of a Doubt). He is now a history professor up for dean or head of the department, a girl student of his was among the victims at The Blue Mood Lounge. A neo-Nazi group, the Shadow Crawlers, is implicated.
The anchor’s ex-husband, an LAPD detective, gives her a pistol, with which she almost shoots a fan seeking an autograph. She’s on the wagon, and is about to fall off with a bottle of vodka in her car when it spills and she crashes, etc.
Metzger’s complete satire is perfect, down to the weird gesticulations of the weather man in front of his blank screen, who always signs off, “I’m Harvey Fine, and I hope you are, too.” A keen girl succeeds him, perched in a short skirt on the producer’s desk next to the cartons of Chinese food as he tries to eat lunch.
A Jury of One
From the Files of Joseph Wambaugh
The almost preternatural realism of this is in marked contrast to television practice at the time and since. It is most instructive to compare John Spencer’s performance with his work on The West Wing, there a heap of sterile gesticulations, here a vital drama.
The point being that here you have evidence of a professionalism only belied as a matter of policy by an amateurism whose underlying “critical theory” amounts to nothing more than eating cockroaches in prime time, literally.
Take My Advice
The Ann and Abby Story
The predicament is that writing a biography you get a picture of the times, so instead Metzger devises a cinematic evaluation of the time in sets, costumes, manners and modes quite independently, for its own sake, without any seeming constructive intent. You see it a hundred times, culminating in the perfect housewife at her doorstep tending with a smile of artistry her children and husband.
The daughter is a prig, it’s a nuance. “That’s cute,” says the editor. “No, that’s wit,” replies the columnist.
This requires something more than skill, which might have been the whole shebang in another instance. The production and the script are kept just ahead of the cast, who always find them welcoming in a familiar sort of way, surprising at the same time.
There’s always some comment of history, a husband founds Budget Car Rental, the column begins on the inside pages while Eisenhower addresses Congress about Western Bloc security in a banner headline, one is a Democrat, McCarthy, Vietnam... “The honor was entirely ours,” one says on leaving an audience with the Pope.
In a serious, practical way—as a matter of day-to-day concern on the set and in the writer’s study—all this preparation and device leads the story back to Ann and Abby in themselves (one draws up a Contact List, starting with Dr. Spock and the Bishop), resolving the predicament.