Paddy Chayefsky died in 1981 but still remains one of my writing heroes. He’s the only writer to win three solo Oscars. (Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder all shared with co-writers). But my admiration for Chayefsky plummeted after I saw “Network” which he wrote.
“Network” starred William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch and Robert Duval. (Not a bad cast, eh?) It was about a TV network cynically exploiting a deranged TV anchor. (No, not Glenn Beck, who, disgustingly enough, earned a reported $80 million last year. What a country.)
I found “Network” riveting until the story moved to L.A. The shows depicted there were so absurd that the movie lost all believability. But, 37 years later, I owe Paddy an apology. Given reality TV and cable news, he was prophetic.
I’m referring to the colossal coverage of the Jodi Arias murder trial. To those unfamiliar with it consider yourself lucky. I wish I could buy back the hours I’ve wasted with the trial in which Jodi was convicted of first degree murder. She shot her lover, Travis Alexander, once and stabbed him 29 times, including slitting his throat from ear to ear. (Ouch.)
On Wednesday, Jodi’s jury deliberated in the “aggravation phase” of the trial to determine if there was any mitigating circumstances. Frankly, given the time I squandered I’m in my own aggravation phase, thus this column.
After only three hours, the jury concluded that Jodi’s acts were indeed cruel. (Duh.) Frankly, I would think once the number of stabbings hit double digits cruelty is a given. Now the trial centers on if Jodi should get a life sentence or the death penalty. Stay tuned.
What’s remarkable is how the country, including yours truly, has been consumed with Jodi. She’s an intriguing combination of evil and seductive not seen since Glen Close in the 1987 horror/thriller “Fatal Attraction.” And also oddly compelling is Jodi’s unique “talent” for calmly lying through her teeth.
Jodi initially told police she wasn’t in Arizona at the time of the murder. Lie No. 2 was she was there but that two “ninja types,” wearing dark ski masks, had murdered Travis. And lie No. 3 was she killed Travis but it was in self defense. (Which might explain a stabbing but leaves the other 28 in the category of “overkill,” pardon the pun.)
The trial is getting unbelievable ratings. One network, HLN (Headline News) is essentially “all Jodi, all the time.” It’s hour after hour of trashing Jodi, featuring a host who shouts and his or her panel, who also shout.
Sometimes I don’t know who I like less, the self-righteous and sarcastic Nancy Grace who wears eye makeup fitting for professional wrestling or Jodi, a remorseless murderer. For balance I thought I might point out Jodi’s better qualities. (How’s that for a setup?)
For one, she’s a terrific singer; so much so she won the “American Idol Behind Bars,” talent contest for her acapella rendition of “O’, Holy Night. (If you don’t believe me, Google “Jodi Arias wins singing contest.”) For her efforts, Jodi reportedly won a Christmas stocking brimming with goodies as well as a turkey dinner for herself and her cellmates. What a country. Oops, I said that already.
Jodi is also a talented artist. In fact, since her incarceration, she has been selling her artwork online for between $1,500 and $3,000 a pop. (Did you know that while O.J. was in jail during his murder trial he sold $3 million worth of autographs?) In addition, Jodi is very skilled at yoga, as revealed in the bizarre interrogation tape where, when momentarily left alone, she wound up doing a headstand. Quite gracefully I might add.
From all accounts Travis was a great guy. At the time of his death, he was writing a book of lists, tentatively titled, “1,000 Things To Do Before You Die.” Perhaps No. 1 should have been “don’t have sex with a sociopath.” Some have irreverently suggested that he died of a “booty call.” (Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. Or stab him either.)
Speaking of sociopaths, the aforementioned O.J. Simpson is back in a Nevada court. Claiming he had an inadequate defense, he’s seeking to overturn his 2008 robbery and kidnapping convictions and get a new trial. There’s even talk of a Facebook page, “Cut the Juice Loose.” Go figure.
Believe it or not I actually felt sorry for O.J. who, overweight and gray, was manacled for his court appearance. Has there ever been a greater fall from grace?
With Jodi’s trial coming to an end, HLN Network shamelessly “teased” its audience. Reminiscent of a coming attraction at the movies, they announced that coverage of the racially-charged murder trial of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, will begin on June 10. Paddy, I’m so sorry I ever doubted you.
If he isn’t too busy glued to some cheesy cable show, Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.