10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, April 10, 1998
Two Gen-X books slack off'
Courtesy of Universal
Tom Hanks, pictured here spacing out with Kevin Bacon in "Apollo 13," is generating controversy for the HBO miniseries he
produced, "From the Earth to the Moon," a 12-part account of NASA's Apollo missions.
Netw-ork ee wa t
HOLLYWOOD - Even before its
launch last Sunday, Home Box Office's
splashy docudrama "From the Earth to
the Moon" was generating Earth-bound
controversy regarding its classification
for the nighttime Emmy Awards.
Specifically, top executives at
NBC, CBS, ABC and the USA cable
network have written the Academy of
Television Arts & Sciences, the body
that governs the Emmys, vehemently
objecting to the 12-hour production
being entered as a candidate for out-
Also taking part in the campaign is
Robert Halmi Sr., the producer of
several major miniseries, including
last year's Emmy winner, "The
Odyssey," as well as USA's recent
"Moby Dick," starring Patrick
Stewart, and NBC's upcoming
"Merlin," with Sam Neill.
"I find it outrageous that HBO is able
to call this series a miniseries" said
USA Networks President Rod Perth.
"They are in direct violation of Emmy
Halmi and representatives at the
other networks declined comment,
but a source said the consensus
among them is that this represents
another case of HBO "manipulating"
the Emmy process, having used its
success garnering awards as a market-
ing tool for the pay channel.
Under Emmy guidelines, the net-
-works contend that "From the Earth
to the Moon" qualifies as a series, not
a miniseries, because it features dif-
ferent directors on each episode and
chronicles various stories from the
space program in a less linear fashion
than is the norm on miniseries.
The program's chances of winning
would doubtless diminish in the series
category, which features more formi-
dable competition, including such
programs as "ER," "NYPD Blue,"
"The X-Files" and "Law & Order."
A spokesperson for the television
academy said it was premature to dis-
cuss the matter because "From the
Earth to the Moon" has yet to be for-
mally submitted for Emmy considera-
tion, with April 24 as the entry dead-
line. But, sources say there has
already been considerable discussion
within the organization about how to
handle the situation.
In addition, HBO confirmed that
the network's intention is to submit
the program for consideration as a
miniseries. "For anyone who has read
the rules, it is obvious that 'From the
Earth to the Moon' qualifies as a
miniseries. To suggest otherwise is
ludicrous," a network spokesperson
The spat highlights a larger issue
- what one network executive
described as "real displeasure" with
the academy regarding award poli-
cies. Some network officials, in fact,
have pressed for the academy to
establish a separate category for cable
movies, noting that HBO, as a sub-
scription service, doesn't rely on
advertising and generally spends far
more than broadcasters to produce
and promote its films. HBO films
have won the Emmy for best movie
five consecutive years.
HBO officials have countered in
the past by pointing out that higher
budgets provide no assurance of qual-
ity, and that network owners Disney
(ABC), General Electric (NBC),
News Corp. (Fox) and Westinghouse
(CBS) clearly have the resources to
compete with the Time Warner-owned
channel. Halmi and NBC, for exam-
ple, spent nearly $30 million on their
four-hour "The Odyssey," and at least
as much has gone into "Merlin."
The priorities are different at H BO,
however, whose prestige projects -
including Emmy-nominated comedy
"The Larry Sanders Show" and movies
such as "Miss Evers' Boys,' "Don
King: Only in America" and the abor-
tion-themed "If These Walls Could
Talk" - draw attention to the service,
which is half the battle in helping con-
vince people they should subscribe.
The next Emmys will be presented
in September and televised on NBC,
in the final year of an agreement in
which the show has rotated among the
four major networks. Emmy nomina-
tions will be announced in July.
Despite their complaints, the net-
works continue selling commercial
time to HBO, including recent nation-
al or local ads for "From the Earth to
the Moon" that aired during the
Academy Awards and coverage of the
NCAA basketball championship.
Sources say HBO has spent from $8
million to $10 million promoting and
advertising the project.
The Siege of Gresham
The world only needs one Thomas Pynchon, a writer
who brilliantly manages to balance modern-day cynicism,
decay, commercialism in some of this half century's best
writing. But Ray Murphy, in his new book, "The Siege of
Gresham," seems to think we need two.
"Many were lost," Murphy declares about the state of
society in his opening chapter, preaching to his readers
in an abusive, post-apocalyptic style mastered by movies
"Blade Runner" and. writers like William Burroughs.
Murphy picks 14 alcoholic anti-heroes, whose meaning-
less, boredom-drenched lives are painfully similar to
Pynchon's "whole sick crew" in his novel "V"
Similarities aside, Murphy's plot is impotent com-
pared to the intricate plots of Pynchon's novels. This
group decides after a few drinks too many to embark
on a war against Portland's suburb of Gresham.
Gresham is a false Eden embodying consumer cul-
ture's cookie-cutter excesses and the middle class'
rejection of the 14 friends. And all too typically, their
quest ends in postmodern anti-climax, reminding the
reader once again that life is strange and everything is
This quest pits them against an array of stereotypical
villains of modern day drudgery: skinheads,
bureaucratic post-office workers and
gang-members. These confrontations
are punctuated by supposedly uncon-
sciously spoken bits of apocalyptic wis-
dom reminding the reader of all the little
problems of modern life.
Murphy abandons characterization for
flat, theme-pointing lines like "'Why can't I
even say what I mean half the time,' said Debbie
querulously" Murphy struggles to evoke immedi
acy and confusion with disjointed diction and hor-
rible punctuation abuse -techniques that only suc-
ceed in producing frustrating lines.
Without a solid character base, Murphy resorts to
revealing his themes through the strange, dictionary-
aided cynicism of his supposedly muddled narrator: "I
experienced a sense of renewal coexistive with a rising
dread." Along with his uninteresting characters, Murphy
lets incoherent violence remind the reader again how
desensitized and purposeless modern audiences are.
"Sex and violence never appeared so vital," the book's
cover cheers, hoping to herald the work as revitalized
Finally, his barely concealed themes remind one of an
apocalyptic TV evangelist who just won't stop reminding
us about the horrible state of the world. "Siege" is self-
consciously obscene, reducing Murphy's message to such
trite, garbled phrases as "I realized now, viscerally, that the
great conviction of my adulthood was that I stood on
ethics shortly to be resolved as severely flawed, blinded,
With all of its problems, Murphy's book is a
reminder, at best, of two things: Yes, the world is a dark
place with little meaning, but there are vastly better
ways of dealing with the crisis of the MTV generation
Are you sick of stupid "information superhighway"
jokes? You will be. And the author who will bring it to
you? Bruce Bethke.
Bruce Bethke's newest novel, "H eaderash," is a humor-
ous look at the cyberpunk genre, but the book does not
stay true to its satirical intentions. Somewhere around the
middle of the novel, the plot takes over and all satirical
pretensions fall away exposing the book as a cheap and
unoriginal clone of better cyberpunk works.
The protagonist, Jack Burroughs, is by day a drone at an
enormous computer company and by night hacker extmor-
dinaire Max Kool Jack spends his time playing Doom-
esque virtual reality games in his office and slumming with
his best friend, Joe LeMat, aka Gunnar Savage, on the
Internet. Here is where the awful "information superhigh-
way" jokes come in. The Internet is depicted, when Bethke
observes its virtual representation, as a large highway. The
larger the bandwidth, the more lanes on the highway.
The plot, such as it is, is a warmed over rehash of every
bad detective cliche in the book. The swell-looking dame,
the shady underground figures, the plot twists that no one
but the narrator can follow. However, the book has a few
saving graces. In attempting to replicate textually the form
of hypertext, Bethke uses sidebars very simi-
lar to Coupland's "Generation X."
"Headerash" begins with Jack being
fired from his job, abused by a pack of
street-toughs in varsity jackets and
being contacted by the swell-looking
babe, Amber. After a gratuitous sex
scene or two, Amber explains
that she has been ripped off by
a John Grisham/John Clancy
type novelist' and wants the
money he owes her. After a
few more gratuitous sex
scenes, she hires Jack and Joe. The novel is
full of seemingly beautiful women who throw themselves
at Jack. His co-workers, on-line ex-girlfriends and mys-
tery women all desire Jack, for no discernible reason.
Every woman in the novel, except, thank God, for Jack's
Mom and Joe's girlfriend, try to get into Jack's pants.
The real kick comes when Jack becomes an Internet
super-user, more specifically, how he becomes a super-
user. Jack receives a buttplug that allows him to become a
super-user and therefore a superhero. Unfortunately, his
enhanced senses are glossed over too soon and the reader
is left wanting more. From this point on, the novel gives
itself over to mechanically drawing out the plot and insert-
ing twists that can be seen a mile off.
The novel is rife with puns. From the aforementioned
visual highway pun to a couple dozen plays off of the
word "cyberpunk, including a group of teenage
Afghanistani punks called "Khyberpunks."
The original cyberpunk book, "Neuromancer," had
carved out an interesting new niche in the science fiction
canon and paved the way for more authors to experiment
and create. No new ideas were fed into the genre and it
withered on the vine. "Headcrash," is the obvious result:
cliched, confusing and predictable.
- Morgan Johnson
.. ' "
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