Pop Culture At-a-Glance
Having a hard time making your picks? We've got you covered. Here's some information to help you decide which Pop Culture topics should go on to the next round.
9 to 5 (1980): In this workforce farce, three female employees—Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda), Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin) and Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton) have had it up to here—and maybe above "here"—with their chauvinistic boss Franklin M. Hart Jr. (Dabney Coleman), so they fantasize about ways to exact their revenge. When a mix-up has the women thinking they poisoned Hart's coffee, they wind up kidnapping their boss and running the company themselves. The movie was a real eye-opener in terms equality for women in the workplace. The film was later made into a Broadway play.
Violet Newstead—"OK, OK, I'm gonna leave, but I'm gonna tell you one thing before I go: Don't you ever refer to me as 'your girl' again."
Up in the Air (2009): Released at the end of what economists tell us was the tail end of the Great Recession, Up in the Air stars George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a man who makes a living as a corporate downsizer. Who wouldn't want that on their business card? Basically Bingham's job is to do the dirty work—i.e., firing—so others don't have to. But it gets better when Bingham is called back to his company's office and introduced to a new hire, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) who has a better idea—instead of breaking the news to people face-to-face, why not do it via videoconferencing? At least she didn't introduce ejector seats into the equation! The movie, directed by Jason Reitman, is based on the 2001 novel of the same name.
Ryan Bingham: [voiceover, reading a letter sent to a hiring manager interviewing Natalie] "To whom it may concern: I can't begin to count the number of people I've fired in my lifetime. So many that I've forgotten what it's like to actually hire someone. We've never met, but I know you'd be lucky to have Natalie Keener. My advice? Take her and don't look back. She'll be the best decision you've made in a long time."
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77): Yes, there's something about Mary. Moore plays the affable, smiling, hat tossing and "gonna make it after all" associate producer Mary Richards, a single career-minded woman in this groundbreaking, iconic, long-running comedy series, which also starred Ed Asner as gruff news director Lou Grant and Ted Knight as vain news anchor Ted Baxter. While the show was a hilarious look at the dynamics of a newsroom and its eccentric staff, The Mary Tyler Moore Show also confronted more serious topics such as: equal pay for women, premarital sex and homosexuality. One of the most talked-about episodes was "Chuckles Bites the Dust" about the ironic death of a clown—trampled by an elephant while dressed as a peanut—which TV Guide called the Greatest TV Episode of All Time. In the episode, the staff can't keep from cracking jokes to Richards' dismay. Of course at the funeral she loses her composure and can't stop laughing, which appalls the rest of the staff. The show spurred three spinoffs: Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou Grant.
Mary Richards: "Mr. Grant? Could I say what I wanted to say now? Please?"
Lou Grant: "OK, Mary."
Mary Richards: "Well I just wanted to let you know that sometimes I get concerned about being a career woman. I get to thinking that my job is too important to me. And I tell myself that the people I work with are just the people I work with. But last night I thought what is family anyway? It's the people who make you feel less alone and really loved.
[she sobs] And that's what you've done for me. Thank you for beginning my family."
Mad Men (2007-): Smoking, drinking and debauchery in the workplace? Absolutely! In this period piece set in the 1960s in a New York ad agency, this Emmy Award-winning AMC series stars Jon Hamm as Don Draper, a creative director at the Sterling Cooper agency. In later episodes he becomes a founding partner of Sterling Cooper Drapery Pryce. The series focuses on Draper's life in and out of the office space, although the people in the office know very little about Draper's past. In fact, the name Draper is an alias. Mad Men has stirred up some controversy, especially when it comes to issues it tackles on the show, including racism, anti-Semitism and sexism. The show does feature Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss) as an eager woman looking to move up the corporate ladder, but juxtaposing that character, it also focuses on Betty Draper (January Jones), who is a glamorous housewife. Of course, Betty's marriage to Don doesn't survive his adulterous ways.
Don Draper: "If Greta's research was any good I would have used it."
Pete Campbell (Vincent Katheiser): "What are you talking about?"
Don Draper: "I'm saying I had a report just like that. And it's not like there's some magic machine that makes identical copies of things."
The Office (U.S. version) (2005-): Regional manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell) is now gone from the show, but The Office continues to amuse millions of fans each week. Based on a British show with the same name, the sitcom is a mockumentary-style production that follows the often-eccentric characters who work at a paper-supply company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Tops on that eccentric list is Scott, who plays a clueless and often inappropriate boss, and Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), an oddball salesman who takes himself very seriously and covets Scott's approval. Schrute also sees himself as the No. 2 person in the office—although everyone else sees him as nothing more than an oddball. One of his co-workers, Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) is famous for playing practical jokes on Dwight, including the time Jim locked Dwight in the conference room after he claimed it as his workspace.
Dwight Schrute: "Your pencils are creating a health hazard. I could fall and pierce an organ."
The Devil Wears Prada (2006): Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway star in this movie adaptation of the novel bearing the same name. It's a classic story, really. A young wide-eyed worker lands a seemingly awesome job that she hopes will propel her to a future career in journalism, only to have that dream squashed under the foot of a red stiletto heel. Andy Sachs (Hathaway) is that young worker who lands a job working as an assistant of Miranda Priestly (Streep) who is a high-powered editor of a fashion magazine. Priestly, as the movie's title suggests, is the boss from hell. She is a condescending manager who doesn't quite get the concept that the working day doesn't last all day, and she often asks Sachs to accomplish impossible task.
Miranda Priestly: "I need the new Harry Potter book for the twins."
Andy Sachs: "OK. OK. I'll go down to Barnes & Noble right now."
Miranda Priestly: [rolling her eyes] "Did you fall down and smack your little head on the pavement?"
Andy Sachs: "Not that I can recall."
Miranda Priestly: "We have all the published Harry Potter books. The twins want to know what happens next."
Andy Sachs: "You want the unpublished manuscript."
Miranda Priestly: "Well, we know everyone in publishing, so it shouldn't be a problem should it? And you can do anything. Right?"
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992): You want a cup of coffee? Sorry, "coffee is for closers." With an all-star cast that includes Al Pacino as saleman Ricky Roma, Jack Lemmon as salesman Shelley "The Machine" Levene, Kevin Spacey as the heartless and despised—but needed as he dishes out the sales leads—office manager John Williamson, and Alec Baldwin as Blake, who comes in to be a, um, motivational speaker for the office, Glengarry Glen Ross is the juicy story of an office place that's in a major slump. To help sell more properties, Blake is brought in to motivate the troops. Obviously disgusted by what he sees, he lays into Levene with the famous "coffee is for closers" line when he goes for a cup of java during Blake's harangue, and then announces a simple addendum to the monthly sales contest: The best salesman gets a new Cadillac, the second-best seller gets a set of steak knives and the loser gets a one-way trip to the unemployment line. This intense flick shows what working in a hostile working environment is all about.
Dave Moss (Ed Harris): "We don't gotta sit here and listen to this."
Blake: "You certainly don't pal, 'cause the good news is—you're fired."
Broadcast News (1987): Although Broadcast News was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Film and Best Actor and Actress, this '80s gem somehow came up empty on Oscar night. This film about a television network stars William Hurt as face man/anchor Tom Grunick, Holly Hunter as Jane Craig a smart, talented producer, and Albert Brooks as Aaron Altman, a great writer and reporter who doesn't have that anchorman look. The story revolves around the newsroom and the love triangle between Craig who is attracted to Grunick and vice versa, although he's intimidated by her smarts, and Altman who is secretly crushing on Craig. Nothing like an office crush to bring out an uncomfortable working environment.
Aaron Altman: "I know you care about him. I've never seen you like this about anyone, so please don't take it wrong when I tell you that I believe that Tom, while a very nice guy, is the Devil."
Jane Craig: "This isn't friendship."
Aaron Altman: "What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semiserious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing... he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance. ... Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he'll get all the great women."
The Apprentice (2004-): Ever wonder what it would be like to work for The Donald? Or what it would be like to be that close to that hair? Well, you're not alone. Dozens of people have signed up for and thousands of people have wanted the opportunity to become Donald Trump's "apprentice" in this long-running reality show. In each episode, two people are chosen as project manager, and they are asked to lead their team to victory in a certain task by making the most money in a head-to-head competition by peddling products for various companies and developing marketing campaigns to sell, sell, sell. In the boardroom, Trump along with two other executives—which sometimes includes his son Donald Trump Jr. and daughter Ivanka Trump—grill candidates on their projects and often the contestants lay into each other as well to gain Trump's approval. In most episodes, Trump gets to utter his now-famous line, "You're fired" to one of the candidates. The winner of the show gets a job working for Mr. Trump, as he prefers to be called; the first winner of the show was Bill Rancic. More recently, the show has morphed into The Celebrity Apprentice, which pits A- and B- and sometimes C-listers head to head to see who gets to win cash for his or her charity.
Donald Trump: "That's a big stretch."
Sam Solovey (Contestant): "No, it's not a big stretch for me, Mr. Trump, because I learn fast, I learn—"
Donald Trump: "You don't believe in the genetic pool?"
Sam Solovey: "Excuse me?"
Donald Trump: "That what you have, you have?"
Sam Solovey: "I've got genetic pool big time, Mr. Trump."
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949): George Orwell's classic novel introduced the world to the Thought Police, "doublethink" (a term meaning the simultaneous acceptance of two contradictory beliefs) and, of course, Big Brother, an omnipresent, mustachioed ruler who may or may not be real and who is always watching people, including employees at their workstations. Creepy! In this dystopian novel that takes place in, um, oh, right, 1984 following a global atomic war, the main character, Winston Smith, works as an editor in the Minitrue RecDep also known as the Ministry of Truth. His job is to revise historical records and delete the existence of "unpersons," those unfortunate folks who get vaporized. One of Smith's former colleagues, Ampleforth, is jailed for leaving the word "God" in a Rudyard Kipling poem.
"They were born, they grew up in the gutters, they went to work at 12, they passed through a brief blossoming period of beauty and sexual desire, they married at 20, they were middle-aged at 30, they died, for the most part, at 60. Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer, and, above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds."
Silkwood (1983): Nobody ever said it's easy being a whistle-blower. The Karen Silkwood story is an extremely disturbing tale based on a true story that occurred in the early 1970s. Starring Meryl Streep as Silkwood, the film details the life of a union worker in a plutonium plant in Oklahoma who works long hours in an unsafe environment. Finally Silkwood decides to investigate and expose those safety violations, but her sleuthing may or may not have led to her being intentionally exposed to plutonium. The film ends with Silkwood's death in a suspicious car accident at the age of 28. In real life, Silkwood's family settled a willful-negligence lawsuit with the Kerr-McGee Corp. for more than $1 million, but the company admitted no guilt.
The film also stars Kurt Russell as Drew Stephens, Silkwood's boyfriend, and Cher as Dolly Pelliker Silkwood's lesbian friend.
Karen Silkwood: "You think I contaminated myself, you think I did that?"
Mace Hurley (Bruce McGill): "I think you'd do just about anything to shut down this plant."
30 Rock (2006-): Tina Fey's creation is based, at least partly, on her experience when she was writing at Saturday Night Live. This multiaward-winning TV show takes viewers behind the scenes of a fictional comedy show. Fey stars as Liz Lemon who is the head writer of the TGS With Tracy Jordan show. 30 Rock also stars Tracy Morgan as the volatile Jordan and Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, the over-the-top, often insulting network boss. Lemon's constant struggle is balancing her work life with her personal life—not an easy task.
Jack: "I'm not a creative type like you, with your work sneakers and left-handedness."
Lou Grant (1977-82): A spinoff of the classic sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show, this series took a dramatic twist—literally. Instead of keeping with the comedic theme of its progenitor, Lou Grant instead was a serious drama. The series focuses on Lou Grant (Ed Asner), who is a city editor at the fictitious Los Angeles Tribune, and his interaction with the reporters and other staff members, including the managing editor, Charlie Hume (Mason Adams). In the show, Lou moved to Los Angeles after everyone on The Mary Tyler Moore Show got fired. He would often clash with staff, including in the episode "Henhouse" where Lou butts heads with the head of the women's section of the newspaper over whose reporter should cover a murder.
Lou Grant: "Well, I haven't gotten the memo yet, but any way that we can be protected from the nuts who call the city room would be great."
Nancy Pynchon (Nancy Marchand): "That's not what the memo says. I asked you to be courteous to the nuts who call the city room."
Murphy Brown (1988-98): The eponymous main character in Murphy Brown played by Candice Bergen is one of the guys in this long-running comedy series. A recovering alcoholic, Brown is a television journalist with a 'tood working for the FYI News Network, but she's also very talented and a heavyweight in the broadcasting field. Brown isn't afraid to pose the big questions to sources, even when her much younger boss tells her not to. For instance, in the pilot her boss lands her an interview with the person every news station is dying to get on the air, but on one condition—Brown can't ask him "the question." Of course, that's not in Murphy's nature so she opens the interview with the big question about whether the source had an affair with the woman running for vice president. Murphy Brown is noteworthy for focusing on a strong woman in the workplace who clearly is the leader of the outfit. The show got a big boost in 1992 when then-Vice President Dan Quayle mentioned the show and criticized its portrayal of an unwed mother (Murphy) in a speech—and, of course, Brown responded in a special 60-minute episode that kicked off the 1992-93 season.
[After learning that Murphy is pregnant]
Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough): "Murphy, do you need any money?"
Murphy: "Jim, I make as much as you do."
Jim: "Good God, Miles, is that true?"
Dilbert (1989-): Perhaps Dilbert's office is not the typical office—or at least we hope it's not—but this long-running comic strip has entertained readers for decades. The strip makes fun of the modern-day workplace. It also briefly made an appearance on the small screen. Dilbert is written and drawn by Scott Adams. In it, Dilbert is a geekified character with big glasses (and seemingly no eyes—or mouth for that matter) and a tie that seems to defy the laws of physics. He is an engineer who often comes up with let's say bizarro inventions, such as a drug that "switches off the brain's ability to make rational decisions" and an invention that his company wants to "turn into a death ray." Dilbert's trusty, er megalomaniac, pooch is named Dogbert who dreams of conquering the world. He also operates without the benefit of eyeballs or a mouth—but, yes, he does talk. Dilbert's boss is a pointy-haired dude with no name, but in an office who can remember a name …? He is a bumbling micromanager and not the greatest strategist of all time. One of Dilbert's co-workers is Wally, who does everything in his power to get out of doing work and is always on the lookout for a way to work on working the system.
Dilbert: "It looks like I'll be exaggerating my accomplishments again this year."
ER (1994-2009): The show that made George Clooney a household name with his do-things-my-way, womanizing Dr. Doug Ross character, ER graced the airwaves for 15 seasons. In that time the show covered numerous workplace-related topics, starting with the very first episode "24 Hours," which dealt with overworked residents. It also featured such sensational storylines with doctors getting sick themselves—e.g., Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) who later in the show develops and then dies from brain cancer—and even stabbed, such as when Dr. John Carter (Noah Wyle) and medical student Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) were attacked by a patient. Carter survived; Knight did not. But often the most interesting part of the show was the interaction between the doctors, nurses and executives in the Chicago-based emergency room. The staff often worked under impossible conditions in an ER that saw much more than its fair share of tragedy over the years. And some of the more interesting storylines revolved around a doctor or nurse, for instance, disobeying a superior in order to help a patient. ER was also known for occasionally employing creative formats for episodes, including the time in 1997 when the show was performed live—twice (once for the East Coast and then again for the West Coast).
Patient: "It's all ending today! Today is the last day!'
Dr. John Carter: "Oh, great, I have to work. I'm always working when the world ends."
Seinfeld (1989-98): A late-night syndication staple for many years now, the Seinfeld juggernaut continues. It has made roughly $3 billion since it went off the air. While the show about nothing is really something to behold, and while much of the show is about the failed relationships between Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and George Costanza (Jason Alexander), there is definitely a workforce angle as well. For instance, Jerry is a stand-up comic who isn't in the traditional workforce, but George is often portrayed as either unemployed and living with his parents or a big-time executive with the New York Yankees. In one episode, George locks his keys in his car, but the miscue inadvertently impresses his boss, Matt Wilhelm (Richard Herd), and Yankee owner George Steinbrenner (Larry David, voice; and Lee Bear actor) as they think George is coming in early and staying late. Of course, hilarity ensues when the car gets dirty. And who can forget Elaine's boss, the dense J. Peterman (John O'Hurley), who is constantly unintentionally bragging about his world travels and once fired Elaine because she failed a drug test after eating a poppy-seed muffin. Then there's Jerry's outlandish neighbor Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) who never works. However, in one episode he learns that the strike he's been on against H&H Bagels has ended after 12 years, but he is the only person who remained on strike the entire time and is ready to return to work. But when Kramer asks for and is denied a vacation day to celebrate the made-up holiday Festivus, he goes back on strike.
Cushman (Paul Gleason): "I gotta tell you, you are the complete opposite of every applicant we've seen. Mr. Steinbrenner, sir. There's someone here I'd like you to meet. This is Mr. Costanza. He is one of the applicants."
George Steinbrenner: "Nice to meet you."
George Costanza: "Well, I wish I could say the same, but I must say, with all due respect, I find it very hard to see the logic behind some of the moves you have made with this fine organization. In the past 20 years, you have caused myself and the city of New York a good deal of distress as we have watched you take our beloved Yankees and reduced them to a laughing stock, all for the glorification of your massive ego."
George Steinbrenner: "Hire this man!"
Wall Street (1987): Wall Street for lack of a better word, is good. Wall Street is right; Wall Street works. With that, we're sure you've all picked up on the play on Gordon Gekko's (Michael Douglas) famous "greed is good speech." This prophetic movie that also stars a young Charlie Sheen as Gekko mentee Bud Fox shows what happens in business when you cut corners to make a buck, or $18 billion as some former investment adviser made in a Ponzi scheme for the ages. What was his name again? But we digress. The bottom line here is corporate greed ain't a good thing, and unethical practices will come back to haunt you. Bud changes his make-money-at-all-costs tune, however, when Gekko targets Bluestar Airlines, where Bud's father (played by Sheen's real-life dad, Martin Sheen) has worked for decades. Gekko's plan is to break up the company and plunder the employee retirement fund. In 2010, a sequel, also directed by Oliver Stone, was made starring Douglas and Shia LaBeouf, but critics gave it mixed reviews and it didn't captivate the way the first film did.
Gordon Gekko: "Lunch is for wimps."
All in the Family (1968-79): Starring Carroll O'Connor as America's "lovable bigot" Archie Bunker, this groundbreaking series details the life of a blue-collar worker who is absurdly prejudiced against just about every other race, religion or sexual orientation you can name and how he interacts with his family, including his liberal, often unemployed son-in-law, Mike (Rob Reiner). In one early episode, titled "Archie Is Worried About His Job," Bunker can't sleep waiting for a phone call to find out if he's going to be laid off from his company. In fact, the whole family stays up with him to wait by the phone. Luckily for the family, the foreman (Bunker) does not get laid off. In another episode called "The Insurance Is Cancelled," Bunker must decide whether to lay off one of two minority workers or a white worker, which Bunker struggles with—even though the white worker is clearly the inferior employee of the three candidates.
Mike Stivic: "In today's society, people throw things out because they don't work."
Archie Bunker: "Well you don't work, maybe we should throw you out."
Grey's Anatomy (2005-): No one ever said medical training was easy. Grey's Anatomy follows the lives of a group of medical interns and residents as they take on the growing pains involved with becoming a doctor. The show's title comes from the main character, Meredith Grey, but it is also a play on the name Henry Gray who in the 1800s wrote the human anatomy book later known as Gray's Anatomy. Grey's Anatomy, the series—come on, keep up—takes place in a fictional hospital in Seattle. In one early episode titled "Shake Your Groove Thing," Grey doses off during surgery and makes a serious mistake that could get her fired—not to mention cause great harm to the patient. Besides the drama in the hospital, there's quite a bit of drama outside as well with women all over the country debating who's the bigger catch McDreamy (Dr. Derek Shepherd played by Patrick Dempsey) or McSteamy (Dr. Mark Sloan played by Eric Dane). The show has also launched the spinoff drama Private Practice as well as the career of A-lister Katherine Heigl, who left the show a couple of years ago but has hinted she wants to come back to "wrap up the storyline."
Dr. Meredith Grey: "I can't think of a single reason why I should be a surgeon, but I can think of a thousand reasons why I should quit. They make it hard on purpose ... there are lives in our hands. There comes a moment when it's more than just a game, and you either take that step forward or turn around and walk away. I could quit but here's the thing, I love the playing field."
Modern Times (1936): Exit the Little Tramp. Charlie Chaplin plays his signature character one last time (excluding one of the roles Chaplin plays in The Great Dictator where his Jewish barber character at least resembles the Little Tramp) in this memorable comedy about working in a factory and the dealings between labor and management. It also is the first and only time the Tramp's voice is heard in a film when he sings the nonsensical song Je Chereche Apres Titine after he loses his shirt cuff where he had written out the "real" lyrics. The film is famous for its scenes in the factory, especially when the Tramp literally becomes a cog in the machine when he gets rolled through the gears of a large piece of equipment and when management wants to test out an automatic eating machine on the Tramp to see if it would speed up lunch breaks.
Watch Chaplin perform the song here:
Take This Job and Shove It (1977): Written by David Allan Coe but made famous by country singer Johnny Paycheck—apropos name for the singer, don't you think?—this song is about as straightforward as it gets. There's no reading into or interpreting these lyrics. The man's wife/girlfriend left him, and he wants out of his gig. Right now. Apparently, he needed the job to support his significant other, but now that she's gone, all bets are off. For anyone caught in a dead-end job and is ready to move on, this song pretty much spells things out for you. Of course, it appears the protagonist in the tune wants to quit, but, well, doesn't have "the guts to say …"
Norma Rae (1979): Sally Field won an Academy Award for Best Actress playing Norma Rae, a Southern cotton mill worker making minimum wage while doing her duties under deplorable working conditions. After hearing a speech about unionizing, Rae takes it upon herself to organize one at the mill. Of course, management doesn't want to have anything to do with it. The movie also shows the toll forming a union has on Rae's marriage to Sonny (Beau Bridges).
Norma Rae: "Forget it! I'm stayin' right where I am. It's gonna take you and the police department and the fire department and the National Guard to get me outta here!"
The Apartment (1960): So how do you get ahead in corporate America? For C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemon), it's his apartment. In this Billy Wilder comedy, which came out on the heels of Wilder's most well-known film Some Like It Hot, Baxter, who works for an insurance company, decides to allow some of the higher-ups in the office to use his humble abode for trysts. Baxter eventually gets promoted, but the over-the-top recommendations he received from the managers raises the suspicions of the personnel director, Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), but he does not challenge the promotion in the end. To celebrate his good fortune, Baxter decides to ask the elevator operator, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) out on a date. What Baxter does not know is that Kubelik is having an affair with Sheldrake. How long can Baxter continue to offer his pad up? And how long can he continue to work at such a company? Watch it and find out. The Apartment won five Academy Awards including Best Picture.
Fran Kubelik: "Just because I wear a uniform doesn't make me a girl scout."
Office Space (1999): Office Space is a cult classic that looks at the modern office. It's the story of Peter Gibbons (Ron Livington) a disgruntled programmer and his office cohorts who hate their jobs and have to deal with condescending bosses. After two of Gibbon's friends are downsized, they decide to get their revenge on the company by installing a virus on the company's accounting system that diverts funds into a bank account they control. Of course, the plan to take small amounts of money backfires when a missed decimal point in the program nets the conspirators $300,000 instead. The film also co-stars Jennifer Anniston, who plays Joanna, a waitress who later becomes Gibbons' girlfriend in the film.
Lawrence (Diedrich Bader): "We still goin' fishin' this weekend?"
Peter Gibbons: "Nah, Lumbergh's gonna have me come in on Saturday, I just know it."
Lawrence: "Well, you can get out of that easily."
Peter Gibbons: "Yeah? How?"
Lawrence: "Well, when a boss wants you to work on Saturday, he generally asks you at the end of the day, right?"
Peter Gibbons: "Yeah."
Lawrence: "So, all you gotta do is avoid him ... on the last few hours on Friday, duck out early, turn off your answering machine ... you should be home free, man."
Peter Gibbons: "That's a really good idea."
Metropolis (1927): This futuristic dystopian film, which predates the book Ninety Eighty-Four by 22 years, is reportedly the most expensive silent film ever made. The German movie, directed by Fritz Lang, tells the tale of Freder Fredersen (Gustav Fröhlich) who stumbles upon an underground world of exploited workers who use machinery to keep the Utopian above-surface world going. In one scene, Fredersen witnesses workers killed in an accident, and imagines the workers are being sacrificed to a deity named Moloch. Not so subtle, eh? In the movie, there are two types of people: the thinkers who make the plans—including Fredersen's father, John Fredersen (Alfred Abel), who runs the city autocratically—but are clueless when it comes to how things work, and the workers who achieve the goals but are lacking in the vision department. In the movie, Brigitte Helm plays a number of roles, including Maria, Fredersen's love interest who is also the workers' moral leader, as well as the "Machine Man," a humanlike robot who is given Maria's face in an effort to deceive the workers into destroying the machines. The film was cut after its premiere and much of the original footage was lost, but a longer version of the movie was found a few years ago in Argentina, and the picture has been restored with 30 minutes of extra footage.
Law & Order (1990-2010): Ripped from the headlines, this legal drama juggernaut that mixes detective work with jurisprudence produced a whopping 456 episodes. And while the original Law & Order is now off the air, one of its spinoffs still remains in Law & Order Special Victims Unit. In all, the show produced five spinoffs including SVU. While most crime shows either focus on the police going after the criminals or the defendant's day in court, this show does both—although instead of focusing on the defense, it zeroes in on the prosecution's case. The working relationship between the police department and the New York district attorney's office tends to be simpatico. In the first half of most episodes, the senior and junior detective investigate the crime and report to their commanding officer, and then the second half of the show has the prosecution from the DA's office trying to put the accused behind bars. Over the years the show had many different stars and interesting characters, but some of the most notable are: Sr. Det. Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach), Sr. Det. Mike Logan (Chris Noth), Jr. and later Sr. Det. Ed Green (Jesse L. Matin), Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) and executive assistant district attorney Jack McCoy (Sam Waterson).
Det. Lennie Briscoe: "Even though you are a taxpayer, you know, we don't actually work for you personally."
Philadelphia (1993): If you have Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington acting in the same motion picture, we're gonna go out on a limb here and say it's gonna be a great film. And Philadelphia definitely lives up to those two Academy Award winners' high standards. While HIV/AIDS doesn't get the attention it used to, back in the early '90s, it was still a huge topic. The film portrays Hanks as Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer who is HIV positive. While Beckett does not publicize his condition, he is fired shortly after the firm finds out he has AIDS. Convinced he was fired because of his sexual orientation and his condition, he searches for a lawyer to take his case. He finally turns to one of his former legal adversaries, Joe Miller (Washington), who turns out to be homophobic and worried that he might have contracted AIDS via a handshake. Miller does not take the case. Later in the film, Miller changes his mind and accepts the case and takes it to court and wins a $4.5 million verdict.
Joe Miller: "The Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against otherwise qualified handicapped persons who are able to perform the duties required by their employment. Although the ruling did not address the specific issue of HIV and AIDS discrimination ..."
Andrew Beckett: "Subsequent decisions have held that AIDS is protected as a handicap under law, not only because of the physical limitations it imposes, but because the prejudice surrounding AIDS exacts a social death which precede ... which precedes the physical one."
Joe Miller: "This is the essence of discrimination: formulating opinions about others not based on their individual merits, but rather on their membership in a group with assumed characteristics."
Cheers (1982-93): OK, raise your hands if you started singing the Cheers theme song in your head when you saw this topic on the board. Thought so. This television juggernaut, which, believe it or not, was almost canceled after one season, focused on the interactions of the employees and customers at a Boston-based bar named Cheers, "where everybody knows your name"—OK, couldn't resist. The show introduced the world to such classic characters as Sam Malone (Ted Danson), Diane Chambers (Shelly Long), Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley), Carla Totelli (Rhea Perlman), Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger), Norm Peterson (George Wendt) and the pompous Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer). The show also dealt with how workers' personal lives can get mixed up with their business lives with the on-again, off-again—love/hate relationships Sam has with Diane and later Rebecca. It also deals with employment issues when in one early episode Diane tries to get Sam to hire his best customer, Norm, to be his accountant—only Sam isn't exactly enamored with the idea.
Sam Malone: "What'll you have Normie?"
Norm Peterson: "Well, I'm in a gambling mood Sammy. I'll take a glass of whatever comes out of that tap."
Sam Malone: "Looks like beer, Norm."
Norm Peterson: "Call me Mr. Lucky."
Who Moved My Cheese? (1998): More than 24 million copies of this slim 95-page motivational book written by Spencer Johnson have been sold. That's a lot of cheese. This parable explores what happens when two mice and two humans are faced with a change in their maze when someone moves their (Spoiler Alert) cheese. The moral of the story is change happens, but what are you going to do about it? While this book was written in the dot-com boom era of the late '90s when the economy was in just a little bit better shape than it is today, it's clear this book has stood the test of time.
"Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old."
Lilies of the Field (1963): Sidney Poitier plays Homer Smith, a traveling handyman, in this movie about a black man who is hired by a group of white nuns to do various tasks. Eventually, Smith is persuaded to build a chapel for the nuns. Along the way, Smith bumps heads with the Mother Superior (Lilia Skala), who believes God is building the chapel and Smith is just the tool. Eventually, Smith leaves only to return with an inner drive to complete the construction on his own.
Homer Smith: "Oh! Why couldn't they have asked me to build a bathtub? With nice, hot water?"
The Insider (1999): You can't make this stuff up. Really. Based on a true story, The Insider tells the story of a former tobacco company executive, Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), who is ready to blow the whistle on Big Tobacco and a cover-up on the addictiveness of the nicotine in tobacco. So Wigand speaks to a producer from 60 Minutes, Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), about what he knows, and Bergman arranges an interview with Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer). At the same time, Big Tobacco initiates a smear campaign to discredit Wigand. Fearing a lawsuit, 60 Minutes airs an edited version of the video, all but hanging Wigand out to dry. To make things right, Bergman contacts the New York Times with the story, and 60 Minutes eventually agrees to air the full interview.
Jeffrey Wigand: "I'm just a commodity to you, aren't I? I could be anything. Right? Anything worth putting on between commercials."
Lowell Bergman: "To a network, probably, we're all commodities. To me? You are not a commodity. What you are is important."
The Grapes of Wrath (1940): This Henry Fonda vehicle based on the 1939 John Steinbeck novel of the same name, tells the story of a family of migrant workers from Oklahoma who are headed to California in search of jobs after they lost their home during the Great Depression. Of course, the Golden State might not be the land of opportunity that they hope it is. The movie helps show us what life was like for people searching for jobs in the bleakest economic chapter in U.S. history. The film won two Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jane Darwell as "Ma" Joad) and Best Director (John Ford) and was nominated for five others, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Fonda).
Memorable quote—Tom Joad (Fonda): "Seems like the government's got more interest in a dead man than a live one."
Network (1976): Talk about generational issues in the workplace. Network is the story of Howard Beale (Peter Finch), who was once a star network TV news anchor, but ratings at the Union Broadcasting System have been down for some time, so the network takes a "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately" approach and turns the news division over to the entertainment division of the network and fires Beale in the process, although they give him two weeks' notice. As you might imagine, this does not sit well with Beale who airs his grievances with his famous speech imploring people to go to their window and shout "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore." You've seen it. Hard to forget it. Oh yeah, there's also the part where he threatens to blow his brains out on live TV. We also get to see how Beale's co-workers, including Diana Christenson (Faye Dunaway) and Max Schumacher (William Holden) are affected by the network's decision to let Beale go.
Howard Beale: "I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it."
Real Women Have Curves (2002): Real Women Have Curves is the story of a young first-generation Mexican-American teen living in East Los Angeles, California. Ana Garcia (America Ferrera) has big dreams and is a good student who has to balance high school with working in her sister's dress factory with her mother, Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros). Garcia gets accepted to Columbia University, but she has to figure out if satisfying her mother's views on what women should be and do in life and what Ana wants to achieve makes for some compelling storylines.
Carmen Garcia: [In Spanish] "It's a matter of principle. It's not fair. I worked since I was 13 years old and Ana is 18 years old. Now it's her turn."
Workaholics (2011-): Here's a shout out to the millennial generation. Workaholics keeps 'em laughing with its offbeat look at the modern-day office place. The show stars Blake Anderson as Blake Henderson, Adam DeVine as Adam DeMamp and Anders Holm as Anders Holmvik—three of the four members of the comedy troupe Mail Order Comedy. The trio are telemarketers by day and partiers by night. The show also has a recurring role for the fourth member of the troupe, Kyle Newacheck, who plays Kyle Hevacheck, a character who is referred to as "the human genius" on the show. In one episode, the three roomies go on strike when their boss won't let them take time off for the half-Christmas holiday. Where's the holiday spirit there? In another episode, the trio go on a mission to save the company when the CEO is ready to liquidate. It's interesting to point out that Workaholics might not have made it to TV land had it not been for YouTube. Comedy Central ordered this offbeat show after watching the troupe's viral videos—and undoubtedly noticing how many views the videos got. And we gotta lay everything on the table here: Anders Holm is the brother of the famous Erik Holm, our online manager, who says he has appeared in a couple of episodes as well. We're checking our DVRs.
Blake Henderson: "What are you doing Adam? Do you even know how many people go blind from pizza shrapnel?"
Julia (1968-71): While the sitcom was only on TV for 86 episodes, it made history as the first U.S. series that starred a black woman (Diahann Carroll as Julia Baker) in a nonsterotypical leading role. In the show Baker's a widow whose husband died in the Vietnam War. She works as a nurse and is raising a young son who barely knew his father. Part of the show focused on Julia's work environment and her interaction with a white physician, Dr. Morton Chegley (Lloyd Nolan), and a white nurse, Hannah Yarby (Lurene Tuttle). Also, a common theme in the show was who would take care of Julia's son Corey (Marc Copage) while she was at work.
Watch an interview with Carroll talking about the show here.
Outsourced (2006): So you're managing a call center in Seattle one minute and the next you're sent to India to train a new crew—not to mention your replacement. An unthinkable concept for past generations of U.S. workers, today the possibility of this happening is not so far-fetched anymore. When Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) moves to India to teach his replacement, he learns that he, himself, has to learn about Indian culture before he teaches workers how to sound "American." He also falls in love with one of the workers, Asha (Ayesha Dhaker), but she has been in an arranged marriage since she was a 4-year-old. While not a huge box office smash, the movie did win numerous awards, including the audience-chosen Seattle International Film Festival Golden Space Needle Award for Best Film. Outsourced, the movie, was later turned into an NBC sitcom with the same name as part of the 2010-11 TV season, but the show didn't hold up as well as the movie. It was canceled after one season.
Todd Anderson: "I've noticed that almost everyone signed up for the incentive program, except you. Don't you want anything?"
Asha: "What would I do with this, I'm a vegetarian."
[looking at the My Hot Dog toaster product]
Todd Anderson: "Maybe it works with carrots ... "
Ally McBeal (1997-2002): From unisex bathrooms to dancing babies to short skirts and love triangles, this David E. Kelley-created legal dramedy broke down barriers in the late '90s and early '00s by focusing on Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart) and her co-workers at the fictional Boston law firm of Cage & Fish. Unlike, we think, most law firms, Cage & Fish was a sexualized playground for its employees with workers often flirting openly in the office. But it also focused on the legal team that seemed to win every case. It was led by the cagey, stuttering lawyer John Cage (Peter MacNicol) and his partner Richard Fish (Greg Germann) who is best remembered for his waddle fetish—look it up if you must. In the first few seasons, Gil Bellows played lawyer Billy Allen Thomas, McBeal's former flame, who was married to a co-worker, Georgia Thomas (Courtney Thorne-Smith). While the team doesn't always get along, they do all seem to wind up at the same bar after work for drinks and occasionally up on stage with or replacing the house singer Vonda Shepard.
Richard Fish: "Make enough money, and everything else will follow. Quote me. That's a 'Fishism.' "
Erin Brockovich (2000): Julia Roberts stars as consumer advocate Erin Brockovich in this biopic about an unemployed mother who loses a personal-injury lawsuit and then persuades her lawyer, Edward L. Masry (Albert Finney), to hire her to help make ends meet. He relents and takes her on as a clerk. What he didn't count on was that the often risque and uncouth Brockovich would become a rainmaker. In the movie, Brockovich stumbles upon a pro bono case that leads to her investigating a major coverup where a company knew it was poisoning the water in Hinkley, California, causing many people to get sick, but the firm did nothing to stop it. Eventually, this go-getter employee helps gather enough evidence to win a major settlement for the victims—to the tune of $333 million. Incidentally, the real Brockovich appears in the film as a waitress named Julia. Crisscross!
Erin Brockovich: "For the first time in my life, I got people respecting me. Please, don't ask me to give it up."
Hoffa (1992): Jack Nicholson stars as union leader Jimmy Hoffa in this biopic directed by Danny DeVito, who also plays Hoffa's fictional friend Bobby Ciaro in the film. The film follows Hoffa's association with union members and mobsters and his rise to become president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Perhaps taking a wee bit of liberty, the film shows Hoffa's demise, but doesn't delve into whether his final resting place is in the end zone in Giants Stadium.
Jimmy Hoffa: "Never let a stranger in your cab, in your house or in your heart ... unless he is a friend of labor."
Takin' Care of Business (1973): Sing along, "You get up every morning/from the alarm clock's warning. Take the 8:15 into the city." This upbeat workforce anthem by rock group Bachman-Turner Overdrive still resonates today and is a staple on classic rock radio stations nearly 40 years after its release. You know the more things change, the more they stay the same. Today's working world isn't much different in that regard. Ya gotta pull it all together and "take care of business" if ya wanna succeed in the workforce. Or at least you'd think that based on the song's title. Of course, these Canadian rockers have a different spin on that theme. The focus of Takin' Care of Business is actually on a person who is unemployed "and loves to work at nothing all day." OK, so much for that strong work ethic idea.
Working Class Hero (1970): No Love Me Do or I Want to Hold You Hand pop lyrics here. A slow, methodical tune that primarily consists of two chords, this 1970 song from John Lennon's first post-Beatles solo album resonates with Lennon's Liverpudlian vocals producing an eerie, sorrowful folk tune that's as powerful today as it was then. With lyrics such as "There's room at the top they're telling you still/But first you must learn how to smile as you kill," it's easy to spot Lennon's cynical view of the workplace. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Lennon had this to say about the song: "I think it's for the people like me who are working class—whatever, upper or lower—who are supposed to be processed into the middle classes, through the machinery, that's all. It's my experience, and I hope it's just a warning to people. I'm saying it's a revolutionary song; not the song itself but that it's a song for the revolution." If you want to hear it, you can find the song on YouTube, but know that there is profanity in the lyrics.
Read Jann Wenner's 1971 Rolling Stone interview with Lennon here (disclaimer: language).
Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna) (2007): Originally released in Mexico, Under the Same Moon is a movie about a mother, Rosario (Kate del Castillo), who leaves her then-5-year-old son, Carlitos (Adrian Alonso), behind with family in Mexico to find a better-paying job in the United States, albeit as an illegal immigrant. She calls Carlitos every Sunday to keep in touch. One day Carlitos, now 9, meets up with a pair of American transporters who help him get into the United States so he can be reunited with his mother, but the journey isn't an easy one as he must find help and avoid the immigration police as well.
Taxi (1978-83): What does it say about a show that has a boss who has a cage for an office, as Louie De Palma (Danny DeVito) does in Taxi? The ensemble-cast sitcom takes us into the fleet garage where taxicab drivers converse and bond with each other as their uptight, grouchy boss barks orders at them. The de facto leader of the bunch is Alex Reiger (Judd Hirsch) who is disillusioned with life but accepting of the idea that his career is cab driving. He is also somewhat of a father figure to his co-workers and listens to their problems, and he is not averse to taking Louis to task when he does something unethical or slimy. The rest of the staff sees their jobs as temporary, and many episodes focus on one of the characters almost reaching his or her dream, but then having it shot down for one reason or another. The show also featured two of the quirkiest characters in sitcom history: Latka Gravas (Andy Kaufman), a mechanic who is a lovable foreigner from an unknown country who speaks a bizarre gibberish language (Latka was based on the Foreign Man character Kaufman created for his stage act) and the Rev. Jim Ignatowski (Chrisopher Lloyd) a burnout who the gang recruits to become a taxi driver. Of course, he has to cheat to pass his driving test with the memorable "What does a yellow light mean?" bit.
Louie De Palma: "Ignatowski! Where have you been all week?"
Jim Ignatowski: "I don't work weekends."
Louie De Palma: "You've been gone nine days!"
Jim Ignatowski: "Yeah ..."
Tony Banta (Tony Danza): "Jim, weekends are only two days."
Jim Ignatowski: "Oh, I thought we'd switched to the metric system."
The Cubicle (2006): This film may be short on running time, but it's long on substance. The premise is straightforward: One day the boss decides to give someone in the company his walking papers. Of course, the top guy, Terry Branch (Eric Kolesar) wants to give the workers a sporting chance—so he makes it a race through the office between Ernie Milton (Michael Osborne), an asthmatic mail carrier, and "Legs" (Josh Dietz) to see who gets the privilege to continue working for such a visionary (vision-scary?) leader. Can the tortoise take down the hare?
Undercover Boss (U.S. version) (2010-): Ever wonder if the big cheese could handle your job? That's one of the questions this show answers, albeit in an incognito, employee doesn't know its the top dog trying to churn out burgers, clean the port-a-potty, etc., sort of way. The premise of this show is simple: Give a CEO of a big company a new name and hide his or her true identity and send that person out to see what it's like to be a regular employee. Often, the chief finds the tasks grueling and difficult, and some have a really hard time excelling in their temporary positions. In others, the boss becomes disgusted with the way his employees are acting. At the end of every episode, the leader is unmasked and the employees find out that incompetent, slow learner who they assumed had no future in the company is really the big boss. At this point, the head often gives prizes to a few of the standout employees, everyone cheers and problems get solved. So the next time a new worker comes into your company with a camera crew in tow, be careful what you say—it might be the Big Boss in disguise!
The Good Wife (2009-): After Alicia Florrick's (Julianna Marguiles) husband, Peter (Chris Noth) a former Cook County (Illinois) states attorney goes to prison following a sex and corruption scandal, Alicia decides to leave her "good wife" life behind and re-enter the workforce as a junior litigator at a law firm. After being out of the working world for a number of years, she finds herself low on the office totem pole and also struggles with balancing her career and raising her children. The show was partly inspired by true events, including the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal from a few years ago.
Alicia: [to Daniel Golden (Joe Morton), a member of Peter Florrick's legal team, after Golden sent a package full of gifts to her home] "Don't you ever try to bribe me. And don't you ever try to buy my kids."
The George Lopez Show (2002-07): Now a fixture in syndication on Nick at Nite, this eponymous sitcom starring comedian George Lopez tells the story of an airplane parts factory worker living in Los Angeles. The show, which has an almost entirely Latino cast, mostly focuses on George's dealings with his family, including his wife, Angie Lopez (Constance Marie) who is the steadying presence in his life, and his mother, Benny Lopez (Belita Moreno), who has a knack for telling lies about George's upbringing—only she often can't keep her stories straight. George also works with his mother at the factory. In one workforce-related episode, "Token of Unappreciation," George gets offered a job by a competitor, which tests his company loyalty.
Angie Lopez: "You think your only contribution to this family is a paycheck?"
George Lopez: "That's my job in this family, Angie. When I was a kid my mom always complained about how there wasn't a man around to help her with the bills. Look, a man isn't a man unless he's a provider. I'm a hunter! I'm a provider!"
Angie Lopez: "A hunter? You can't even give the dog eye-drops!"
George Lopez: "If he looked away I could."
Monsters, Inc. (2001): Who would have thunk a story about monsters that scare children to create power to run the presumably fictional city of Monstropolis—hey, you never know where those unidentified bumps in the night really come from, do you?—would have such a workforce-related angle? But it does. In the movie, James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman), the top scarer in the company has a contentious relationship with Monster Inc.'s CEO, Henry J. Waternoose III (voiced by James Coburn). Eventually, Sulley befriends a young girl named Boo (voiced by Mary Gibbs) and, with help from his one-eyed assistant, Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal), tries to protect her from Sulley's main rival, Randall Boggs (voiced by Steve Buscemi) who is looking to move up the corporate ladder. In the end, Sulley moves into the C-suite, and the focus of the company is switched from scaring kids to making them laugh to power Monstropolis. Full disclosure: In Disney World in 2010, I was chosen to be the evil guy during one session of the Monster's, Inc. Laugh floor show. My power was the ability to disappear, so when I was asked to show off my talent, I ducked behind the seat in front of me so that the camera couldn't show me on the big screen. That quick thinking, produced more than a few belly laughs and a bewildered look from the computer-generated monster who ordained me with the special power. I know this has nothing to do with the movie, but, hey, thought I'd share.
Henry J. Waternoose: "James, this company has been in my family for three generations. I would do anything to keep it from going under."
Sulley: "So would I, sir."
Henry J. Waternoose: "Say, I could use your help with something."
Sulley: "Anything, sir."
Henry J. Waternoose: "You see, we've recently hired some new recruits, and frankly, they're ... um ... "
Henry J. Waternoose: "Oh, they stink!"
The Simpsons (1989-): Who could have predicted that Matt Groening's crudely drawn cartoon that appeared before and after commercial breaks on The Tracey Ullman Show would turn into a billion-dollar franchise that would run at least 25 seasons? And over that time, is there any subject the show hasn't lampooned, lambasted or laid into? In the show, Homer Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) is a simpleton who mostly "works" as a safety inspector in Springfield's nuclear power plant. Of course, Homer is often more interested in eating doughnuts—"mmm, doughnuts"—or snoozing on the job rather than working. His boss is a centenarian named Montgomery Burns (voiced by Harry Shearer), who is more interested in making money than safety issues. And Burns' sidekick, Waylon Smithers (Shearer), is more interested in Mr. Burns than anything else. In many of the early episodes in particular, Homer is often fired (d'oh!) from his job and then rehired (woo hoo!). Besides Homer's regular gig, he has held close to 200 other jobs in the past 23 years, including astronaut, beef jerky manufacturer and chiropractor. Underachiever? I think not. Homer's wife, Marge (voiced by Julie Kavner), is mostly a housewife—not that there's anything wrong with that—but she also enters the workforce when she opens her own pretzel wagon and in another episode when she becomes a police officer. Even their delinquent son, Bart (voiced by Nancy Cartwright), gets into the act. In one show, Bart becomes Krusty the Clown's (voiced by Castellaneta) assistant and in another he becomes the doorman at Springfield's local burlesque house—all at the tender age of 10. Of course, Bart has been 10 for 23 years now (25 if you count The Tracey Ullman Show).
Mr. Burns: "I'll keep it short and sweet. Family. Religion. Friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business."
His Girl Friday (1940): No one said working with your ex is easy—especially when you're not over that person. In His Girl Friday, Cary Grant stars as Walter Burns, an unscrupulous newspaper editor who used to make quite a team when his ex-wife, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), was the star reporter at the paper. But when Johnson decides she's ready to give up the news biz and tie the knot with another man, Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), Burns pulls out every trick in the book to keep his ex from walking down the aisle again and to get her back into the newsroom and back to the way things were.
Walter Burns: "Diabetes! I ought to know better than to hire anybody with a disease."
Head Office (1985): In this film, Jack Issel (Judge Reinhold) is not the most motivated employee to ever enter the workforce. He's also incompetent, but that doesn't stop him from getting promotion after promotion. Of course, the reason he keeps getting a free pass to climb the corporate ladder is because he's the son of an influential senator. The higher-ups in the company think that promoting Jack will help them win support from Sen. Issel (George Coe) for moving a textile plant to a Latin American country, which would benefit the company. The movie also features Eddie Albert as chairman of the board Peter Helmes and Rick Moranis as burnout executive Howard Gross.
Max Landsberger (Richard Masur): "Lesson No. 4: The secret to survival here is never make a decision."
Jack Issel: "Never?"
Max Landsberger: "Never. The minute you do, you're screwed."
The Princess and the Frog (2009): The first Disney princess movie that tells the story of an African-American woman is set in New Orleans. Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose), the daughter of a top-notch Cajun chef dreams of opening her own restaurant, so she works tirelessly as a waitress in order to save money. Her best friend, Charlotte (voiced by Jennifer Cody), comes from money and is hell-bent on meeting and marrying Prince Naveen (voiced by Brunos Campos), who, it turns out is a broke and unfocused prince who comes to New Orleans hoping to marry a wealthy woman. When he arrives, he meets Dr. Facilier (voiced by Keith David), a local voodoo dude known as the "Shadow Man" who turns Naveen into a frog and Naveen's valet Lawrence into the prince. Unlike the fairytale, Naveen persuades Tiana to kiss him, but instead of turning him back into a prince, she becomes a frog, as well. The two then go on an adventure to become human again. Will Tiana fall in love with the prince? Will she live the American dream and open her own restaurant? Will she share her gumbo and beignet recipes with us? You gotta watch to find out.
Prince Naveen: "You know, waitress, I finally figured out what is wrong with you."
Tiana: "Have you, now?"
Prince Naveen: "You do not know how to have fun. There. Somebody had to say it."
Tiana: "Thank you, 'cause I figured out what your problem is, too."
Prince Naveen: "I am ... too wonderful?"
Tiana: "No, you're a no-count, philandering, lazy bump on a log."
Allentown (1982): Billy Joel is known to mix catchy pop tunes on his albums such as an Uptown Girl or Only the Good Die Young with more serious topics. Allentown, for instance appears on the Nylon Curtain album, which also has the pop hit Pressure on it. Allentown is a tell-it-like-it-is tune that is an ode to the blue-collar worker. It details the demise of the U.S. manufacturing industry. In Allentown, Pennsylvania, "they're closing all the factories down" and "they've taken all the coal from the ground." The video for the song, which leaves much to be desired, mixes black-and-white images with color shots to show how the manufacturing industry drove U.S. growth following World War II and how it had become an afterthought by the 1980s.
WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-82): Who knew turkeys couldn't fly? Hmm … everyone but Arthur "Big Guy" Carlson (Gordon Jump), we presume? "Oh, the humanity." In a classic episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, Carlson comes up with a promotion to throw turkeys from a helicopter as a Thanksgiving Day promotion—to the shock and dismay of correspondent Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) who watches and reports on the massacre. He later regales the staff on what happened after the drop when the turkeys who didn't get gobbled up by the pavement organized an attack to exact their revenge. Of course, gimmicks to boost ratings are a staple part of the show, which takes us into a struggling radio station with a cast of mostly oddball workers, from Nessman to sales manager Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner)—who had a wacky wardrobe even for the '70s, sorry leisure-suit-lovers—to the on-air talent Johnny "Dr. Fever" Caravella (Howard Hessman) and Gordon "Venus Flytrap" Sims (Tim Reid). The program director, Andy Travis (Gary Sandy), must find a way, episode after episode, to keep this motley crew in check and to help them become a strong team. This show really showed you the different types of eclectic personalities you might run into in an office space, while living on the air in Cincinnati.
Johnny Fever: "Do you have enough money to feed yourself?"
Les Nessman: "Yes."
Johnny Fever: "I don't, can you loan me some money?"
Les Nessman: "No."
Johnny Fever: "Can you loan me some food?"
Something the Lord Made (2004): A dramatization of the true-life relationship between two heart surgery pioneers, one white and one black, this made-for-TV movie shows what life was like for two doctors—Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman) and Vivien Thomas (Mos Def)—who worked side-by-side for 34 years. The movie shows how Blalock initially intended to hire Thomas as a janitor, but when Blalock learned of Thomas' abilities, he made him his partner—even though he didn't have a medical degree. In fact, he didn't even have a college degree. The movie shows the difficulties that a black doctor had to deal with pre-civil rights, including entering the building through a back door, and the complex relationship Blalock had with Thomas as they sought a cure for Baby Blue Syndrome. While Blalock insisted on having Thomas at his side in surgery, outside the workplace was a whole other matter. At Blalock's parties for instance, Thomas worked as a bartender to earn extra money.
Alfred Blalock: "We have work to do."
Vivien Thomas: "Do I have your permission to do some work for my landlord, so I can pay my rent?"
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006): No typos here. Yes, we mean "happyness," even though our spell-checker doesn't want to accept it. The unusual spelling comes from a misspelling the main character, Chris Gardner (Will Smith), sees outside the daycare center when he drops off his son. Based on a true story, which earned Smith an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, the movie is a rags-to-riches tale of how one man goes from being a homeless intern stockbroker raising a son to a multimillionaire. In the film, Gardner hits rock bottom when his wife leaves him and he has to raise his son (Smith's real-life son, Jaden Smith, plays the character of Christopher) on his own with no job, only a dream. After sharing a cab ride with a stockbroker, the man winds up offering him an internship, even though he's not dressed for success. The odds are against him to make it, though, as only one out of 20 interns is offered a paid position following the internship. Gardner beats the odds and gets the offer, and the epilogue let's us know that Gardner later opened his own firm and became a self-made millionaire.
Chris Gardner: "Hey. Don't ever let somebody tell you you can't do something. Not even me. All right?"
Christopher Gardner: "All right."
Chris Gardner: "You got a dream—you gotta protect it. People can't do somethin' themselves, they wanna tell you you can't do it. If you want somethin', go get it. Period."
Trading Places (1983): Coming off his successful film debut as Reggie Hammond in Trading Places, Eddie Murphy shines as Billy Ray Valentine, a man who pretends to be blind and without legs to hustle people for money. In this socioeconomic comedy, two brothers who are powerful commodities brokers—Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche)—debate "nature" vs. "nurture" when it comes to being successful. After a confrontation between Valentine and Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd), the Dukes' high-society, privileged managing director who is engaged to their grandniece, they decide to place a bet for a huge amount of money (OK, a buck) to settle the argument. The bet is whether they can turn Valentine into a successful, honest broker or if Winthorpe can learn to fend for himself as a homeless man who is cut off from his country club roots. So they bail Valentine out of jail and frame Winthorpe to get him booted from his high-society life. Eventually, Valentine finds out about the bet and colludes with Winthorpe to bring the Dukes down with the help of a prostitute named Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis) who befriends and helps the almost penniless Winthorpe. This movie definitely shows the perils of trying to game the system in the workplace.
Randolph Duke: "Money isn't everything, Mortimer."
Mortimer Duke: "Oh, grow up."
Randolph Duke: "Mother always said you were greedy."
Mortimer Duke: "She meant it as a compliment."
Clerks (1994): So you're working in a dead-end job at a convenience store but you have big dreams, so what do you do? Kevin Smith made a movie—about a worker who's asked to come into work at the convenience store on his day off, Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran), and his co-worker Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson). Shot in the evenings at the convenience store where Smith actually worked for a production cost of about $199,975,000 less than it cost to film Titanic, this cult classic introduced the world to View Askewniverse characters Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith). It's obvious that Hicks is in a major rut, which is the theme of the film as well as seeking fulfillment from relationships. It also begs the question: Why are two philosophical, intelligent people working in a convenience store when there's a whole world outside that door? The store is also not the friendliest place for customers.
Dante Hicks: "I'm not even supposed to be here today!"
Airplane! (1980): From "Clearance, Clarence" to "What's our vector, Victor?" to "Surely, you can't be serious./I am serious … and don't call me 'Shirley,' " this classic spoof is the prince of puns. What happens when an airplane crew gets ill and there's no one left to fly a plane? Of course, you turn to the ex-pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays) who hasn't flown since that incident in the war and is just a tad (understatement) reluctant to fly the plane. To get the plane on the ground safely will take teamwork, courage and lots of prayers. It's like team building 101!
Ted Striker: "It's Lieutenant Hurwitz. Severe shell-shock. Thinks he's Ethel Merman."
The Crowd (1928): John—played by James Murray, who drowned eight years after the film's release at the age of 35 in what was ruled neither an accident nor a suicide and whose life in some ways paralleled the character he played in the film—is a regular Yankee Doodle Dandy. He's born on the Fourth of July in 1900, and the world seems to be is his oyster, but, alas, fate deals him a blow when he lands a job and becomes just another worker in New York City. However, John does court and later wed Mary (Eleanor Boardman). But, again, things don't go his way when the marriage doesn't live up to his expectations. Although the 1920s was an era when divorce started to catch on as an out for marriages that weren't working, John is trapped in his marriage when he learns Mary is with child. That also means he's trapped in his dead-end job to help support the family. Unlike many of the uplifting movies of the 1920s, The Crowd takes a different approach that, for all intents and purpose, might be best expressed as "sometimes reality bites" and dreams get flushed. And, interestingly enough, this is apparently the first American film that shows a toilet on the screen—predating Psycho's first-ever toilet-flushing scene by more than 30 years. Gotta love that visual metaphor.
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956): Gregory Peck stars as Tom Rath in this drama about balancing home and work life. In the film, Rath is married with three kids, and they live a modest life. Rath is pressured to find work in a higher-paying field than the charity where he works. In the movie, Rath is haunted by his experience fighting in World War II. He also had an affair during the war and later learned he had a child out of wedlock. The film really speaks to the possible perils of balancing work life and home life as well as a veteran's difficulty getting re-acclimated to the workplace following a war.
Tom Rath: "I don't know anything about public relations."
Bill Hawthorne (Gene Lockhart): "Who does? You've got a clean shirt and you bathe everyday. That's all there is to it."
Claudine (1974): Released in the 1970s during a time when most films starring African-American fell into the blaxploitation genre, Claudine is the story of a single black mother in Harlem, Claudine Price (Diahann Carroll), who is living on welfare. She does have a job as a housekeeper, but she keeps that a secret from the social worker who visits her throughout the film, Ms. Kabak (Elisa Loti). Price falls in love with a garbage collector named Rubert Marshall (James Earl Jones). However, the two are afraid to tie the knot because they won't be able to support Price's six children without the welfare checks she gets. If Price reveals her job, she loses all or some of her welfare, and if she tells Ms. Kabak about her relationship with Marshall, she could lose money as well since the government would deduct any money or gifts she receives from her boyfriend.
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