We Saw The Facebook Movie: The Social Network

To say Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is portrayed as having little regard for others is an understatement. Yet as much as I wanted to hate him I couldn’t. There’s someone else in the movie to hate.

We went to see “The Social Network” this afternoon. That’s the new movie about Facebook written by Aaron Sorkin. If you check Facebook more that a dozen times a day you’ll be going too!

Wondering why Saturday afternoon? Just look at the box office numbers from Friday night alone when 2,771 theaters sold $8,000,000 in tickets! We didn’t want to get shut out or be forced to sit in the first row.

The movie traces Mark Zuckerberg: geek, nerd, socially awkward smart smart guy Harvard student who had the idea (sort of) and wrote the code that made “TheFacebook.com,” and then Facebook a social phenomena.

To say Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is portrayed as having little regard for others is an understatement. Yet as much as I wanted to hate him I couldn’t. There’s someone else in the movie to hate. More on Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) in a moment.

As Zuckerberg’s creation begins to take off he becomes more in demand. His application crashes the Harvard computer network at 4:00 AM. He is hit on by beautiful Asian groupies&#185 as “The Facebook” usage continues to surge. Finally, Sean Parker the business oriented co-founder of Napster enters his life as an evil angel.

Standby. I’ll get to Parker soon.

The story is told in anecdotal flashback spawned from a series of actual depositions. Whether the anecdotes are true is anyone’s guess. Sorkin says:

This is a nonfiction story about two lawsuits that were brought against Facebook at roughly the same time where the defendant, the plaintiffs and the witnesses all came into the deposition room and swore an oath.

Of course everyone’s deposed testimony differed. There’s a lot of truth to pick from. Recently people who should know have said there’s a lot more fiction than fact. Who’s to say? Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately) for Zuckerberg the movie will probably trump history!

What’s not in dispute is Zuckerberg did pay an eight figure settlement to a group led by identical twin Harvard students who said Facebook was really a project they proposed and he agreed to code for them. Also not in dispute is a payment to Zuckerberg’s original partner who was squeezed out under pressure from Sean Parker but walked away with cash and a perpetual website credit line.

OK–Parker time.

Sean Parker is a real life character. Though Sorkin’s script makes him “the Napster guy” I immediately went to Google. I remembered Napster’s genius as Shawn Fanning. We’re both right. Fanning was the coding guy. Parker was the business guy. Fanning was the only one I’d heard of until today.

Sorkin makes Sean Parker the biggest schmuck here. All Zuckerberg wanted was for his website to grow so he would be validated. Traffic was his goal. He says (often) money is not his motivating factor. It was Parker, as Zuckerberg’s Svengali, who convinced him the ultimate target should be cash and convinced him to screw his best friend and co-founding partner!

You see why it’s easy to hate him?

It’s funny considering the subject matter but this was an action picture with a rapid pace. As with anything Aaron Sorkin touches the writing was tight with no dialog wasted. I was envious of the partying college life I saw (a life that sadly didn’t exist… or more likely just didn’t invite me while I was in college) early on, but not at all envious of the dark path Zuckerberg followed to success.

I never saw him happy. Money really can’t buy it, can it?

&#185 – The movie makes a point of the fascination Jewish men have with Asian woman. I can’t explain why except to say it’s true. The movie tries to make the case it’s a two-way street. I’ve seen little… OK, no… evidence for that.

Saturday Night Live Scores

Without writing there is no performance.

I know I’m a little late with this, but I’m just now getting to watch last night’s Saturday Night Live. This might be the funniest episode of the last decade!

Paul Rudd was the host. I enjoy his work, but I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to watch just because he was hosting. He was great–excellent timing and willing to give it up for the show. Justin Timberlake did an unexpected piece during Weekend Update. Everything I said about Paul Rudd applies.

The real star was the writing. Without writing there is no performance.

It will be repeated–catch it.

Fun With Numbers

Every weekday morning when I wake up, sitting in my email inbox are the TV ratings from the night before. It is enlightening and horrifying at the same time.

It hasn’t always been this way. In the not too distant past, ratings were taken a few times a year, during the ‘sweeps’ period. That was nerve wracking in its own insidious way.

The amount of time I dwell on the numbers is often dependent on how we’re doing. During the bad times, I didn’t look at all. Too depressing. It’s probably the same thing for CNBC. Who wants to watch if they’re only talking about the money you’re losing.

Right now, we’re in moderately good times. We’re not #1, but we’re moving in the right direction – and we’re watching others who probably don’t want to be looking at the numbers on a daily basis.

Ratings are based on 15 minute blocks. So, a one hour show will have an aggregate rating made up of the four quarter hours. It can be fascinating to track those quarter hour numbers – but misleading. Even in a market the size of Connecticut, if a few people with ‘meters’ get a phone call or need to go to the bathroom at the wrong time, a significant chunk of your ratings go away.

A recent day had 440 households making up the entire ratings universe. During our early evening news there were probably 175-250 households with their TV’s on, divided by all the channels you can get. Now you see where the horrifying comes from.

When ratings go down, TV stations and networks blame methodology. Could be – I don’t know. When ratings go up, it’s sharp programming.

After the Super Bowl, the folks at Tivo publicized the fact that the Janet Jackson / Justin Timberlake moment was the most re-watched moment in TV. That means Tivo knows what everyone’s watching, every second! I would guess cable companies can do the same with addressable cable boxes (though there are more serious regulatory restrictions placed on cable companies).

If we can have accurate, massively sampled, instantaneous TV ratings, will we be better or worse off? There’s already lots of concern that TV plays for ratings – and to a great extent it does.

Imagine TV programmers could watch their numbers second by second. I shudder to think. There’s probably no putting this genie back in the bottle. Soon, we’ll have to live with it.

Happy New Year Dick Clark

It’s a family tradition that we don’t go out on New Year’s Eve. There are a few really simple reasons for this. First, I usually work. Second, we don’t drink.

Years ago, the last time we really went out for New Year’s, a drunk guy started making a pass at my wife. In fact (though we laugh about it now) we almost broke up on our first pre-marriage New Year’s Eve together.

This year, we stayed home with Steffie and watched some of the goings on in Times Square. Helaine said she wasn’t, but I was very worried that some masterstroke terrorist act would take place in Times Square while the World watched.

Though we moved back and forth between Fox, MTV and ABC, we mostly stayed with ABC. Sure, I work for an affiliate, but there is also a tradition with Dick Clark. Again this year, for at least the second year in a row, Dick was inside a warm studio above Times Square. I’m sorry. He needs to be outside. And last night, the weather wasn’t all that bad.

I was also upset at the use of Steve Doocey – who represents Fox News Channel’s morning show – as ‘talent.’ This is not to say Steve isn’t good… he is. But, this is another case of cutting your nose to spite your face. Why would ABC want to shine such a bright spotlight on someone who is trying to eat their lunch? Doesn’t anyone in the company realize that using talent from other networks is the equivalent of dumping the Disneyland live shots for Six Flags or Universal?

There was a pretty tough article on Dick Clark in Newsday recently. I’ve attached it to this link.

Maybe because I knew most of this before, or maybe just because it’s becoming more obvious now, I have trouble finding Dick warm and likable. His interaction with others, especially on ‘tosses’ from live shots, or look live taped pieces, is forced and a little too staged.

On the other hand, I’m not ready to cede New Year’s Eve to Ryan Seacrest or the stable of hosts on MTV (none of whom stick out in my mind).

Happy 2004

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The Two Big Surprises of the Last 24 Hours

1) Justin Timberlake on Saturday Night Live was very good. He showed a really good sense of timing. That is normally where non-comedians fall on their face. He was a pleasant surprise in one of the best SNL’s in the past few years.

b) The Eagles were taken apart by Dallas. Ouch.