When I think of miracles I think of “Miracle on the Hudson,” which was not a movie or a television mini-series, but an actual real-life event, just a year and a half ago, when 155 people were saved after the captain of U.S. Airways flight 1549 crash-landed their plane into the Hudson River.
Not a life was lost.
It was an amazing story. Uplifting, hopeful. I wondered why I hadn’t seen it emerge as a TV movie or a major motion picture.
And then I remembered my own history in the entertainment industry, and I imagined the pitch meeting that might have occurred after the incident…
INT. EXECUTIVE OFFICES/20th CENTURY FOX DAY
LEW, a gray-haired senior executive, sits in a well-appointed office next to RICHARD, his Vice President of Development. Posters of classic Hollywood movies adorn the walls. Lew’s name dominates the credit lines on such films as “The Poseidon Adventure,” “Earthquake,” “The Towering Inferno,” and “Airport.”
JERRY and SANDY, two television producers in their fifties, sit in chairs opposite the execs. They are well dressed and in full-pitch mode.
It came as an epiphany, Lew. I mean, I called Sandy the second I
saw the footage and I said, “Sandy…Miracle on the Hudson–”
And I said to Jerry, “Everyone survives!”
That’s what she said, Lew, that’s exactly what she said. And I
knew we had a hit on our hands.
Lew shifts uncomfortably in his seat.
Jer, how long we known each other?
Christ, Lew, thirty-five years?
Remember the fun we had on “Earthquake?”
The best, Lew.
How many people did we kill in that script?
Three hundred twenty-two.
That many, huh? I think that’s how many bad reviews we got, too.
Remember the box office?
We made a lot of money, Lew, we did.
How many did we kill on the Poseidon?
Well, that was a finite number, since you can only have so many
people on a boat to begin with. It’s not like an earthquake—
Six hundred forty, Jer.
This “Miracle on the Hudson,” …how many people die?
If you’ll allow me to interject here, Lew, I think I know where you’re
going with this. See, “Miracle” is the flipside of Poseidon. Think of
Jim Cameron’s “Titanic,” think about that kind of box office, right?
“Miracle” is “Titanic,” except it’s exactly the opposite, see?
And “Titanic” made a billion dollars, Lew. Think about that.
So what you’re saying, Sandy, is I can expect to lose a billion
dollars on “Miracle on the Hudson.”
Jerry moves forward in his seat, effectively “cock-blocking” Sandy’s dying pitch.
We’re talking apples and oranges, Lew. This isn’t a feature film
here, it’s a movie of the week. Television has always been the
place for stories of inspiration and hope. Like “The Burning
Bed” or “Raid on Entebbe.”
Richard finally speaks up.
People died in both MOWs. Entebbe was tragic, innocent civilians
were shot and killed.
That’s it, Jer. Where’s the tragedy?
The husband burns to death in “The Burning Bed.” The woman
kills her husband. Those kids have to live without a father—
What’s the one about that handsome serial killer, ends up eating
On the tip of my tongue, Lew. I can IMDB it if you want.
Point is, Jer, you can’t have hope without tragedy. Where’s the
tragedy in your “Miracle?”
What have we come to, Lew? Does every story have to revolve
around some tragic event? Don’t we have the responsibility
Sandy leans forward, subtly pushing Jerry aside.
There’s huge tragedy in “Miracle on the Hudson.” The pilot and
the crewmembers suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for
months after the crash. The media swooped in and dissected
the pilot’s life—they turned him into a hero against his will.
There was a woman on the plane with a baby in her arms, Lew.
She had to crawl over the seats when the water came rushing in.
Can you imagine that? They just crashed into the river, it’s
freezing in the water–”
Like “Titanic,” and this woman is screaming and trying to crawl
over the seats as the water pours in, threatening to drown her little
What happened to that woman, Jer? What happened to the baby?
Again, I see where you’re going with this, Lew, but—
Richard has his iPad in his hands.
Okay, I’ve got AOL news on line right now, and I’ll read you the
top three headlines. “Ten Year Old Kills Father and Stepmother
with Shotgun he Received on Birthday.” “Woman Fakes Cancer,
Bilks Community Out of Two Hundred Thousand Dollars.”
“Family of Thirty Drowns on Wedding Cruise to Catalina Island.”
I’d watch every one of them. Although the second pitch is a bit
weak, since the girl doesn’t really have cancer.
Sure, but you spin it, have her get something else, Lupus or
something. Now she really needs the community she bilked—
The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Can you die from Lupus?
I’ll call Research, have an answer by morning.
Listen, Jer, it was great seeing you. I got a four o’clock
with Arnold and I think it’s going to go long. He’s looking to
do a sequel of “Twins.”
God, he’s desperate.
What else is he gonna do? He needs work.
Lew, I think we really got something here. A new vision for
the future. A world where entertainment isn’t synonymous
with violence and pain.
Lew stands, puts a hand on Jerry’s shoulder.
I got three words for you, Jer. P-B-S.
Richard smiles, repeats Lew’s comment over and over again, laughing to himself.
Say hello to the little lady for me. We’ll get together for Pesach
next month. I’ll have Ethel give her a call.
* * *
I think I can find PBS on my cable box. Somewhere in the five hundred channels of chaos and destruction…