Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

He just got the premise of "Desk Set" completely wrong?


brianNH
 Share

Recommended Posts

Ok, a slight spoiler alert, but I don't think I'll give much away.

So, Tracy and Hepburn in "Desk Set" tonight.  Ben said it is his favorite of the duo's films.  I'll admit that it is my favorite as well.  So my jaw dropped to the floor when He told the set-up for the story and got it completely wrong.  Tracy, Ben said, is an "efficiency expert" hired to downsize the corporate departments.  This means -- according to our TCM host -- that Tracy is to oversee the firing of the research staff and replace them with a computer!  

I won't go into the story details, but I was astonished to hear Ben say this.  Anyone unfamiliar with the film will understand by the end of the story what really happens.  

I guess my beef here is that after months of constant self-promotion on the part of the TCM hosts about how smart and knowledgeable they all are about movies, this is quite a stunner.  It is as if Ben has only glanced at some notes cobbled together by an intern five minutes before going on air.  

Am I nuts here?  Feel free to say "Yes" by the way.

Brian 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

21 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

He probably does like DESK SET. Maybe it's been awhile since he's seen it!

It's like some of the hosts are too busy reading off the TelePrompTer and not really thinking about what they're saying. My theory.

Agree.  More of a failure of the research department (no pun intended - maybe Miss Warriner inaccurately consulted EMERAC when she was looking it up?) and his scriptwriters.  His failure was not recognizing the error and having it corrected before completing his recording stint.  I've read a couple of articles that stated Robert Osborne had stopped recording to have a factual error corrected (but he let some slip by too, IIRC).

TCM's own "database" misses the mark a bit too.  Here's their one-line synopsis:

A computer expert tries to prove his electronic brain can replace a television network's research staff.

But perhaps they do this in order to not reveal the entire plot?  Or perhaps it's just lazy writing, as "replace" isn't the exact nuance needed here...

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, brianNH said:

Tracy, Ben said, is an "efficiency expert" hired to downsize the corporate departments.  This means -- according to our TCM host -- that Tracy is to oversee the firing of the research staff and replace them with a computer!  

Sorry, can you clarify what Tracy's actual intention was in the movie? (Because that's my memory of it)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, sewhite2000 said:

Sorry, can you clarify what Tracy's actual intention was in the movie? (Because that's my memory of it)

Spoilers ahead..

He was brought in to automate various departments ahead of a merger of two broadcast networks.  No one in the research department was supposed to be laid off.  Instead, they were actually going to hire more people due to the merger.  

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's the deal.  The host's comments were made after observing how today in 2021 we are dealing with machines and Artificial Intelligence.  Fair enough, I suppose, and that comment could have been left on its own.  But he went on to link it to the subject of the movie "Desk Set" where the point he wanted to make was about machines replacing human beings.  Unfortunately, the movie does not support this view -- at least not the way he intended it.  Indeed, about three quarters of the way into the movie, the Tracy character does explain to the reference department that the computer is there to aid them in their work and that the company is going to hire more people to do the added amount of work.  (How this still betokens that the computer is "largely to replace the work done by humans" escapes me, sorry)

I'm willing to accept that the simplest explanation is probably the truth -- laziness in research and not being corrected.  Funny that the Desk Set reference department would never have let that slip through!  Now, if you're going to offer some comments about AI to introduce a theme from a 1950's movie, you're going to need another movie because "Desk Set" simply doesn't support it.  

Going off the path a bit here, but the host's bringing up AI and "Desk Set"  during a frivolous intro sets up an epistemological question about how we know what we know when experts who are telling us things get the basic information wrong.  I'll leave it at that.

Brian 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If this is a generic statement, fine, I agree. If this is directed specifically at me as some sort of statement to show me up or invalidate my comment, I find it odd, because nowhere did I ever remotely suggest TCM hosts or the things they read on air are infallible. In my many years on these boards I've started multiple threads pointing out mistakes. Describing Jose Ferrer as one of the Caine mutineers in multiple intros is only one example. Big part in the movie, yes, one of the mutineers, no.  I assume different hosts have re-read the same recycled texts. 

I've seen Desk Set maybe three times, and my memory of the plot is exactly as the OP summarizes Ben's description of it. I don't recall the speech where Tracy says the computer is only there to help and will actually lead to more humans being hired (which I assume doesn't take up more than 10 seconds of the movie).  Maybe I bring my own baggage to movie viewing, including my modern perspective and personal experience, having held several jobs that are now down entirely by computers. Maybe I just don't pay careful enough attention.  I always thought the movie was an extremely early example of the paranoia people would have about that situation - it tries to reassure audiences by showing how no computer can outsmart Katharine Hepburn. It certainly doesn't strike me as an egregious, incomprehensible reading of the plot.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know.  Frankly, if asked to summarize the plot for someone unfamiliar with the film, I would probably describe it the same as Ben.

The main point is that the staff thought and assumed that they were to be replaced.  The real motivation for the computer seems pretty irrelevant to me and fairly unimportant. 

The reaction of the employees to what they believe will happen is what drives the narrative and humor.

 

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The writer of that intro did not see or understand the movie, and neither did anyone who read the copy prior to it getting to Ben, and finally neither did Ben. 

But we are living in a "close enough" "you know what I mean" culture where half assery, in written and verbal communication especially, is the standard.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, LuckyDan said:

The writer of that intro did not see or understand the movie, and neither did anyone who read the copy prior to it getting to Ben, and finally neither did Ben. 

But we are living in a "close enough" "you know what I mean" culture where half assery, in written and verbal communication especially, is the standard.

We also live in a culture in which some people nit pick things to death because they have too much time on their hands.

  • Thanks 1
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, LuckyDan said:

The writer of that intro did not see or understand the movie, and neither did anyone who read the copy prior to it getting to Ben, and finally neither did Ben. 

But we are living in a "close enough" "you know what I mean" culture where half assery, in written and verbal communication especially, is the standard.

I have no problem with that assessment, and I have been a "nit picker" before in previous threads, such as TCM's intros to The Caine Mutiny, as I stated in a previous post, or (just now thought of this one) Tales of Manhattan, which has been introduced on more than once occasion with the promise that TCM is about to air a restored version with a long-ago-deleted WC Fields segment ... and then they aired the movie and that segment wasn't in it! This clearly bothers some people more than others. I don't know that I"m really that passionate about it, but I have started threads about it on here before probably because I "play to my audience", knowing it will be good chum for the waters. 

This is not something unique to TCM. I think of those one-sentence movie descriptions that appear on imdb, in the TV schedules in the newspapers, in TV Guide and, well, pretty much anywhere the title of a movie appears in print. I have no idea who gets paid to provide a one-sentence plot description of a movie, but as has been noted on here before, there are quite a few inaccurate or misleading summaries. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

12 hours ago, TopBilled said:

He probably does like DESK SET. Maybe it's been awhile since he's seen it!

It's like some of the hosts are too busy reading off the TelePrompTer and not really thinking about what they're saying. My theory.

Yes, but the fact that Tracy is not there to downsize the department but to make the research department's job easier and  that more help will be needed with all of the work that is to be done is the ENTIRE point of the film. That and the fact that well educated women in 1957 could at best look forward to a career as acting as google for men who are much better paid and far less knowledgeable than they are. 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

25 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

This is not something unique to TCM. I think of those one-sentence movie descriptions that appear on imdb, in the TV schedules in the newspapers, in TV Guide and, well, pretty much anywhere the title of a movie appears in print. I have no idea who gets paid to provide a one-sentence plot description of a movie, but as has been noted on here before, there are quite a few inaccurate or misleading summaries. 

TCM though should have a higher standard for accuracy than user-driven internet info sites, especially when describing a movie's theme. If Ben said Tracy's character was hired to downsize, he was speaking from the mistaken POV of the other characters. It would have been an easy fix, too, since all he'd have to add is a word or two to say Tracy was "apparently" hired to downsize. He wouldn't be giving away the reveal either.

More troubling though is the possibility that TCM knew they were mischaracterizing a key plot point for the purpose of making it fit their own theme. I didn't see the broadcast. Is the theme that AI is putting people out of work? If so, then they were deceptive. The point Tracy's character makes is that his invention will handle the simpler stuff and give the research team more time to tackle other tasks. We can call **** on that idea if we want, but that was the movies message. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, LsDoorMat said:

Ben on "The Sixth Sense" - A child psychologist helps a boy who sees dead people. And then something at the end. I can't remember what."

Intro writers slip "I was Zodiac" onto the prompter. Ben reads it aloud. Smiling.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In a couple of the more interesting filler pieces TCM runs between movies, I particularly like two of them.  The first is Peter O'Toole describing his sending a beshat jacket to the cleaners, and the cleaners send it back with a note that reads "It distresses us to return work that is not perfect."  I spent life as a cook and a baker, and I tried to live up those words for every single order I received.  Everything I sent out to my customers got the best attention I could give it, and I have been rewarded knowing that my customers sought me out for the quality of my work.

The second filler piece is Julie Andrews where she was told the the amateur works to get something right; the professional works so that they cannot get it wrong.  Again, good words to follow.

Thanks to all of you who have taken time to comment on this thread.

Brian

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

© 2022 Turner Classic Movies Inc. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...