The Big Lebowski - A Network Television Premiere
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“You see what happens, Larry? You see what happens?! This is what happens when you flunk a pop quiz in the class.”
A way out west there was a station, a TV station I want to tell you about, a TV station by the name of the American Broadcasting Company. At least, that was the handle the network chiefs gave it, but home viewers simply referred to it as Channel Seven. Now, seven... that was the number of years its taken me to grow this moustache out just so. Pretty durned impressive, ain’t it? Quite possibly the bushiest set'a whiskers in all of Los Angeles County. Which is sayin' somethin', 'cause Wilfred Brimley lives here.
They call Los Angeles the City of A-holes. I'd say that description is purdy durned apt. 'Course, I can't say I ever seen the rain, and I ain't never been to Spain, so I can't rightly say if the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains, or sorta off to the sides-like. But I’ll tell you what, after seeing the network television premiere of The Big Lebowski on Los Angeles' Channel Seven — well, I guess I seen something just as boring as a light downpour on a Spanish prairie.
Now this story I’m about to unfold took place back in the early zeros — just about the time of our conflict with Sad’m and the Eye-rackies. Round two. I only mention it ‘cause sometimes, well sometimes these coincidences are so startling, you kinda have to draw some attention to ‘em.
Anyways, sometimes there’s a man — I won’t say programming director, ‘cause I’m not sure what that is, exactly — but sometimes there’s a man who picks the stuff that people watch on TV. If that's a programming director, then I'm a june bug caught in a cold, winter wind. Huh? Oh, that is a programming director? Better get my thermals.
Sometimes there’s a man, and I’m talking about that TV picker guy, again — well, he’s in a hurry, and maybe a little jumpy in his saddle on account of all the sarsaparilla, and he picks the wrong movie to play on his television station. It may be that he only watched the first fifteen seconds of the film, maybe heard my hickory-smoked voice settin’ up the storyline and figured it for a Western tale.
Well, anyways, that man moseys on over to the Outback and gets himself a bone-in rib-eye, which leaves another man, let's just call him the Fred, to edit the film one night before it airs. So the Fred, well, he does the only thing a man like the Fred can do — a quick, white-warshed hatchet job.
Aww, hell... I dun it again, went and reinforced this ranch-hand stereotype with my twangy narration. Now I'll never play King Lear.
edit The Fred and the Impossible Task
It is late, the network all but deserted. The article pans to a fortyish man in Bermuda shorts and sunglasses at the editing board. He is the Fred. His relaxed business attire suggest that this is casual Friday and he just did a jay in the fifth floor bathroom. He is watching The Big Lebowski and weighing his own cinematic sensibilities against being an employed person. To keep his job will require making copious cuts, changes and overdubs as required by the television ratings board for the 2 p.m. time slot. He's also been tasked to insert a string of product placements into the film. He looks down at the detailed instructions left by his boss. "I hope he chokes on that rib-eye," the Fred finds himself thinking, scanning the product placement list. "Ahem... that delicious, juicy, one-of-a-kind rib-eye from the premier destination for all things beefy — Outback Steakhouse." The Fred hangs his head in disgust as he scratches a line through his list.
A monitor beside the screen playing Lebowski shows George W. Bush at a press conference, his mind reeling from the constant string of softball questions.
"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family," he tells a member of the press in the front row that he has nicknamed "Lanky Louie", even though the reporter's name is Marcus and he is of average proportion.
The Fred peers over at the press conference for a moment before returning to his roughshod editing duties. On the main screen, Jeff Bridges is seen returning to his bungalow after a shopping trip. "Nice!" declares the Fred, pulling another doob from his pocket. "This movie has such a classic beginning. Shame I have to rip it to shreds." The Fred inhales deeply.
edit An Unwelcome Surprise Party
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski enters his home and flicks the light switch. He is promptly grabbed from behind by an EPA agent, Jacob, who wants to show him, firsthand, the water his running toilet is wasting. This is considered a serious offense by the EPA. Jacob plunges the Dude's head far into the bowl.
"You really should switch to a high-efficiency toilet, Lebowski," Jacob warns him. He pulls the Dude's head above the rim for a moment, before shoving it right back down. "We know you've got the money, Lebowski. Upgrade your toilet, already." Once again, the Dude's head is yanked from the toilet, only to be promptly issued a third swirlie. "Why should I stop, Lebowski? Why should I stop if you can't even be bothered to do your part in the most basic of water conservation methods?" He submerges the Dude a fourth time.
"Because I want to live!" the Dude gasps as he is flopped onto the floor. He reaches back into the toilet and grabs his sunglasses as the
chinaman Asian-American EPA agent leers from the living room.
"Ever thus to water wasters, Lebowski," Woo barks, tracking mud on the Dude's Persian carpet.
"Don't tread on my rug in work boots, man," the Dude pleads. "I just vacuumed."
"We're gonna be back. You'd better have that toilet fixed," Jacob threatens as the two agents exit. The door is slammed shut and we cut to:
...illustrating the elaborate
and severe editing...
...that the following bowling alley scene will need,
set to a lesser-known, but nonetheless excellent, Bob Dylan tune...
...except that ABC deemed it too costly
to pay for the original soundtrack version...
...and settled on the Robert Palmer and UB40 cover, instead.
edit Look, More Surrogate Characters
The Fred decides that this first bowling alley scene is far too expletive-filled to leave in, yet far too crucial to leave out. He's really in a tight spot, so he enlists the help of two studio friends — Peter the Gulf War vet and Peter's pet mouse, Danny.
"This is a valued scene," Peter states matter-of-factly. "This is, uh..."
"Yeah man, it really ties the movie together," the Fred adds.
Danny the mouse squeaks. "Shut the fuck up, Danny," Peter grunts.
The Fred senses the conversation shifting on account of Peter's post-traumatic stress disorder, so he quickly redirects them back to the task at hand. Relaying the importance of getting this film trimmed and polished up before it airs, the Fred explains the strict directives issued to him by his boss, Mr. Blabinsky, who by now has probably left the Outback and gone shopping for fabulous deals and unbelievable savings on necessities like the Cannon Sureshot digital camera and sidearm combo at Dick's Sporting Goods, the first name in personal defense and 'smores-making. The Cannon Sureshot... ready, say cheese, fire! The Fred sadly strikes two more lines through his product list. Danny squeaks.
"You're out of your element, Danny!" Walter shouts. "And the scene is not the issue, Fred."
"So wha..." the Fred begins before being interrupted by Peter.
"Mr. Blabinsky. Your boss, Blabinsky. Obviously he has the, uh, time and resources to cut up the scene himself, and there is no reason, no fucking reason, why he should get to go out and spend money all over town while you sit here and cut this scene. Am I wrong? Am I wrong? And shut the fuck up, Danny." Peter glances toward the mouse. "This scene really ties the movie together, does it not?"
edit You're a Lebowski, I'm a Lebowski... Aren't We All A Little Lebowski?
Sensing that consulting Peter and Danny was not his best move, which incidentally he always considered to be co-authoring the original Sport's Authority Statement, not the compromised second draft...
...he puts the bowling alley on the back burner and skips ahead to the Dude's meeting with the Big Lebowski. He consults his editing checklist — the Dude cannot be characterized as unemployed, for fear that teenagers will be given the impression that slacking is a viable career path.
"Are you employed, Mr. Lebowski?"
The Dude rambles. "Look, let me explain something. I'm not Mr. Lebowski; you're Mr. Lebowski. I'm the tutor. So that's what you call me. That, or His Royal Tutorness of the House of Tutors. El Tutorino. Or My Neighbor Tutoro, if, you know, you're into the whole anime thing..."
"Are you employed, sir?"
"That's what I just explained, man. I'm here to tutor your niece, Bunny."
edit Back to the Soundboards
The Fred sits down at the editing desk, contemplating the second major, curse-riddled bowling scene. Peter storms in holding a goldfish bowl in one hand and frantically drops a nervous-looking Danny on a table with the other.
"Way to go, Fred. One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, " Peter proclaims, setting the glass tank down.
The Fred looks confused. "What the fuck is that?" he asks.
Peter explains. "Theodor Geisel. Random House. One fish, two fish..."
The Fred looks more confused as he scratches Random House from his list. "What the fuck, Peter? Who's talking Dr. Seuss? The fish bowl. Your fucking fish bowl?"
Peter, finally understanding, elaborates. "Oooh, that's Candy's piranha. Can't leave it alone or it gets bored. I'm keeping it company while she's with another client." The piranha is clearly a beta fish.
The Fred, Peter and Danny commit themselves to some serious editing, knowing that The Big Lebowski without bowling scenes is like a White Russian without vodka — it just doesn't abide. They make the call early on to replace every occurrence of fuck with flock, whether it fits or not, and just be done with it. But then they come to the part where John Goodman pulls his gun on another bowler.
"Over the line. That's over the line," shouts Peter. "Just cut it all. Next scene."
edit All That and a Pair of Testicles
Back at the Big Lebowski's, the Dude is whisked into a fire-lit study. As he enters, he is handed a fax that reads:
"As you can see, it is a report card. Sent by teachers. Men who are unable to achieve on a level playing field. So they join teacher's unions. Teacher's unions! Bums!" The Big Lebowski is pissed.
"Flockin' O," the Dude intones. "I'm working on it with her, man. But she has trouble focusing, like she doesn't believe in grammar. Or anything for that matter. It might be that crowd she's running with." The Dude stands to leave and is quickly handed a leather satchel.
"Here, take this with you," the Big L demands. "It's my dry cleaning. I'd run it there myself but, you know..." He glances down at his wheelchair. "Damn chinaman."
edit Shit, Another Fuck-filled Alleyway
Screening The Big Lebowski for Saturday afternoon television made one thing abundantly clear: Jesus had to go. The whole scene — the purple one-piece, the hairnet, the bowling ball molestation, the exaggerated Latino accent and especially the pederast back story. I'll tell you something, pendejo — the sponsors can fuck with the Jesus.
Not wanting to leave Turturro out of the film entirely, even though he only had fifty-three seconds of screen time to begin with, the Fred discovered that he had access to some of the Coen's other films. With a bit of clever editing, he fashioned a solution:
edit Dream Sequences Deemed Inappropriate By the FCC
After a Saturday morning exposing children to some of the trippiest, seizure-inducing cartoon images this side of the Navajo Nation's Annual Mescaline Fest, it seemed asinine that the Fred had to remove The Big Lebowski's iconic dream sequences. And Maude Lebowski. And Madonna's baby daddy. But that's the FCC... real reactionary.
Skipping ahead, the Dude travels with his buddy Walter to have the Big Lebowski's laundry cleaned and pressed. The Dude celebrates the fact that he has added courier to his list of gainful employment and, as an added bonus, he got a free beeper out of the deal. Walter is just hoping to switch his dirty skivvies out for some of the old man's luxurious satin boxers.
The Big Lebowski has demanded they take his laundry to a great little German dry cleaners. "Forget chinamen," he tells them. "Nobody prides themselves on eradicating stains quite like the Germans." Lost in isolation deep in the desert, the portable phone finally rings and the voice on the other end issues directions to the dry cleaning establishment:
Walter tosses his case full of dirty briefs from the window, keeping a firm grip on the Big Lebowski's garments. "You didn't think I was rolling out of here naked?" he asks the Dude. "Flock it... let's go bowling."
edit Hello, My Name Is Shomer Shabbas
Though Walter is elated due to his new found, satiny scrotal freedom, the Dude is inconsolable thinking that he has failed in the modest tasks, both dry cleaning drop-off and Bunny tutelage, that were his charge. "They're gonna fail that poor woman," he sadly declares thirty seven times. As the pair, followed by Donny, their inquisitive friend, step outside, the Dude suddenly remembers that Lawrence Sellers, another student he tutors, borrowed his car.
"He better not touch my flockin' undies," Walter menaces.
"Or my Creedence," adds the Dude.
Changing the car theft to a simple car borrowing, the Fred was able to cut the following scene with the police investigation. And as the FCC previously discussed, Maude is out. Yup, no Logjammin' and certainly no vaginal art. He began editing the limo scene, but was startled away from his work by noises in his boss' office. Unleashing Febreze to eliminate the stale, smokey scent from the room, he strikes Febreze from his ever-diminishing list.
"Into the office, you sonofabitch." It was his boss' assistant, Brett.
The Fred reluctantly follows Brett to Mr. Blabinsky, hoping against hope that his job would remain intact. Brett nudges him into the large, corner office, entering behind and abruptly shuts the door.
"Where's my goddamn movie, you bum?!" Blabinsky's forehead vein is pulsing.
The Fred is caught off guard. "Certain scenes have come to light, and uh, has it ever occurred to you, man, that given the nature of this film, that uh, instead of pointing your forehead vein at me, that this whole movie might just be, you know, not such a good, uh, idea. For network television, you know? Speaking of, you think I could get a twenty thousand dollar advance on my salary? My concern is that, you know, you're about to fire me and its gonna be hard to put food on my family..."
"No. No, that had not occurred to me. We're talking about that cowboy picture, yes? Yes? Perfect for Saturday afternoon," Blabinsky bleats. "And make sure to plug that new emerald green L'Oreal nail polish. By God... I will not tolerate your failure or an unpolished toe."
edit Something, Something Marmot
With his deadline approaching and a great deal of work left to do, the Fred needs pot and coffee stimulation. After smoking a thai-stick in a stairwell, he joins Peter in the network cafeteria. They both sit staring, stirring their Nescafés, as another line strikes the product placements.
"I figure my only hope is that Blabinsky fires me before I have to cut up the bathtub scene," the Fred begins. "Otherwise, what the fuck am I gonna do? So far I've got about twenty-six minutes of usable footage, I still haven't dubbed that first bowling scene..."
"The one that ties the..." Peter interrupts before being interrupted himself.
"...ties the whole movie together," the Fred finishes. "Of course, Peter. Fuckin' A, man. Now I have this bathtub scene to deal with — Jeff Bridges naked, smoking a joint in a bathtub, before being menaced and threatened by three angry Germans and one scary ferret."
"Are these Germans, umm, Nazis?" Peter inquires, trying to hide his excitement.
"I think I'm just explaining them as dry cleaners," the Fred answers.
"Dry cleaners! Jesus. You are desperate on this one, huh? You have my sympathy," Peter states in a moment of strange compassion.
"Fuck your sympathy! I don't need your sympathy, man, I need my fucking job. And my Johnson & Johnson Baby Lotion! Tension makes my hands dry. Plus I've got a nearly cleared list here," says the Fred, striking another line through it. He then departs for a private bathroom, baby lotion in tow, to relieve his tension.
edit The Narrator Stumbles Along Like A Bumbling Dumbleweed
Knowing his boss expects a cowboy film, the Fred focuses his attention on the appearance of the Stranger, the drawling human coyote that opened the film. Examining the scene under careful scrutiny, the Fred sees his out. He consults Wild Bill Hickok's Big Book of Critter Catchphrases and dubs in a bunch of classic, backwoods notions using his best Sam Elliot:
One a those days, huh? Wal a wiser fella than m'self once said, sometimes you eat the bar and sometimes the bar, wal, he eats you. And sometimes you eat the skernk and sometimes you get warshed in tomater juice. And sometimes you eat somethin' you found on the side of the trail there and sometimes that thing you ate gives you indirgestion. And then there are them days when you start yer morning off with a nice quail egg quiche, while others yer eyes are nearly ripped out by an overpertective lady quail with unnatural bird strength. Sometimes you eat the rabbit and sometimes he, wal a rabbit can't eat a man, really, but maybe you get bit a lil'. Sometimes...
This carried on for twenty-six minutes, doubling the film's running time. Score one for the Fred!
edit A Pep Talk with Little LarryHaving recovered his car from Larry Sellers, the Dude is driving home from bowling and is dismayed by a discovery — Larry's social studies homework. Larry is under the impression that the Louisiana Purchase is a drunken masseuse character on a little show called Branded. The Dude is failing his duties, yet again, so he decides on an aggressive course of action. He takes Walter and Donny to see a dance quintet, just to get them really worked up, before heading to Larry's house to scare the stupid out of him. Three blocks from their destination, they are distracted by the beckoning lights of the In-N-Out Burger and decide to flock off on their task and just go burgering, instead.
As the three bowling buddies pull out of the parking lot with their burger bounty, the television audience took note that the Dude's car was inexplicably in shambles. This censored version never did explain the car's missing passenger seat, shattered headlights, busted out windshield or stolen hubcaps, but audiences correctly surmised that the damages had been caused by an enraged Mexican.
edit Darkness Washes Over the Fred
The Fred sifts through the last third of the movie. Between smut peddling, police brutality, Maude impregnation, and the culmination of it all — the Kraftwerk-backed nihilist fight with the Mike Tysoning of a German ear and Donny's death by cowardice — it is all completely unusable. He clips it all and works on a new ending for the film: The Dude and Walter return to the Big Lebowski's estate. They learn that Bunny wasn't even enrolled in school; she had no class. They also come to find that the Big Lebowski's underwear were only mid-grade polyester.
"That explains the chaffing," states Walter, rubbing his goldbricking ass. "Flock it, Dude... let's go jogging."
The room falls silent.
"Just kidding, Dude. Bowling. Let's bowl." Everyone laughs.
"The Dude abides," states the Dude, abiding.
edit The Stranger Finishes This Thing Off
Welp, that about does her, ties her all up in jute and leaves her to die on the railroad tracks. The Fred see, he made all the changes that he had to, and I thought I'da been happy to see all that cussin' and fornicatin' left on the cuttin' room floor. But I s'pose all that stuff was what made this whole durned story interestin' to begin with. You might be wonderin' if the Fred snuck in all those product placements his boss left him — after he succeeded in strikin' the first eighteen off his list, the last one, for Big Marty's Carpet Warehouse, was left over. It was a spare.
Course, I didn't like seein' Danny go. But then, I happen to know that mice are incapable of scuba divin'. Someone might want to give Peter a holler on that. Wal, I hope you folks enjoyed the network premiere of The Big Lebowski. It might not've made much sense on account of all the censorin' and the Fred never did finish that first bowling scene, so's I guess this here film went a bit untied in the end. But, hey — it ain't Raymond Chandler, so what more could you folks ask fer?
edit How To Dude
- Take any rug in the house
- Hang with Steve Buscemi
- Roadie for Metallica
- Hate the fucking Eagles, man!