In the past year, I have been think of writing five screenplays about Washington D.C. like Barry Levinson’s Baltimore series (Diner, Tin Men, Avalon, Liberty Heights). The reason I’m thinking about doing these screenplays is I don’t like people talk about D.C. being purely a political town. That might be the outside view, but if you live in the area, it is much more than that. Here’s the five I’m thinking of doing:
- One involving how the happy hour/networking scene works in D.C.
- One is an action flick about an athletic policeman using his speed and intelligence to catch criminals and who has shady parents.
- One about Mike Rizzo (though that might be scrapped depending on the outcome).
- One about the beauty of Washington D.C.
The final one is about the D.C. newscasts of the 80s and 90s between WUSA and WRC (now referred as NBC4). However, I’m still deciding what angle to tackle.
The NBC4 team
My initial thought is doing a movie on the NBC4 team of Jim Vance, Doreen Gentzler, George Michael, and Bob Ryan (and Arch Campbell for good measure). To me, WRC has the best local news team in the country. I have seen other local news broadcasts on YouTube. They don’t hold a candle to WRC.
The characters set-up perfectly: Jim is a former cocaine addict who likes to ad-lib on air and lives in a freestyle world. Doreen is a straightforward anchor who is a healthy nut. George is a loud, abrasive perfectionist. Bob is…Bob. Those four were the gold standard of local news as a team and I would like to write what happens behind-the-scenes of why they were a great team. from this Washingtonian article, it would be hard to edit to a 2-3 hour movie.
Although NBC4 might have the best local news team ever, Glenn Brenner might be the best broadcaster in D.C. history. Yes, he’s a sports anchor, but there was no one who brought the city together like Brenner with his no-nonsense reporting and interviewing, and his banter and wit with Gordon Peterson and Maureen Bunyan. You can argue that the only people who can really walk on the Potomac River are Joe Gibbs and Glenn Brenner.
Not only Glenn was a great broadcaster, he was (and still is) the pioneer of the current sports broadcaster people try to emulate: style, wit, and flair into the sports highlight. Although people have tried, no one comes close to Glenn. It was until his death in 1992 everything changed: WUSA, the top-rated news program in D.C., sank to 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th in the ratings and never have recovered after Brenner’s death. Meanwhile, NBC4 jumped to the number one and never looked back. The D.C. news landscape changed.
I have very little to no memory of any Glenn Brenner’s broadcast. I do remember some of the Weenie of the Week segments, the nun predicting games because my family was Catholic, and Countdown to Kickoff. I remember there was a mention of Glenn Brenner’s death during the NFC Championship Game broadcast, which the Redskins played and won. It’s a coincidence that a year after Glenn passed away, CBS got David Letterman to host the 11:35 PM time slot. Imagine following a Glenn Brenner sports report, you got the Late Show. To be honest, D.C. would be more ironic, smarter, and possibly funnier in the 90s.
Although a lot of people will remember Glenn, I had a connection with George Michael and the NBC4 team. With no cable and no sports networks, they were my source of news and they were great. I especially like George Michael’s segments on wrestling and his blooper reels. I was crushed after hearing George’s death because that was essentially the last part of the golden era of local sports media gone. If Brenner revolutionize sports reporting, George build a cottage farm of the current TV sports personalities (see Kornheiser, Wilbon, David Aldridge, Lindsay Czarniak).
I’m amazed there hasn’t been a movie/documentary about WUSA and NBC4. That was the golden age of local newscasts and you had two different styles to choose from and it would be a very entertaining movie
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a screenwriter and won’t have any time as I’m trying to find a career opportunity and do need some funding, but I hope there is someone out there who can make this movie/documentary about the local D.C. news scene involving the personalities. Those personalities made D.C. great back then and it would make a great movie now.
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