'Fired' looks at getting canned

"Fired"

KAI RYSSDAL: The housing market's having its troubles. Wall Street's jittery, you could safely say. But by all appearances, the job market's chugging right along. The Labor Department reported today the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped by a larger-than-expected 10,000 last week.

Still, those numbers don't count the thousands who get fired every day. There's a new documentary on Showtime tonight about the experience of getting the heave-ho. John Brady has this review of "Fired."


JOHN BRADY: Americans love watching losers. Singers who stink, second-rate schemers who get the island heave ho, wannabe CEOs who get fired by The Donald.

Thankfully, Annabelle Gurwitch's documentary, "Fired," is different. It doesn't laugh at losers, it sympathizes with them. Her film is simultaneously a delightful and aggravating look at getting canned.

Here's the story in brief. Gurwitch's agent calls. She's been cast in the latest Woody Allen play. Excitement ensues. But there's a rub: after a few rehearsals, it's clear that Allen hates Gurwitch's acting. He fires her. Ouch.

Gurwitch starts drinking before noon. Not just beer, but the hard stuff. Happily, though, our heroine has pluck. She produces a show about getting fired, featuring her Hollywood friends telling stories about unemployment.

It's a hit. And the rest is history. Or at least a small cottage industry that includes a book and this documentary.

ANDY BOROWITZ: I did a number of things in the 80s that I'm not proud of. But there's one thing I did that was so heinous, I've actually never told anybody about it. In 1985, I wrote for the TV show "The Facts of Life."

That's Andy Borowitz beginning the story of how he lost his first television job. Borowitz is joined by a cavalcade of other stars who share their pink-slip stories. They're funny and entertaining, and they make "Fired" delightful.

But here's the aggravating part: Gurwitch isn't satisfied with tales of Tinseltown woe. She wants to be down with the little people, too. So she interviews people like this guy, who suffered a real blow.

MAN IN THE STREET: Just, you know, 12 years at a place I loved working for and then all of a sudden, one day, you know it just stops . . .

Gurwitch acts like the Will Rogers of outsourcing. For this to work, we have to believe that she shares something with the regular people.

But she got fired by Woody Allen. And she gets to complain about the experience to Tim Allen. So it's hard to swallow that she really has all that much in common with the rest of us.

Watch "Fired." It's genuinely funny. Just don't expect to learn much about what it really means when people — especially those out of the limelight — lose their jobs.

RYSSDAL: John Brady is a writer living in Los Angeles. Just for the record, he says he's never been handed a pink slip.

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