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Thread: Another planning reference in popular media

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Another planning reference in popular media

    I'm watching a Drew Carey show re-run right now. Drew took a woman back to the Buzz Beer picobrewery that he's running out of his garage. Too bad the woman is a zoning inspector.

    So, a not-so-peevish thread begins. Know any other references to planners in popular TV shows, songs, books or movies?

  2. #2
    How about the Seinfeld episode when George becomes a mentor for the teenager. He tells him to be an urban planner instead of an architect...something about "not reaching too high"...tee hee...

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    Good one Musicman. However, my interpretation of that song is that it ("subdivisions") refers to principles of social conformity and clique behavior among young people more than the subdivision of land (i.e. "be cool or be cast out"). Still a great reference and those damn canucks wrote some pretty kick ass songs back in the day that are filled with pertinent social commentary. God love 'em.

    How about the episode of Newhart where Bob attempts to bribe the town planner in Vermont and gets into legal trouble?

    Or the lead male role in the movie "Singles" where the nerdy "nice guy" transportation planner has a hard time dealing with Kyra Sedgwick's grunge musician friends and becomes distraught about not selling the mayor on the idea of a monorail for the Seattle metro area?

    I also remember hearing about an episode of Law and Order where a city planner is tried for murdering his co-workers. I haven't seen that one but I vaguely remember hearing about it.

    Although this has nothing to do with planning, I still love the Quincy episode where the sound of punk rock music makes teenagers go out and kill...

  4. #4
    Listen to the song "Subdivisions" by the band Rush

    It's the first song on the album Signals. Pay close attention to the lyrics and what singer/bassist Geddy Lee is talking about.

  5. #5
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    Easy, I don't watch "West Wing". I think I was busy during the first season of that show, so I didn't get sucked in from the start. I figure I would probably get addicted to it if I ever sat down and paid attention to an episode, so I avoid it. I don't need any additions to my "must watch or record" list.

    Hank Hill was a P&Z Commissioner for one episode of "King of the Hill." He was trying to fight the mandatory use of "Low Flow" toilets that wasted water by never actually flushing anything on the first try.

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    One of the guys in "Boot Camp" is an Urban Planner. I don't know if he survived last week's episode or not, he made a lot of folks mad during his first week.

  7. #7
    Didn't George Bailey want to be a city planner in "It's a Wonderful Life"?

    Also, I remember a very short lived sit-com that was just after "Rhoda", can't remember that woman's name (Rhoda Morganstern!), she was in the Mary Tyler Moore show. She played a planning director in a big city office, with hilarious consequences.

    Seems to me whenever I see a planner in the movies, he's gay, and whenever it's an architect, he's married and cheating on his wife.

    Maybe we should colaborate on a new show with planners, run on the comedy channel or HBO. A cross between "OZ", and "South Park".
    In my life, I have met men both good, and evil. I defend my self against them all...

  8. #8
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Actually, it was the other way around.

    http://www.cyburbia.org/planning.mp3

    [Setting: Susan Ross Foundation conference room]

    GEORGE: Ladies and gentlemen, this (Opens the door, Steven is standing there) is Steven Koren. His G.P.A. is a solid 2.0! Right in that meaty part of the curve - not showing off, not falling behind.

    WYCK: George, the quailifications for this scholarship were suppose to be.. largely academic.

    GEORGE: I'm sure we're all aware of the flaws and biases of standardized tests..

    WYCK: These aren't standardized tests - these are his grades.

    GEORGE: Besides, Steven Koren has the highest of aspirations. He wants to be (pauses for effect) an architect.

    WYCK: Is that right?

    STEVEN: Actually, maybe I could set my sights a little bit higher.

    GEORGE: (Laughs) Steven, nothing is higher than an architect.

    STEVEN: I think I'd really like to be a city planner. (Sits down, addressing the entire foundation board) Why limit myself to just one building, when I can design a whole city?

    WYCK: Well, that's a good point.

    GEORGE: (Mutters) No, it's not.

    STEVEN: Well, isn't an architect just an art school drop-out with a tilty desk, and a big ruler? (Laughs - so do the board members)

    GEORGE: (Irritated) It's called a T-square.

    WYCK: You know, the stupidest guy in my fraternity became an architect - after he flunked out of dental school! (Everyone but George laughs) Contratulations, young man. (Shakes Steven's hand)

    STEVEN: Thank you.

    WYCK: Susan would be proud of what you're doing.

    STEVEN: Thank you.

    (Scene ends)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Wasn't Bill Murray a planner in "Small Change"; he got frustrated and became a bank robber?

  10. #10
    A good source for planning references can be found in The Simpsons. Once, the family had to find a way to entertain themselves, got into the closet to choose a game, Lisa opened a box and was disappointed that "the zoning disk" was broken.

    Also, a shyster came to Springfield to sell the town on putting in a monorail. After a pitch he gave to a classroom of kids, Lisa asked him why he thought the city would possibly need one as everything was centrally located. He as much as admitted that she had caught him and said he could explain himself and the planning theories around transportation, spatial geography, etc. (or whatever he said) but that "no one would understand what I was talking about except you and me, including your teacher."

    Lisa is the only character aware of planning per se. Other references have more to do with geography, such as how they hide which state "Springfield" is in and how they created an arial view of the town which included disparate features they've used over the years (mountains, seaside, the Eiffel Tower, etc.).

  11. #11
    I agree that the Simpsons is a good place for planning references, I wonder how I can get a Moe's Bar in my neighborhood? I missed the "zoning disk" reference though.

    Was "Small Change" the one with Geena Davis? They ran around for 3/4 of the movie trying to get out of some god forsaken part of NYC?
    In my life, I have met men both good, and evil. I defend my self against them all...

  12. #12
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    One of the guys in "Boot Camp" is an Urban Planner. I don't know if he survived last week's episode or not, he made a lot of folks mad during his first week.
    And how is that different than the normal, day-to-day work of a planner?

  13. #13
    The movie with bill murray and geena davis was "Quick Change". He was a city planner who out of frustration hatched a scheme to dress like a clown and rob a bank. However, New York City attempted to foil their escape at every turn. I think I've seen that movie 800 times.

  14. #14

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    The show Family Law on Monday night had a whole story line based around a Planning Commission who wouldn't allow a drug rehab center to open in a Beverly Hills residential area because area residents didn't want "poor" people in thier neighborhood.

  15. #15
    A very funny song that is also planning-related is "Nothing but Flowers" by Talking Heads. It mocks the usual laments of plowing greenfields by turning it around... here urban development is being turned into meadows.

  16. #16
    I found a link to this song.

    http://gunther.simplenet.com/v/data/flowers.htm

    Here is my favourite part:

    There was a shopping mall
    Now it's all covered with flowers
    You've got it, you've got it
    If this is paradise
    I wish I had a lawnmower
    You've got it, you've got it

    Years ago I was an angry young man
    I'd pretend that I was a billboard
    Standing tall by the side of the road
    I fell in love with a beautiful highway
    This used to be real estate
    Now it's only fields and trees
    Where, where is the town
    Now, it's nothing but flowers
    The highways and cars
    Were sacrificed for agriculture
    I thought that we'd start over
    But I guess I was wrong

  17. #17
    Another Simpsons reference:

    Homer takes a job with the Globex corporation (run by Albert Brooks who plans to take over the world). The company sends a video tape of the new planned community that all the employees live in. The opening scene of the video is a blighted downtown with boarded up buildings and homeless people. Then they show how Globex's planned community is so much better, all of the boarded up buildings turn into coffee shops and the homeless man in to a mailbox. The Simpsons, of course, hate the nice clean new community and long for the mean and angry streets of Springfield, so in the end, they return.

    One of my favorites.

  18. #18
         
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    There is a great band from Winnipeg called "The Weakerthans" that reference the built environment and planning issues in about a third of their songs. Lots of great social commentary to be found including "this brand new strip mall chews on farmland as we fish for someone to blame...under sputtering flourescents, after re-fills are re-filled." References like that abound in the band's lyrics.

    The band donates a portion of the proceeds from their cd's to the Art City Community Center in Winnipeg. The music is great to boot.

  19. #19
    Some other pop music references to planning issues:

    "My city was gone" by the Pretenders

    "Parking Lot" (I think that's what its called) by Carly Simon.

    ...and my personal favourite about the suburbanization of California...

    "The Last Resort" by the Eagles

    -------
    Some rich man came and raped the land; nobody caught him
    Put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus, people bought 'em
    ...
    They called it paradise; I don't know why
    You call someplace paradise; kiss it goodbye

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    Lest we forget Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi:"

    BIG YELLOW TAXI

    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot
    With a pink hotel, a boutique
    And a swinging hot spot
    Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you've got
    Till it's gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    They took all the trees
    Put 'em in a tree museum
    And they charged the people
    A dollar and a half just to see 'em
    Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you've got
    Till it's gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    Hey farmer farmer
    Put away that D.D.T. now
    Give me spots on my apples
    But leave me the birds and the bees
    Please!
    Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you've got
    Till it's gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    Late last night
    I heard the screen door slam
    And a big yellow taxi
    Took away my old man
    Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you've got
    Till it's gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

  21. #21
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    The Lucy Show episode about Main Street USA. Lucy and Mr. Mooney arrive in Bancroft to help fund a highway project that is supposed to replace Main Street and bring in commerce, etc. Hal Smith (Otis Cambell from Andy Griffith) is a member of the planning commission; Mel Torme is one of the opponents to the highway. After a musical protest, it seems like the highway isn't going through.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian jmf's avatar
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    There actually is a movie where the main character is a City Planner. In one scene, he discuses public access to the top floor of a new skyscraper with a promoter. Unfortunately, the story revolves around the guy sleeping with his sister...

  23. #23
    In the opening of Douglas Adams' "Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy," earth is about to be demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. When earthlings protest that they knew nothing about this, the head of the alien demolition crew points out that plans were posted at the intergalactic planning office for months; and if you people can't be bothered to keep up with things, that's just too bad. Then he blows up earth.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Hmmm... Planning references in science fiction. Sounds like an interesting thread.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  25. #25
    How about public hearings that seemed like science fiction?

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