"Life sure spins by," observes one of several indistinguishable characters in NBC's "The Day the Bubble Burst," but it really just creeps by in this random, slow and inadequate re-creation of the 1929 stock market crash. The film occupies three hours of prime time tomorrow starting at 8 on Channel 4.
It tells a handful of stories "based on fact" about people whose lives were shaken or shattered by the crash, including Richard Crenna as a crafty financier who keeps taking off and putting on his round glasses; Dana Elcar as a Jewish businessman who goes "hah-hah-hah" when his daughter (Donna Pescow) returns from Germany saying the Nazis could be a problem; and Robert Hays and Blanche Baker (the daughter of Carroll Baker) as young lovers in Flint, Mich., wiped out at the beginning of their marriage when a bank goes bust.
Stanley R. Greenberg based the script on a book by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts. One problem is that financial dealings, even ones that lead to catastrophe, are not easy to dramatize, and endless scenes of schemers and dreamers haggling and plotting are naggingly tiresome. Greenberg is able to make some observations about mores and prejudices of the time, but most of what is passed off as insight is merely cheap hindsight.
There is one amusing note. In an early scene a bunch of the boys are sitting around a smoke-filled room deciding just when they should buy stock in RCA, the company that now owns NBC. Dialogue like "We should be ready when RCA starts moving" and "RCA's moving up extremely fast; we have to buy now" has a mordant, ironic ring considering RCA's current hardship state. If NBC Entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff keeps making stupid decisions like airing "World War III" before the February sweeps and airing a "Hill Street Blues" rerun Thursday after they had started, it isn't hard to imagine bubbles bursting at 30 Rock much as they did in the fall of '29.