In today’s news media landscape, there are not a lot of anchors like Cenk Uygur (pronounced “Jenk You-girh”). The host and creator of The Young Turks, an independent news show with a big audience on YouTube, Uygur has a bombastic screen presence and provocative opinions. Uygur began as a devout conservative, shifted to the left during the “War on Terror” and ended up an independent voice, with harsh views on both major parties. Andrew Napier’s doc is the story of how a Turkish immigrant took on the American media – hoping to “punch the establishment in the mouth” – while building an online media empire.
Mad as Hell gets its name from the famous rant in the 1976 film Network, when a news anchor lashes out at the corporate media culture. It is apt to describe Uygur in this way, since his comments about the War on Terror, democracy and the news media are nothing short of inflammatory. Much of Mad as Hell is a blistering, detailed look at an iconoclast and his importance in the world of online media.
Director Napier was a writer and producer for The Young Turks, which is both a pro and con for his doc. On one hand, he has a lot of candid footage from the show’s offices and he gets Uygur and the rest of the staff to open up about the wild journey of their news show.
Although the film is an insightful look into the changing journalistic landscape, it is also one-sided. It was as if Napier did not want to upset the impassioned anchor by putting in too much of his neglectful on-air antics. As a result, a doc about a personality who strived to be honest with his audience feels partly dishonest.