November 18, 2003

As NOT Seen on TV

Not content with the crusade against terrorism, conservatives are now fighting for the sanctity of television.

CBS recently pulled the plug on “The Reagans,” a new miniseries that came under fire for portraying Ronald Reagan as a confused, right-wing puppet. Apparently there was enough reality TV already.

Newsmax.com, that balanced bastion of right-wing conspiracy, reported that Les Moonves of CBS yanked the miniseries from its sweeps-week lineup at the request of Marc Christian, gay lover of the late actor Rock Hudson. The miniseries allegedly portrays Reagan as telling Hudson, who died of AIDS in 1985, “Live by sin, die by sin.” Of course, Newsmax did not quote Moonves or otherwise offer any proof that he even got the letter. Shaky reporting.

Less shaky is the angry letter from Republican National Committee chief Ed Gillespie. He reportedly offered CBS a choice: either allow Gillespie and his hand-picked historians and friends dissect the film beforehand, or run a disclaimer every 10 minutes reminding viewers that the show is inaccurate fiction. The network, showing the toughness that the American media is known for worldwide, took a bold stand by immediately wimping out. Instead, “The Reagans” was cast to Showtime, where it will presumably air between “Erotic Confessions” and “Red Shoe Diaries.”

This may not be a bad thing. Two years ago, Showtime aired “The Day Reagan Was Shot,” dramatizing Reagan’s attempted assassination by John Hinckley in 1981. President Reagan was portrayed as a likable dunce who never seemed to realize the severity of any situation, just as he comes off in the new miniseries. The movie garnered very high ratings and is now out on video. It was inaccurate in one respect: when doctors opened Reagan’s chest in the film, we see his heart beating. Based on his policies, I’d say that was dramatic license.

The threat against “The Reagans” comes hot off the heils (get it?) of Fox News Network’s dissing of “The Simpsons.” Matt Groening, the genius behind the show, recently got into trouble with Fox for airing an episode that parodied the conservative Fox News, complete with that goofy little news crawl that scrolls at the bottom of the screen. The network got really upset, claiming that viewers might get confused and assume it really was the Fox News crawl. With ridiculous headlines like, “Do Democrats cause cancer?…Study: 92 percent of Democrats are gay... JFK posthumously joins Republican Party...Oil slicks found to keep seals young, supple...Dan Quayle: Awesome,” I see their point.

Now that conservatives have cleansed television of misleading left-wing propaganda, viewers can relax and enjoy misleading RIGHT-WING propaganda! NBC’s “The Jessica Lynch Story” promises to be a doozy, highlighting the heroic exploits of the pretty West Virginia soldier who went down fighting against the Iraqis. Except that Jessica herself has said the whole story is a lie and she didn’t go down fighting, the Iraqi doctors gave her decent care and many fellow soldiers underwent the same trauma. Details, details.

And let’s not forget that all-time classic “DC 9/11,” aired at the two-year mark of the attacks by Showtime (that repository of political potted meat). Starring Timothy Bottoms of “That’s My Bush!” (no joke), “DC 9/11” portrayed Bush as a swaggering and decisive leader who was practically wetting his pants to go to Ground Zero and ripping Osama bin Laden a new one, if only they’d let him! “DC 9/11” was based on real-life witness accounts from the imagination of the White House, and in no way dramatized anything that happened that day.

I never thought I’d say this, but infomercials are looking better all the time.

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