Monday, May 02, 2005


I doubt that any of my readers harbor any idea at all at all that Fox is actually a news channel providing unbiased views. But, for those who might stumble across this post thinking otherwise, lets take a look at Roger Friedman's blurb on a planned ABC miniseries about 9/11. (Apologies in advance for actually linking to the evil-doers.)

Keep three things in mind here. 1) This article is not on the OpEd pages, nor is it identified as such. It's part of the regular entertainment headlines. 2) This is Fox describing an ABC project, even as Fox is getting all pissy about a soon-to-air ABC special said to denounce Fox's (s)hit show American Idol. 3) Never does the author actually claim to have read the script for the mini, he just implies that he has, dropping in blind quotes. Thanks to some clever obfuscation, it's never clear whether these quotes are from the script or from the PBS special it's allegedly based on. (The author uses variations of "seems" a lot). Here are some quotes, with my usual snarky in red.
Here it comes, the miniseries no one wanted to see.

Ah, right off the top, lets punch them with a derisive lead.

Nevertheless, ABC seems to be readying a major and secret "fictionalized" multi-parter about the history of terrorism, from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to the disasters of Sept. 11, 2001.

Reading on, you'll wonder why fictionalized is in quotes here, since the author's whole point seems to be that the piece is a work of... wait for it... fiction.

From the looks of it, the story is going to be about how stupid the government was: If only they'd listened to one man, all would have been right!
Now, tell me how he knows this. "From the looks of it" is a classic blind attribution that hides blame. Did he read a script? Talk to the writer, producer or director? From the looks of what, and who was looking? But it's a typical Fox trick, the old "some people say" strategy, as in "Some people say Bill Clinton is a serial liar." Oh yeah? Get one on camera, or let your reporter have the balls to say, "I think that..." Onward.
The main [character]? Former FBI agent John O'Neill, who seems to be the lead figure in this 'history.'

Again, with the seems. What, did you read that in the script or just pull it out of your ass? And funny how now it's "history" in quotes, when it was "fiction" before. Make up your mind, Roger. History or fiction? Oh, that's right. They can't tell the difference at Fox.

O'Neill left the FBI in 2001 when he claimed his superiors wouldn't listen to his warnings about Al Qaeda, and became the head of security at the World Trade Center. He was the subject of a PBS Frontline special called "The Man Who Knew."

The miniseries seems to be based on the PBS show, which is outlined in painstaking and unintentionally humorous detail on the PBS Web site.

Another seems. How'd he know that, or is he just guessing? And note the "unintentionally humorous" bit there. Lets slam the credibility of the alleged source by way of trashing the final product, even though the connection between them is unproven. Hm. Kinda like the one between Osama and Saddam.

In the TV version, O'Neill is described as "Early 40s to early 50s, a New Jersey native, a tall, burly, no-nonsense man with a taste for the high life, he's an FBI Special Agent, smart, determined, and tenacious in pursuing the big picture.

And there's the switcheroo. No seems here; "In the TV version, O'Neill is described as..." Now, either Friedman actually has a script for the show and he's not telling us, or this description and the rest comes from the PBS site. Given the end of the previous graph, I think that's what he's playing fast and loose with -- quoting the PBS doc but trying to make it look like he has the actual dirt on the ABC mini. This is called "creating false credibility for yourself." Or, as they call it in Hollywood, pure bullshit

"O'Neill is known for his sharp elbows and Irish temper. He is on the trail of Usama Bin Laden from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Hungry to make busts in the pursuit of those responsible for taking American lives, O'Neill becomes a bitter opponent of Al Qaeda along the way, and is loudly and impatiently angry with the State Department honchos who balk his investigations..."

To those in the know, not from a screenplay. Maybe from a pitch or a treatment, but not a screenplay.

Think Brian Dennehy.

They could do worse. And now Friedman has managed to insult by implication a fine dramatic actor

Historians should have a field day with this version of the decade-long terrorist plot. But why not? Screenwriter Cyrus Nowrasteh got his start on another soap opera, "Falcon Crest." He also wrote the upcoming miniseries "Into the West" and was cited for "The Day Reagan Was Shot." Marc Platt is the producer, and David L. Cunningham — who helmed the recent miniseries revival of "Little House on the Prairie" and several B-movies — will direct.

Yes, Nowrasteh wrote for "Falcon Crest" -- twenty-four years ago. In the interim, he's had a lot more writing credits than those Friedman cherry picks, and also directed "The Day Reagan Was Shot," among other projects. As for Cunningham, he's also done a lot more than "Little House on the Prairie", and one man's "B-movie" is also a major feature when it happens to be produced in another country for local consumption -- in this case, Australia. His IMDB bio:
David L. Cunningham is an international filmmaker who has directed and produced a number of motion picture and television projects in 40 countries worldwide. He is the founder and President of the Los Angeles-based production company Pray For Rain Pictures, Inc.. Born in Switzerland and raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Mr. Cunningham has traveled to 133 countries on every continent, earning him a membership in the prestigious Traveler's Century Club, whose members have been to more than 100 nations. Mr. Cunningham has lectured at UCLA Extension, AFI Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival, Avid Technologies, and University of the Nations (Hawaii, South Africa, Switzerland and New Zealand campuses).
Hm. Wonder if Friedman's resume is half as impressive. It seems not to be. Or so people say...

Something else notable from the IMDB info -- this project does not appear, and IMDB is pretty good at getting projects up way ahead of production. But there's nary a peep about this mini in any of the info for any of the three people mentioned. Which makes me wonder -- is this basically a blind item hatchet job, something designed to rile up the Red States, who will then rabidly boycott ABC and Disney and their affiliates because they see them as unpatriotic?

Is this Fox's revenge for the American Idol exposé? It would seem to be their typical tactics. Make up a story, give it vague plausibility by careful use of qualifiers, but also design it for deniability in case there's a problem. Best of all, they don't have to retract it later. They can just claim, after the damage is done, that, oh, gosh. The thing didn't get greenlit.

But you won't hear that part of the story, because they'll be trotting out the latest runaway bride or celebrity show trial, or they'll be trying to look up Hilary's skirt or down Barack's pants.

Fox. We report, and you can suck it.

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