The back-and-forth over CBS’s “The Reagans” drama has been fascinating to watch. Of course in the face of pressure driven by conservatives, CBS decided to move the controversial mini-series to Showtime.
CBS’s statement announcing this is bizarre,
CBS will not broadcast The Reagans on November 16 and 18. This decision is based solely on our reaction to seeing the final film, not the controversy that erupted around a draft of the script.
It’s amusing to see how a major media outlet, when faced when its own scandal, spins as poorly as any politician out there. The decision had nothing to do with the outcry over the film? That’s about as believable as a CBS story about destroying weapons bunkers in Iraq.
Although the mini-series features impressive production values and acting performances, and although the producers have sources to verify each scene in the script, we believe it does not present a balanced portrayal of the Reagans for CBS and its audience. Subsequent edits that we considered did not address those concerns.
As far as I can tell, CBS is simply flat-out lying about their sourcing claims. As Patty Davis, who in the past has had less than flattering things to say about her famous family, notes in Time magazine,
In the New York Times on October 21st, one of the writers admitted that the line about AIDS victims was completely fabricated. In that same article, Jim Rutenberg reported that the producers claimed no major event was depicted without two confirming sources.
In fact, Davis cites numerous errors related to their depiction of her life in the film (emphasis added),
Nor do I remember conducting an impromptu yoga class at my wedding reception. (I promise you, no one at my wedding was chanting Om or Shanti.)
. . .
Consider the scene in a girlsÂ’ boarding school I supposedly was attending when my father was elected governor of California (I was never at an all-girlsÂ’ boarding school.) They have a classmate saying to me, “HitlerÂ’s just been elected governor.” No one writes a line like that with any other agenda except to wound.
But nothing beats the third paragraph of the CBS explanation of the switch to Showtime for “The Reagans,”
A free broadcast network, available to all over the public airwaves, has different standards than media the public must pay to view. We do, however, recognize and respect the filmmakers’ right to have their voice heard and their film seen. As such, we have reached an agreement to license the exhibition rights for the film to Showtime, a subscriber-based, pay-cable network. We believe this is a solution that benefits everyone involved.
Ah, I get it now — it’s okay to make absurdly bogus biographical films of people provided you show them on a pay-cable channel. How about a new slogan: Showtime — for the times when integrity is a liability!
‘The Reagans,’ From One of Them. Patti Davis, Time, November 3, 2003.