TV news and gossip from the US
Fiona Morrow, our regular eyes and ears from across the pond, gives us the latest TV news stateside:
It’s a tough time for the President of the United States. Someone has been conspiring to create weapons of mass destruction on foreign soil – soil that just so happens to lie above oil – to clear the way for war.
24 really rolls with the punches. Last time out, they were in trouble with the Left and the Muslim community for making drama out of the terrorist threat from the Middle East. This time, it’s the patriots that are posting their disgust on the show’s message boards, threatening to switch off.
But 24 doesn’t care about politics; it cares about helicopters and SWAT teams and messing about with the latest gadgets and gizmos. The politics just come with the CTU territory. And over 35 million people are pretty darn happy with that.
It’s the President who just can’t seem to catch a break. Over at The West Wing, despite the show finally rallying from its post-Aaron Sorkin slump, the one thing we know for sure about the upcoming Jimmy Smits vs Alan Alda presidential race, is that whoever wins ain’t getting a chance to be prez. The election will happen but the outcome is irrelevant: NBC has pulled the plug. Some may mourn, but there is a certain symmetry to the show beginning with Bartlett (Martin Sheen) taking power and ending as he leaves office.
And if a week’s a long time in politics, consider poor Geena Davis, waving a Golden Globe in her hand one week and the next? Well, Commander in Chief has been put on hiatus – not exactly cancelled, but shelved while the network tries something else out in its slot. (Ms Davis and crew will be hoping whatever it is tanks big time.)
It’s been a rocky road for a show that debuted in September with 16 million viewers and critical goodwill. First off, its creator - The Contender’s Rod Lurie - found the demands of a weekly hour of TV too much: deadlines were being missed. He was sent packing and veteran ratings magnet Steven ‘NYPD Blue’ Bochco was brought in to sort things out. Well, he promptly fired all the writers and closed down production. When a new episode finally made it to screen, it was up against the new American Idol and guess what? Simon Cowell won, hands down.
But The West Wing and Commander in Chief are not the only shows to face the axe. Pity poor Heather Graham: tarted all over the shop for her half hour sitcom Emily’s Reasons Why Not, only to find herself cancelled after the first episode aired. But the reasons why not to keep Emily on were pretty clear – it being dire. More complex was the decision to pull The Book of Daniel; think Six Feet Under with a bible.
Starring Aidan Quinn as a preacher with a lush for a wife, a gay son and a daughter who deals in illegal substances, The Book of Daniel raised the wrath of the US’s current most vocal lobby: the Christians. ‘Boo’, they shouted. ‘Not fair.’ ‘You can’t do that to Jesus.’ And a show that would likely have become a cool cult hit on HBO, became just another casualty for NBC. Of course, there are those who would argue that threats to boycott a show and its advertisers mean nothing if the audience turns on every week; don’t expect a network to stand up for freedom of speech if there’s no money to be made.
But just think what you could do with an audience of 35 million plus … Kiefer Sutherland could be President. And as for Simon Cowell, well let’s face it, in today’s world of US television, he’s already God.