[Editor's Note: This is a guest blog by Norman Horowitz. Norman started in the TV business in 1956, when he was 24. He has been president of Worldwide Distribution for Columbia Pictures TV (Screen Gems); president of Polygram Television; and president of MGM/UA Telecommunications Co.]
By Norman Horowitz
Many take the position that if you do not approve of what someone’s press is publishing that it is acceptable to somehow destroy the offending press.
In the “pretend spirit” of free speech Media Matters for America (MMFA) wants to stifle the free press rights of Fox News. MMFA is not at all pleased with Fox News and has chosen to find a way to stop Fox News from publishing.
It is both sad and objectionable that MMFA objects to press freedom.
Media Matters has said:
...Don't think for a minute, however, that [Glenn] Beck's departure means Fox News has suddenly embraced accountability and restored credibility. A responsible journalistic organization wouldn't have needed two years, a million lost viewers, and hundreds of lost advertisers to show Beck the door -- but Fox News isn't a responsible journalistic organization. The network still specializes in misinformation and falsehoods, including their famous tagline: "fair and balanced."
Fox News can't keep the lies going alone. The network relies on the support of a wide range of advertisers who, through their financial support, help Fox News maintain a full-time operation promoting deception, provoking anger, and serving as the Republican Party's mouthpiece all under the guise of news.
Because this has gone far enough, we've launched a new campaign to show advertisers just what they're sponsoring when they partner with Fox News and to inform the public about which companies are supporting Fox's dishonest and divisive agenda.
Join us today at Drop Fox.
It's time for advertisers to decide. Will they continue to put their brand on the line by spending money to associate their products with bigotry, political attacks, and deliberate misinformation? Will they risk their reputation by helping to perpetuate Fox's toxic effect on civil discourse? Or will they act responsibly and pull their ads from the so-called news network?
The hundreds of advertisers who refused to support Beck's nightly hour of hate and paranoia put much-needed pressure on Fox News to get him off the air. As the rise and fall of Glenn Beck shows, Fox News and its parent company News Corp. will only respond when their bottom line is threatened. Together, we can change the incentives for News Corp. and end the destructive effect Fox News has on our national conversation.
Get involved in this important effort!
Join us today at Drop Fox.
CEO and President
Media Matters for America (MMFA)
Media Matters of course can take issue with what Fox News promulgates and can publish opposing opinions of its own.
As many know, my politics pertaining to the media is that just about “anything goes.”
If you don’t approve of it don’t watch it, read it, or listen to it. Suggest that your friends and family might choose to do the same and that is fine.
But MMFA has crossed a line by trying to stifle a voice of which they don’t approve. They suggest, in a manner of speaking, that the public destroy the Fox presses by removing the financial support of Fox News that comes from Madison Avenue.
What a horrid position it is for MMFA to take.
We all need to support the right to publish commentators such as Glenn Beck and many others at Fox News. I personally find what they are spewing noxious. But that’s the point. As distasteful as it might be, we all need to defend speech we don’t agree with as long as it's not inciting people to riot and things of that nature.
A famous example, of course, is one cannot yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire.
If MMFA doesn’t like much of what is said on Fox News, they can say so, and they can say it quite LOUDLY.
But their shouting emits a foul odor when they are advocating the suppression of views expressed on Fox News along with the suppression of Fox News itself.#
Ray Romano definitely knows what a George Foster Peabody Award is now. The co-executive producer and co-star of TNT’s "Men of a Certain Age" is the new owner of one of the prestigious golden statuettes, awarded Monday in New York at the 70th annual Peabody Awards presentation.
Earlier this month, at the technically troubled TNT/TBS upfront at the Hammerstein Ballroom, Romano was one of the network’s talent--along with Conan O'Brien, George Lopez and even network prexy Steve Koonin--called upon to vamp while audio and video outages caused by a power surge were repaired.
At that point, Romano mentioned that he and the drama about three middle-aged men were winning a Peabody Award--and that he had to Google it to find out what it was. The actor was nothing if not honest in telling the crowd at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel the same thing when he accepted the honor.
For those who don't know, the Peabody Awards recognize distinguished achievement and meritorious public service on television, radio, and now online in the areas of the arts, culture and journalism. Every year, more than 1,000 entries from around the world compete to win one of the prizes, which are administered by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia and are chosen by a distinguished board of media experts.
This year's 70th edition was hosted by Larry King, himself the winner of two Peabody Awards. As it was a luncheon event with clips shown for each of 2010’s 38 winning entries along with acceptance speeches from the honorees, King didn't have much time to make jokes, but did an estimable job of moving things along--especially when some of the speeches got long-winded.
Robert King got straight to the point in accepting the Peabody for "The Good Wife " by thanking Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Arnold Schwarzenegger for providing truth-is-not-only-stranger-but-more-entertaining-than-fiction storylines for next season, garnering appreciative laughter from the audience for the acclaimed CBS drama he co-writes and EPs.
Another quality TV series, FX’s "Justified," drew Peabody love this year, perhaps making up for some of the snub it received from the Emmys in not getting noticed.
HBO will need a whole new awards shelf to accommodate its legion of winners, seven this year, including the much-lauded "Temple Grandin" and "The Pacific," "Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals," "For Neda," "If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise," "12th & Delaware" and "Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country."
Films about John Lennon’s time in New York, controversial film director Elia Kazan, Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers and ESPN's “30 for 30” series of documentaries about sports figures were also honored with the Peabody.
But the vast majority of the Peabody awardees are in the news and current events realm, focusing on war, injustice, disaster and intolerance, and although many of them might not be widely seen on television or heard, mainly on public radio, there is one word that comes to mind when you see the clips: inspirational.
From CNN’s multifaceted coverage of the Gulf oil spill to a series of reports on war veterans coping with traumatic brain injuries suffered in combat to an investigation into fraudulent job creation through a state agency to seeking justice for campus rapes and dissecting social issues in Pakistan, one thing was made very clear by nearly everyone responsible for such reporting: It has an extremely important place in our society and must be allowed to thrive--regardless of politics.
The George Foster Peabody Awards remain at the forefront of promoting such excellence--even if some of its recipients have to do some research on what the awards really mean.
Don’t know about you, but I was totally blown away by the elegance, grace and class of Oprah on her final syndicated show.
Oprah talked about how the show, once it found its sea legs, became about empowering us, her audience. About our finding ways to live our best lives as we watched Oprah and her guests struggle to do so as well.
It was a wonderful summing up of our relationship with Oprah over the past 25 years. It reminded me of a book by one of my favorite writers, Somerset Maugham, who, at age 64, wrote his “The Summing Up.” He said it was neither an autobiography nor a book of recollections. Instead, he said, “In this book I am going to try and sort out my thoughts on subjects that have chiefly interested me during the course of my life.”
That’s what Oprah did in her last show.
Maugham still had a great act to follow after he wrote his summing up. He later wrote “The Razor’s Edge,” one of the best novels I have ever read.
And Oprah, 56, finally can devote the time and energy she needs to devote to OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. It needs her attention.
One of my favorite shows this season has been on OWN. It’s “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes.” I find it great fun to watch.
But it finally dawned on me the other day that the biggest drawback to the series is that what it really is is one of the featured extras on a DVD box set of “The Final Season of ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’”
And “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes” is the best series on OWN.
OWN is made up of sideshows. It’s time for OWN to put on some series that are Main Events.
Part of the problem is how OWN was conceived--basically as a TV version of “O The Oprah Magazine,” which has the tagline “Live Your Best Life.”
The tagline is fine and can work for OWN as well. What’s not fine are the shows on OWN.
Part of it is that OWN needs to loosen up.
First, the folks who run OWN, including Oprah, need to watch Preston Sturges’ 1941 movie classic “Sullivan’s Travels.”
A movie director--Sullivan--who’s had big hits with such comedies as “Ants in Your Plants of 1939”--and yes, it's "Plants," not "Pants"-- and “Hey Hey in the Hayloft” decides that those films are meaningless and that his next movie must be very, very serious. Here’s the marvelous opening dialogue from the movie.
Sullivan: This picture is an ANSWER to Communists. It shows we're awake and not dunking our heads in the sand like a bunch of ostriches. I want this picture to be a commentary on modern conditions, stark realism, the problems that confront the average man.
[Studio Executive] Lebrand: But with a little sex.
Sullivan: A little, but I don't want to stress it. I want this picture to be a document. I want to hold a mirror up to life. I want this to be a picture of dignity--a true canvas of the suffering of humanity.
Lebrand: But with a little sex.
Sullivan: With a little sex in it.
[Another Studio Executive] Hadrian: How about a nice musical?
Sullivan: How can you talk about musicals at a time like this? With the world committing suicide, with corpses piling up in the street, with grim death gargling at you from every corner, with people slaughtered like sheep!
Hadrian: Maybe they'd like to forget that.
Sullivan: Then why do they hold [a serious movie they had just screened] over for a fifth week at the Music Hall? For the ushers?
Hadrian: It died in Pittsburgh.
Lebrand: Like a dog.
Sullivan: What do they know in Pittsburgh?
Lebrand: They know what they like.
Sullivan: If they knew what they liked, they wouldn't live in Pittsburgh. That's no argument.
The remainder of the movie has Sullivan finding out how the poor and downtrodden live. In the end he realizes how uplifting so many people find his comedies, and thus how important they really are.
So what’s this got to do with Oprah and OWN? It means let’s lighten up folks. There are a lot of ways to encourage people to live their best lives without the sledgehammer approach that too many OWN programs mostly use now.
First of all, show some movies such as “Sullivan’s Travels” on OWN. What Oprah did with her book club is the stuff of legends. And legions of Oprah’s fans will tune into Oprah herself presenting “Oprah’s Must-See Movie Classics” on OWN on Friday nights, presented uncut and with no commercials by Dove or Target or P&G or one of OWN’s other premiere sponsors. Oprah will bookend the beginning and ending of the screenings with her comments, a la TCM’s Robert Osborne.
And OWN has got to get into scripted programming, no doubt about it.
Oprah loves the TV shows with which she grew up. OWN needs to have its audience--and a bigger audience than it gets now--love its shows as well.
Let’s develop a signature drama. How about one we’d call “Daring To Dream.” It’s set in Baltimore, circa 1964. An African American tween, originally from the South, is watching “The Ed Sullivan Show” one Sunday night and sees Diana Ross and the Supremes perform. The performance captures her imagination and she decides she wants to follow in Ross’ footsteps. First stop--trying to get on the local dance show on TV. This drama--with music--would be from Warner Bros. and executive producers John Waters and Oprah Winfrey.
Here’s another one. It’s a Western called “Stagecoach Mary.” This fictional drama series is inspired by the life of a real African American woman who did indeed have the nickname Stagecoach Mary.
According to an article in Junior Scholastic: “Mary Fields, born a slave in a log cabin in Tennessee, went west in 1884, when she was 52 years old. She ended up in Cascade, Montana, with the nuns for whom she worked. Fields was a towering figure on the Western frontier. She was ‘six feet tall, weighed more than 200 pounds, wore men's clothes, and puffed thick black cigars.’ A powerful woman made strong by years of heavy slave work, Fields refused to put up with ill treatment from anyone. She lost her job with the nuns when she got into a gunfight with another hired hand. But Fields was tough enough to make her own way on the frontier. She carried the U.S. mail, ran a restaurant, and drove a stagecoach, which earned her the nickname ‘Stagecoach Mary.’ ”
Sunday nights will be family nights on OWN. Back on Sunday nights during the 1964 TV season, NBC ran “Profiles in Courage,” dramatizations from the nonfiction book of the same name that was written by John F. Kennedy and won a Pulitzer Prize. Before his death, Kennedy had actually approved the scripts for this show, according to “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows” by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh.
The stories of ordinary Americans who have had some extraordinary experiences that will be dramatized for OWN’s new “Profiles in Courage” will be culled from the 4,000-plus episodes of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” The drama segments on this series will be introduced by Oprah and Michelle Obama.
Recently NBC passed on the pilot of “Wonder Woman.” After a revamping, the show will be picked up by OWN. Its main character will be Hispanic, and will live in a modest, multi-ethnic area of Los Angeles.
Let’s not forget comedy. Two African-American female DJ's from a Chicago radio station--who are also best friends--are on-the-lam through a very complicated misunderstanding. They are forced to hide out all around America while they are on the road. This very funny buddy road comedy series is from executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King.
Oprah has said that her Harpo staff in Chicago will become OWN employees. These folks are experienced at producing one of the finest talk shows in TV history. I don’t know if they are a fit with Rosie, who is planning a talk show on OWN, and it doesn’t seem as though Oprah is going to jump back into the genre.
But let’s find a host for a signature talk show on OWN built around this incredibly talented staff Oprah already has in place in Chicago.
With imagination and effort, OWN can become a great network.
I just read that OWN has picked up a reality show in the well-worn bridal category. OK, but I have my doubts that it’ll do anything for OWN. On the other hand, OWN seems to be have gotten on a better track with compelling reality fare with the new "Why Not? With Shania Twain." We'll have to see more episodes to make a clearer judgment.
Oprah now has the time to devote to the network with her name on it. Let’s hope that she and OWN’s new president, Peter Liguori, see how great OWN can really become. To do so they don’t have to re-invent TV, but they do need to take the road somewhat less traveled, and mix both fiction and non-fiction programming. If they do that, they have a good chance to develop a network that picks up where Oprah's talk show left off, making a difference in people’s lives.#
[Editor's Note: This commentary first appeared on Jeff Grimshaw's The TV News, which can be found at www.thetvnews.tv, and we appreciate Jeff letting us reprint it.]
I was privileged to run the PR Department at King World for almost a decade, so I had the good fortune of getting a close-up view of the extraordinary person that is Oprah Winfrey.
She can move mountains, and I think she’s going to have to do it again, this time moving her mountain of fans from her syndicated show to her network.
It’s been a bumpy ride for the Oprah Winfrey Network. There’s been continuing turnover in the executive ranks, and there have been limited programming successes. But, because of the enormous goodwill Oprah has generated over the years and the tremendous influence she wields, OWN will have a unique opportunity to relaunch this fall. With Oprah’s syndicated series gone, fans will be even more motivated to look for her network. And when they get there, I think they’re going to want to find Oprah with a significant on-screen presence.
Certainly, the announcement of "Oprah’s Next Chapter," starting later this year, is a big step in the right direction. But in recent days the messaging has been muddled. Two weeks ago, Oprah was quoted as saying, “With the final taping of the 'Oprah Winfrey Show' only a few weeks away, I will soon be able to devote my full energies to the Oprah Winfrey Network.”
Then, last week, USA Today wrote, “Despite the fact that she said her Oprah Winfrey Network requires more attention from her, Oprah also plans to head to the New York stage. Soon. ‘I have a stack of plays in my bag right now that I am reading,’ she said. ‘Yes, this is really going to happen. ... Life is too short.’”
Well, we know that Oprah can multitask, but with viewers, distributors and advertisers hoping for better days ahead at OWN, I don’t think that’s the best positioning for the network right now.
Clearly, with Discovery’s Peter Liguori taking the helm, there’s great optimism the network will improve, and that should take some of the pressure off Oprah. Four new shows are launching in June, and Rosie O’Donnell starts in September.
But it still is the Oprah Winfrey Network, so the PR challenge for the foreseeable future is that a clear and consistent message should emphasize that OWN is Oprah’s top priority, and, come this fall, she’s going to be there in a big, big way, no matter what else might be on her agenda.#
Hello everyone. Just a short note to alert you to the fact I am prepared to give up most of my R&R time tomorrow—Saturday—to blog for you live, here on TVWeek.com, various developments regarding tomorrow’s end of the world.
I knew the day was coming—don’t we all—but it wasn’t until I was riding the subways in New York this week between various upfront presentations that I realized that the end of the world was actually this Saturday, May 21, 2011.
At least that’s what it says on the paid billboard ads I saw in a lot of in the subway cars I rode. It’s Judgment Day, and there will be global earthquakes, the ads say. The organization that is telling us that May 21, 2011, will mark the beginning of the end is Family Radio, which calls itself a Christian educational network on its website at www.familyradio.com.
Its leader is Harold Camping, who previously predicted the end of the world in 1994.
To be honest, I have my doubts that Saturday, May 21, is gonna be it either. Come on, would a just and loving God pull the switch just days before the release of The Hangover, Part Two?
Would the Almighty really want us to miss the first real chance the Mavs have at winning the NBA championship?
Would the Sage of sages kiss us off before Oprah’s syndication finale?
On the other hand, it IS the May sweeps, so anything is possible.#
[Editor's Note: This is a guest blog by Norman Horowitz. Norman started in the TV business in 1956, when he was 24. He has been president of Worldwide Distribution for Columbia Pictures TV (Screen Gems); president of Polygram Television; and president of MGM/UA Telecommunications Co.]
By Norman Horowitz
I read recently that FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker will leave the Commission to join media giant Comcast as Senior VP of government affairs. Ms. Baker, who is a Republican, had voted just months ago in favor of the Comcast/NBCUniversal merger.
Here's why this should bother you a great deal.
Let me begin my explanation by using a hypothetical example.
First, the real stuff before the hypothetical. As a longtime studio executive, in my heyday it was my responsibility to deal with those people out there who were the actual creators and owners of content.
In the late 1970s, while at Columbia Pictures Television, I made a deal with Spelling Goldberg to acquire domestic distribution rights for "Charlie’s Angels," "Starsky and Hutch," "Family" and a few other series for $25 million.
So far this part of the example is all true. Now for the fiction: Let’s say a short time after the deal closed that I had resigned from Columbia in order to become an independent producer with Spelling Goldberg for a lot of money.
Would there have been anything inherently wrong with my doing that? No, not at all. But wouldn’t it have appeared to be very suspect?
Shouldn’t we all be uncomfortable with Baker being hired by Comcast when so recently she approved the Comcast/NBCUniversal deal, which is one of the biggest, most important media takeovers in recent years?
Probably no “rules” have been broken by Ms. Baker. However, there is something that I am uncomfortable with about the appointment.
Ms. Baker leaving the FCC and joining Comcast is, I suspect, no big deal to most. But it once again illustrates a too-close coziness between the regulators and the regulated.
Of course, I understand fully that of dozens of major media companies it is purely a coincidence that Ms. Baker has joined Comcast/NBCUniversal, a company to whom she has so recently granted a favorable ruling.
After all there are plenty of other media companies, such as Time Warner, Disney, Viacom, News, CBS, Cox, Gannett, Clear Channel, Advance Publications, Tribune, McGraw-Hill, Hearst, the Washington Post Co.,The New York Times Co., E.W. Scripps Co., McClatchy, Freedom Communications, and Yahoo, all of whom, I am sure, were in deep discussions with Ms. Baker, along with Comcast. And, I’m sure I’m just being a yahoo for being so unreasonably suspicious to think that Ms. Baker’s recent decision approving the Comcast/NBCUniversal deal had anything whatsoever to do with Comcast hiring her.
All right, maybe not. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Comcast was very upfront in their overt recruitment conversations with Ms. Baker.
After all, Ms. Baker did not initiate the Comcast deal to take over NBC. She works for a government body to whom this deal was presented and she was one of people who decided whether it should be approved. She considered all of the arguments, did her due diligence to the best of her ability and decided that yes, with a few caveats, the deal should be approved.
The next day, or week, or month (whatever), she likely got a call from Comcast, asking her what her future plans were, knowing that she was soon leaving the government body where she is now working. She probably said something like, “I've got a few irons in the fire, why do you ask?” Comcast likely then said, “Come work for us. We thought you were very fair in your evaluation of our deal. We could use you on our team.” To which Ms. Baker finally agreed.
And, in case you missed it, Ms. Baker recently released this statement about her forthcoming new job: “I have not only complied with the legal and ethical laws, but I also have gone further. I have not participated or voted on any item, not just those related to Comcast or NBCUniversal, since entering discussions about an offer of potential employment.”
So why do I insist that Ms. Baker going to work for Comcast NBCUniversal is wrong?
Well, for one, given that multiple millions in future revenues were on the line for Comcast with the NBCUniversal deal (forgetting, for a minute, how much more powerful a company this makes Comcast in lots of other ways as well), doesn’t the hiring of Ms. Baker make it seem that it is at least possible that Comcast is somehow paying her off for her approving the NBCUniversal deal?
Please, please, both Ms. Baker and Comcast are far too honorable for this to be the case. Surely, we all agree, I’m just an old, cranky cynic who was raised with the crazy notion that if something has the appearance of smelling fishy one shouldn’t do it.
So don’t pay any attention to me when I suggest that Ms. Baker’s going to work for Comcast NBCUniversal says, once again--in a manner of speaking--to all regulators that if you cooperate with the regulated, you too can be rewarded with a great job.
Years ago there was a Broadway musical—and subsequent motion picture version—both called “1776." In it, John Adams laments, in song, what I am attempting to lament here:
Is anybody there?
Does anybody care?
Does anybody see what I see?#
The Lakers' Andrew Bynum Needs to Be Reined In NOW, Before His Lethal Attacks With His Right Elbow Cause a Career-Ending Injury to Another Player; Here's Video of Several Incidents
As a basketball fan, let alone as a life-long Lakers fan, I am deeply disturbed by the flagrant fouls of Andrew Bynum with his lethal elbow, and his lack of remorse.
Please witness the following.
First, from two years ago, this footage of Bynum's flagrant foul against Gerald Wallace of the Charlotte Bobcats. Stay with the video until the end to see the best angle of Bynum's attack:
Now, check out Bynum's right elbow at work again a few months ago, in March, against Michael Beasley of the Minnesota Timberwolves:
Then, of course, this tape of Bynum's most recent attack with his right elbow against Jose Barea of the Dallas Mavericks on May 8, 2011:
And here's Bynum talking to reporters about the incident after that game: "I'm not disappointed in myself. It is what it is. We got embarrassed tonight, so that's what happened."
Personally, I'd be surprised if Bynum's still in a Lakers uniform next season.
The bigger question is for NBA Commissioner David Stern. He needs to rein in Bynum and his lethal right elbow NOW.
Because next time Bynum's elbow deliberately cracks into another player it could cause that player to suffer a career-ending injury.#
[Editor's Note: This is the first entry from a new TVWeek Open Mic blogger, Arthur Sando. Sando is a public relations/corporate communications specialist who has worked with some of the most dynamic individuals and companies in the TV industry, most notably Ted Turner and his Turner Broadcasting, and Roger King and his King World. This commentary first appeared on Jeff Grimshaw's The TV News, which can be found at www.thetvnews.tv, and we appreciate Jeff letting us reprint it.]
It’s really not so much what ABC did, but how they did it when the network recently announced it was canceling "All My Children" and "One Life to Live." Nobody disputes the fact that the audience for soap operas is aging and shrinking, and that soaps are becoming economically unfeasible to produce.
But ABC’s canceling of two 40-year-old institutions with practically no notice was a tremendous jolt to an extremely loyal audience.
There are probably no fans more loyal than soap fans. Many of them schedule their day around what they affectionately call “my shows,” and a lot of them have done that for a long time, and have developed a very personal relationship with the characters in these shows. So it should be no surprise that this news has caused a profound sense of loss and anger among those viewers who are really going to miss their daily dose of soaps.
Certainly, the writing has been on the wall for some time that this day would come, so I think ABC blew an opportunity to prepare its audience. Six months ago, it could have told viewers that if the numbers didn’t improve, the shows would be canceled. That really could have motivated fans to take some action.
Now, judging by activity on Facebook, it’s clear that many fans are up in arms, so while it may be too late to save "All My Children" and "One Life To Live," the network should show that it cares and reach out to these fans, solicit their thoughts and engage them in a social media dialogue to let them know that their ideas are being heard, that their feelings are being considered and that they are, indeed, part of the process.
By making viewers feel shut out, ABC risks breaking a bond of trust with a significant and reliable core audience. And in today’s fractured television universe, that’s the last thing a network should be doing.#
There couldn't have been a more apropos blending of fact and fiction on Sunday night as the astonishing news broke that U.S. Special Forces had assassinated Osama bin Laden nearly 10 years after the devastating attacks he ordered on Sept. 11, 2001, that forever changed the world.
I happened to be catching up on season two of "24," the part where a nuclear bomb has gone off in Los Angeles and Jack Bauer is on a quest to find evidence that will prevent President Palmer from attacking three unnamed Arab countries that are believed responsible. Bauer, as would become his trademark M.O., is on a rogue mission running up against the powers that be at the fictional CTU, while around the president, subterfuge brews as the drumbeats for war grow louder and louder, and in fact warplanes have already been launched for the Middle East.
About to settle in for another episode of this dramatic, dearly missed program for which I didn't come to the party until later in the game, I decided to bail out and check the news at 10 p.m. on, fittingly, Fox11LA. Shock of all shockers. There was president Obama announcing the news that quickly reverberated around the globe, that bin Laden had been executed in a firefight, a revelation that quickly translated into impromptu, cathartic celebrations at the White House, Ground Zero and Times Square.
The Los Angeles Fox station did an excellent job of immediately providing some perspective on the fast-breaking news, lining up live interviews with terrorism experts, experts on the Middle East, and the brother of the pilot of the doomed American Airlines jet that crashed into the Pentagon.
As details begin to filter out, including word that only a very few people inside the U.S. government knew about the operation, which began in earnest last fall when a trusted courier to bin Laden was tracked to the fortified compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, beginning a series of five top secret national security hearings led by the president, they echoed some of the fictional plot lines of the early days of "24." With timing that couldn’t have been more fortuitous in mirroring real-life events, the “real-time” actioner premiered less than two months after Sept. 11.
Looking back on those dark days, it's easy to see why the Fox drama resonated so strongly with the American public, and how the character of Jack Bauer as played by Kiefer Sutherland became the face and the flash point for the fearless, fierce, win-at-all costs bravado that was the antidote to the fear and victimization that 9/11 engendered across many segments of the population. Naturally, the show became a political hot potato as well, with accusations that its creators cultivated a right-wing agenda that villainized Muslims and condoned torture--issues that still reverberate across political debates today.
Yes, here we are in the present--and episodes from nearly 10 years ago seem so prescient that it's almost spooky.
With President Obama thanking the counterterrorism experts who paved the way for the mission and former President George W. Bush, for whom the battle against Al Qaeda was the cornerstone of his presidency, saying, "America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done," the words could have been taken right out of a "24" script book.
The reality of it all is just sinking in, even as bin Laden himself has been quickly buried at sea. He is this generation’s Hitler, a maniacal mass murderer who is certain to remain a hero for some.
But for the vast majority of the world, there is glory and relief in his demise, even with the long delay in redemptive justice after his most deadly of deeds--a turn of events that surely has given the folks behind the upcoming "24" movie creative inspiration--and even further validation of their past work.