UPROAR OVER ABC'S 9/11 MINISERIES

ABC's upcoming miniseries The Path to 9/11 was being denounced as an unabashed political polemic by liberals and supporters of former President Bill Clinton Wednesday even as conservatives were hailing it as "pro-American" In a letter to Disney Chairman Robert Iger, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said that she had asked ABC for a copy of the film but that the network had refused. She wrote that she had been told by persons who had seen it that it "depicts scenes that never happened, events that never took place, decisions that were never made and conversations that never occurred. ... "Sept. 11 is not 'entertainment,' it is reality. ... Before you air your broadcast, I trust you will ensure you have the facts right." Former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger claimed that the film "flagrantly misrepresents my personal actions." On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh said on his radio talk show that the film "indicts the Clinton administration, Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger. It is just devastating to the Clinton administration. It talks about how we had chances to capture bin Laden in specific detail." And Govindini Murty, an actress who cofounded the conservative Liberty Film Festival, said in a review for FrontPageMag.com, "This is the first Hollywood production I've seen that honestly depicts how the Clinton administration repeatedly bungled the capture of Osama bin Laden." ABC, meanwhile, suggested that the miniseries may be undergoing last-minute editing to alter some of the anti-Clinton claims. ABC spokeswoman Hope Hartman said Wednesday, "It is common practice to continue to make edits to strengthen a project right up to the broadcast date."

WILL CROCODILE HUNTER'S FINAL SCENE BE TELEVISED?

Although "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin once remarked in a TV interview that he hoped his death would be caught on camera, the Discovery Channel has said that it will not broadcast footage taken at the time he was fatally attacked by a stingray on the Great Barrier Reef Monday. Journalism ethicists have applauded the decision. Martin Kaplan, a media analyst with the USC/Annenberg School for Communication, told the Associated Press that the footage is tantamount to a snuff film. Samuel Freedman, who teaches media ethics at Columbia, added similarly, "It would be purely titillation and necrophilia if anyone were to show this." The footage is currently in the hands of the local coroner's office, which is investigating the death. Which raises the question, what if the tape shows that Irwin could have been warned about the attacking stingray? Or what if he was seen taunting it? What if it shows in some other way that the attack could have been prevented? On Wednesday, Australian survival expert Ray Mears commented, "The voyeurism we are seeing on television has a cost and it's that cost Steve Irwin's family are paying today."

NEW PRIMETIME SOAP OPERAS SLIP UP

The first night of MyNetworkTV's English-language telenovelas (limited-run soap operas) performed poorly in the ratings Tuesday night. The two nightly shows, Desire and Fashion House, averaged a lowly 1.2 rating and a 2 share. Bob Cook, president of Twentieth Television, told Advertising Age that he had expected the ratings to come in "a tad higher." However, he added, "We look at this as a marathon, not a sprint. We're not going to be able to project or calculate or get a handle on the success until December or January."

COMCAST PLANS TO ADD 3,000 EMPLOYEES

Bucking the trend towards radical downsizing throughout most of the entertainment media, Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, announced Wednesday that it plans to hire more than 3,000 additional employees by the end of the year, most of them in their customer service and installation units. The company said that its $99 "triple play" package of cable TV, broadband, and unlimited telephone services has proved to be popular with subscribers.

COURIC WINS SECOND NIGHT

Katie Couric's ratings triumph in her debut as anchor of the CBS Evening News Tuesday night did not come at the expense of her two main rivals, analysts observed Wednesday. Compared with their averages from last week, ratings were down slightly for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and were virtually unchanged for ABC's World News with Charles Gibson. Nevertheless, Couric drew nearly six million more viewers than either of the two, a result that analysts attributed primarily to the curiosity factor. [Earlier in the day, the same sort of curiosity factor presumably contributed to a boost in ratings for ABC's The View, which saw a 54-percent rise from the comparable day a year ago as Rosie O'Donnell made her debut on the female talk show, according to the New York Times, which cited an unnamed ABC official.] Meanwhile, Wednesday's telecast, which featured an interview with President Bush, drew anger from liberal bloggers. Several bristled at what they described as Couric's "softball" questions to the president and Bob Schieffer's positive analysis of the president's remarks about his policy on the detention of terrorist suspects. Nevertheless, Couric's interview with the president kept her in first place for a second consecutive night with a 7.0 rating and a 14 share in the Nielsen overnight ratings. The ABC newscast placed second with a 5.3/10 while NBC's trailed with a 4.9/10.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.