The Republican Party is trying to win one more for the Gipper. The enemy this time is CBS, the network behind the already-controversial miniseries ”The Reagans,” scheduled to air Nov. 16 and 18. Though he hasn’t seen it, Republican Party chief Ed Gillespie told reporters in a conference call on Friday that he’s worried the biopic will be a smear job and asked CBS to let the GOP’s handpicked historians review the film before it airs, or else run a crawler every 10 minutes acknowledging that the movie is fictional. Now, Newsweek reports, the project is giving CBS such headaches that the network may dump it, selling what might have been a sweeps-month ratings-grabber to sister cable channel Showtime.
”Reagans” producer Craig Zadan told EW last week that, though many of those who worked on the miniseries are Democrats (including star James Brolin, a.k.a. Mr. Barbra Streisand), ”we really went out of our way to make the movie evenhanded.” Still, conservative critics have blasted the project and called for a boycott of CBS. According to Newsweek, CBS chief Leslie Moonves ordered lawyers to look at the movie a third time, and although he was assured it wasn’t libelous, he then started cutting the film himself. (Gone is the most controversial line, which had President Reagan responding to the AIDS crisis by saying, ”They that live in sin shall die in sin,” a sentence he never uttered in real life, screenwriter Elizabeth Egloff acknowledged to the New York Times. Also gone is a scene of Ron Reagan Jr. dancing ballet.)
Director Robert Allan Ackerman tells Newsweek he dropped out of the editing process after Moonves took over, telling the magazine: ”Whatever is going on is going on very secretly.” Stars Brolin and Judy Davis have refused to do additional interviews to promote the film, though they did speak to EW last week.
While CBS has weathered similar controversies before, notably this spring when it aired a miniseries about the young Hitler that Jewish groups worried would portray the Führer too sympathetically (after they saw the movie, they changed their tune), it may not have the stomach this time. CBS may yet wash its hands of the affair by selling the movie to Showtime, though a source close to the production tells Newsweek that would mean giving in to censorship. ”A pressure group has had a major network rip this movie to shreds,” the source said.
Showtime, of course, is where the movie ”DC 9/11: Time of Crisis” recently aired. That movie was also widely derided, by TV critics, as inaccurate, though in ways that flattered President Bush. The GOP didn’t complain or demand a disclaimer over that film.