Reviews > Culture

Hatchet job axed

Culture

Issue: "Soldiers in harm’s way," Nov. 15, 2003

The CBS miniseries The Reagans stirred up so much controversy that studio heads backed down.

Following the postmodern assumption that it's OK to make up history, the show depicts President Reagan as a dazed, disconnected old fogey whose strings are pulled by a Lady MacbethÐlike Nancy Reagan. The writers make up both dialogue and attitudes for the president, including lines that say AIDS patients deserve what they get. When Matt Drudge posted parts of the script on his website, conservatives raised a firestorm of criticism, prompting efforts to boycott CBS and protests from the Republican Party.

The protests actually had an effect. CBS chairman Leslie Moonves dropped the series last week, handing it over to Showtime, the subscriber-only cable network where everything goes and nothing is noticed. "Look, it was going to be about the Reagans and their family," a senior CBS source told Mr. Drudge. "A love story! We lost control of it ... it transformed. Politics was seasoned in. What was delivered is not what was pitched to me or anyone else here, that I am aware of."

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Before CBS decided not to air the series, the network tried to fix its errors through editing. Newsweek reported a series insider complaining that "it's being edited with a machete." Fitting treatment for a hatchet job.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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