Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Ronald Reagan and Elizabeth Smart

Some years ago America began a new and cruel tradition that takes place in February, May and November every year. This horror is known as television sweeps months.

Someone, whose identity is best left a mystery, thought it would be a great idea to determine advertising rates based on these months of the year. The results are television schedules that make no sense (reruns in December) and dopey made for television movies.

Well November is just around the corner and what are we anticipating? The parents of a kidnapped and no doubt sexually abused child making a buck off of her ordeal and soap suds about Ronald Reagan that have caused a collective conservative temper tantrum.

Why are conservatives whining? It seems that stealing a presidential election, the California governor's office and Texas redistricting isn't enough for them. Any depiction of Ronald Reagan has to show how he "won" the cold war. Get over it. It is not a documentary, it is a sweeps months flick. Of course it will be all about Nancy and the astrologer. If conservatives really want to show their concern for the way history is portrayed on television they should flex their considerable muscle and advocate for documentary production on network television. Once upon a time the networks produced documentaries.

I could take the conservatives seriously if they would aim their venom at a target perfectly ripe for villification, the Smart family. How in the world can a family whose child was kidnapped by a perverted religious fanatic make money off of her ordeal? I wonder if the upcoming made for television movie will tell the story of Richard Ricci. Richard Ricci was a neighbor of the Smarts who had a criminal record. The "experts" of tabloid cable shows decided he was guilty. The police were under pressure to solve the case and found a reason to put him in jail. He died in jail. He was innocent.

As for the Reagan biopic, I am incensed about another issue. It is obvious that Hollywood hates older women. Hates them so much in fact that they will not allow an older actress to portray an older woman. Judy Davis is too young to portray Nancy Reagan. This problem is especially obvious with First Lady portrayals. Was I the only one who thought that 30ish Joan Allen was oh, 30 years too young to play Pat Nixon in the crummy Oliver Stone Nixon film? HBO did Stone one better when Felicity Huffman portrayed Lady Bird Johnson in Path to War. That was not the only bad casting. Michael Gambon, who could not lose his British accent, portrayed LBJ. But I digress.

If Bill Bennett is going to huff and puff about sweeps months travesties he should get back to the business of preaching to the rest of us about something important. If he starts with Katie Couric interviewing a traumatized child I would lay off the right wing for a while. I might even praise them.