Friday, October 31, 2003

'Reagans' miniseries upsets conservatives

By Lynn Elber
The Associated Press

The angry buzz over The Reagans has grown louder and more pointed.

"Advertisers will bail on CBS' anti-Reagan movie," commentator Pat Buchanan predicted on The McLaughlin Group Sunday. Two days later, a conservative group announced a boycott call-to-arms.

But CBS isn't showing signs of regretting its excursion into political drama. Observers say the network probably doesn't need to.

"The bottom line is, the more attention it (the miniseries) gets, the more people are going to watch it," said television analyst Marc Berman of Media Week Online. That spells opportunity for sponsors and ad dollars for CBS, he said.

The Reagans, a two-part miniseries about former President Reagan (James Brolin) and his wife, Nancy, airing Nov. 16 and 18, is being condemned by Reagan friends and supporters as a hatchet job.

Media attention for Reagan has been mostly positive in recent years, thanks largely to a wave of sympathetic books including A Different Drummer from former White House aide Michael Deaver and Reagan: A Life in Letters.

"CBS is serving up a new version of the Ronald Reagan story, just before Thanksgiving," host Robert Novak said last week on CNN's Crossfire. "That's appropriate. With all the Hollywood liberals involved, it could be a real turkey."

On Tuesday, the watchdog Media Research Center decided to take action, calling on 100 major companies to review the script and consider not buying ad time on the miniseries.

"The Reagans appears to be a blatantly unfair assault on the legacy of one of America's greatest leaders," center president L. Brent Bozell III wrote.

"Reagan is being portrayed as a hateful, half-nut homophobe," he said. "It's not that the historical record is being distorted. It's that the makers of the movie are deliberately defaming him and lying about him."

He and others are largely basing their assessment on a brief CBS clip reel or a description published in an Oct. 20 article in the New York Times.

Especially troublesome, critics say, is how the script portrays Reagan's handling of the dawning AIDS crisis in the 1980s. He is depicted as uncaring and judgmental toward those with the disease, according to the Times.

"Nobody's seen the film," CBS chairman Leslie Moonves told CNBC's Topic A with Tina Brown. "So any criticism now, in the middle of October for a film that isn't finished, is rather odd, we think."

But he added the rough cut was undergoing some editing "to present a fair picture of the Reagans."

"There are there are things we like about the movie, there are things we don't like about the movie, there are things we think go too far," he said.

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