Saturday, September 10, 2005


It's been my experience that every major disaster will eventually see itself dramatized in some way on TV. Sometimes a period of grace is observed, especially if there is a great loss of life which might have made the depiction of the disaster traumatic to the viewers. But it's hard to keep such stories safe from the producers who see the chance to earn a few quatloos in the re-telling.

Dr. Sam Beckett found himself plunked into the Gulf Coast just as Hurricane Camille struck in 1969 on an episode of 'Quantum Leap'. Two years after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, it was personalized and fictionalized for an episode of the flashback series 'My Life And Times'.

I remember a few days after the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers in the 9/11 attack that there was a letter to the editor of the New York Daily News that nobody better ever DARE make a movie about the tragedy. (I think the feeling was that it would be fictionalized with some kind of love story, a la "Titanic".)

Leslie Mooonves may have been slapped down with the suggested pilot about a couple who met because they both lost their spouse in 9/11. But for the established TV shows, it didn't take long to tie into the event in some way.
Especially with the dramatic series, plotlines were developed in which some connection was made to the events of 9/11. Cop shows investigated terrorist cells; lawyer shows defended and/or prosecuted people who might have had some link to such groups; and many characters lost family or friends in either the WTC or one of the other plane crashes.

Mac Taylor of 'CSI: NY' lost his wife in the tower collapse; Tommy Gavin of 'Rescue Me' lost his cousin and fellow firefighter. As with the Titanic, the roll call of the dead will swell with fictional characters in the future.

I wouldn't be surprised if, as happened with the Titanic, time travellers from some future TV shows end up visiting the WTC before its collapse. In the venue of cancelled Television, Tony Newman and Doug Phillips might have already materialized in the hallways of Cantor Fitzgerald.....

Another milieu that's always popular is the true-life crime story. The woman who used a helicopter to help her lover escape from jail; the celebrity cases of OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, Woody Allen, and the Menendez Brothers - all have been dramatized for TV.

'Law & Order' thrives on such stories "ripped from the headlines". Meredith Baxter Birney saw her portrayal of Betty Broderick (who killed her husband) spawn a sequel; while the "Long Island Lolita" Amy Fischer - who shot her older lover's wife in the back of the head, only to see her sruvive, - had her crime dramatized on three different networks in the span of mere months.

It's my feeling that with Hurricane Katrina (and the aftermath of damage from the flooding once the New Orleans levees were breached), we have a convergence of both types of stories. We've got the makings for a disaster movie made for Television and a crime story - to be found in the mismanagement and negligence by FEMA to get on top of the situation quickly.

I know that eventually we'll see dramatizations of the events leading up to - and during - the flooding of New Orleans. There will probably be movies of the week, and Sweeps month mini-series, and even individual episodes of such shows as 'CSI: Miami' which will tie into this great disaster.

I think there had to be at least one writer for David E. Kelley's 'Boston Legal' who saw the news story about evacuees being flown to Massachusetts who had to latch onto that for a story pitch.

And considering New Orleans' reputation for voodoo, thanks to the writings of Ann Rice, I wouldn't be surprised if such new shows as 'Supernatural' and 'The Ghost Whisperer' eventually find themselves down in the Delta.....

Many of these dramatizations will probably be about the noble spirit and heroic efforts of ordinary people as they tried to survive and as they tried to rescue not only their loved ones but their neighbors and even total strangers.

But I think the crime story of FEMA's ineptitude deserves to be dissected and displayed in a step-by-step dramatization of what they did wrong. And that lyin' weasel Michael Brown should be vilified in his portrayal. Personally, it would make me sick every time I saw him on TV trying to worm his way out of taking the blame, and I'm angered that he got kicked back home to a desk job in Washington instead of being fired outright for not only his incompetence but for the distortion of his qualifications on his resume.

Such a TV-movie will help the American people understand what happened behind the scenes better than just some talking head splainin it on the news channels. And perhaps it will raise their sense of outrage enough so that such blatant cronyism and patronage can never again prove to be so deadly.

I've got a suggestion for the title of a movie about that Weasel -

'Brownie: One Heck Of A Job'.

It might also give Timothy Bottoms a third opportunity for playing George W. Bush.

As for playing Michael Brown, I'm going to suggest comic actor Jeff Altman. Not only does he resemble the Weasel somewhat, but Altman has had his experience with disasters in the past.

After all, he survived 'Pink Lady And Jeff'.

Just sayin', is all.

At any rate, it's the reality of the situation that needs to be addressed right now. So if you haven't yet made some contribution yet to any of the various relief funds, then please do so. would be a good place to start.....


"I never knew the word 'George' could sound so obscene."
David Fischer
'Six Feet Under'

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