It’s been three and a half years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and it’s amazing to me that there hasn’t been a movie made about it yet. NBC and ABC are both in development of big-time miniseries about the circumstances leading up to the attacks as detailed in the 9/11 Commission Report. In keeping with Hollywood tradition of doing the sleaziest thing possible, however, it’s more than a little surprising that Jamie Kennedy has yet to star in a buddy-action-drama with Omar Epps about the attacks called “Hijacked,” which would, in all likelihood, be directed by the guy who did “Rush Hour.”
But as of yet, nothing. Hollywood has barely tackled the war in Iraq, either. “JAG” has featured a few storylines having to do with the war in Iraq, but considering the show and the fact that only eight people tune in every week, the inclusion of those plots was able to slip in under the radar. This is all about to change though, as Hollywood has finally aimed its sights at the Iraq war.
Steven Bochco, creator of “NYPD Blue” and “L.A. Law,” has moved into production at FX cable network on an hour-long dramatic series about life for soldiers in Iraq, the first of its kind, entitled “Over There.” The show will hopefully launch this summer, just in time for the U.S. military death toll to creep past the 1,900 mark.
If you think creating a wide-appeal show like this during an ongoing American conflict is unprecedented, you’re quite correct.
“M.A.S.H.” is often mentioned as a show made about war during war, but in that case, the show was about characters during the Korean War, even though “M.A.S.H.” was produced and aired during and right after the Vietnam War. The anti-war nuance of that show and its producers made it a staple of Hollywood commentary on war, as it is inevitable for a movie or TV show about a hot political topic to be analyzed for political slant. Clint Eastwood, for instance, is a Republican, and he’s still getting grilled for “Million Dollar Baby,” a film that partially deals with the controversial topic of euthanasia.
So, what will the political ramifications be for Bochco’s show about Iraq? If FX and the show’s producers have their way, none. FX Entertainment President John Landgraf tries to qualm concerns before they even arise by saying he “would defy someone to say there’s either a liberal or conservative bias” in “Over There.”
That will be their challenge — to stick with impartiality. If they get too patriotic, foreign investors will back out. If they get too hippie, Rupert Murdoch (FX’s parent company is News Corporation) will step in and put a stop to it.
Bochco ‘ Co. won’t be the only people dealing with public reaction to their fictionalized accounts of Iraq. Sam Mendes, director of “American Beauty,” is now in production on “Jar Head,” with an all-star Hollywood cast, set during the Gulf War circa 1991. NBC’s hottest pilot for next season is “E-Ring,” based on the day-to-day happenings in the Pentagon, which will most definitely tackle the question of our involvement in the Middle East. Something as big as a major American war needs to be fictionalized, if only to help the average person understand it.
And I appreciate the fact that Bochco is going into the show without a preconceived or publicized viewpoint on our involvement in Iraq. As Michael Moore’s documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” showed us, when a film’s sole intention is to sway public opinion, that usually never happens. The audience for such a film becomes homogenous, made up of those who typically agree with the filmmaker, meaning the only effect of the movie is to rile up people who already were on board with its politics.
Nor can fictional films from other countries sway American public opinion the way “M.A.S.H” did or like “Over There” might. Great and honest accounts of life in the Middle East under oppressive regimes, such as “Osama” or “The Circle,” aren’t likely to sway American popular opinion, first because they’re coming from too abstract an ideological position, but secondly, because they’re not in English, and Americans simply like their movies in English.
With the rise of cable television news, video of our involvement in war isn’t exactly hard to find, but it is restricted. Sure, we have imbedded journalists, but if they were really given unfettered access, we’d have loads more video of both sides committing horrific atrocities. We need our fictional shows to fill the holes that news cannot, simply because news is compromised by bias and military restriction.
That’s where Bochco ‘ Co. comes in.
It will be a challenge to stay neutral on a war that is still ongoing. Watching liberal Hollywood, financed by conservative corporations, produce a politically-centered show about the war in Iraq will be entertaining, just to see if they can pull it off.
Because if they aren’t glorifying the war or criticizing the war, then they’ve got to be doing something, and I figure that’s called telling the truth, which just might happen.