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Friday, March 11, 2005

ABC Refuses Outfoxed Ad, Censors Boston Legal

You know that if a dictum comes down censoring David Kelley, one of the biggest franchises in network television, it had to come down from on high.

Nobody will talk about it -- not Kelley, who can't be happy. Not any of the executives at ABC. And not Roger Ailes, whose Fox News network ABC obviously wants to shield from criticism more than they want to honor David Kelley's first amendment rights.

The controversy stems from this Sunday's episode of Boston Legal, which contained criticism of Fox News that accused them of being a propaganda arm of the GOP. Also nixed were references to everyone's favorite falafel flinger, Bill O'Reilly. Kelley evidently had enough juice to maintain excerpts from the excellent Robert Greenwald documentary Outfoxed, but when Greenwald's distributor went to ABC wanting to purchase advertising for the doc during the program, ABC turned them down flat.

As Greenwald writes on his blog:
[T]hey have refused our money, refused to make suggestions to the ad so they would run it, and in short have said no! Now, if they were not airing an episode in which outfoxed is the center of the storyline, it MIGHT be justifiable on some grounds about fear of conflict. But to refuse to air an ad, when the storyline of the show features OUTFOXED..... well, it boggles the mind.
Surprised? Don't be. For those who can't keep up with all the mergers and acquisitions, wife-swapping and general bed hopping within Big Media, ABC is owned by...wait for it...the Walt Disney Company! Yes, the same people who leaped in a nerve-jangling frenzy of blind patriotism to purge from its distribution slate what would prove to be the most commercially successful documentary of all time, Fahrenheit 9/11.

How serious is Disney about protecting BushCo. and its propaganda arm? Pretty fuckin'. The NYT is reporting that although there has been a long-standing antipathy between Disney Chief Michael Eisner and the head of its Miramax division, Harvey Weinstein, the battle over the release of Fahrenheit 911 was the straw that broke the camel's back. Disney is now giving Harvey the boot, although I'm sure he will be able to salve his wounds with boatloads of cash.

But back to Boston Legal. Alternet got a hold of a copy of the script for the controversial episode, which will run this Sunday, March 13 on ABC. The story surrounds a principal who puts a "Fox Blocker" on every TV set in his school, saying that Fox News is anything but, and accuses them of generating "hate speech.

Here's an exchange from the original:
Chelina: If you had to watch the news, Mrs. Piper, which network would you go to?

Catherine (simply): Fox, of course.

Chelina: Can you tell us why?

Catherine: Well. For starters, we’re winning the war on Fox. The economy’s better there. And Brit Hume. Sometimes I close my eyes and…go to him.
And the version approved by the censors:
Chelina: If you had to watch the news, Mrs. Piper, which network would you go to?

Catherine (simply): I don’t know. I’d probably seek out the station where we’re most likely to be winning the war. Where I can find a better economy. Maybe some weapons of mass destruction.
The first one? Made me laugh out loud. The second one? Well, the amazingly talented Mr. Kelley isn't saying much publicly. But the re-write says it all. It was obviously concocted under duress, or by someone else entirely. David Kelley knows how to write better than that. He just didn't.

It's probably tough to write funny when you're watching your first amendment rights swirling down the shitter.