Tuned In

NBC’s Hillary Clinton Miniseries: A (Possibly Unwanted) Political Gift

The same network that employs Donald Trump is making a miniseries about the possible Presidential frontrunner. In both cases, the decision is more about money than politics.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Matt Rourke / AP

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the Women in Public Service Project leadership symposium at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pa, on July 9, 2013.

At the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles (I’ll be going out for a few days later in the week), NBC on Saturday announced that it that it was putting much of its future ratings hopes in “events”–scripted, one-off dramas that used to be called “miniseries” and are presumably preferable to the event of no one watching NBC.

Network head Robert Greenblatt announced several such plans–remakes of Rosemary’s Baby and The Tommyknockers, and Plymouth (about the Pilgrims, not the car company)–along with the previous plan to air the sequel to History Channel’s The Bible. (May I suggest The Bible 2: 2 New 2 Testament.) But the biggest head-turner was signing Diane Lane to star in a mini event about the life of Hillary Clinton. As in very likely 2016 Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Should a broadcast network, programming on the public airwaves, be airing a laudatory drama about a potential presidential frontrunner? Of course not. But there’s no way of knowing–beyond the inevitable partisan rush to judgment–whether the Hillary miniseries will be laudatory, because it doesn’t exist yet except as an idea.

Clinton herself has understandably not given her blessing to the show, which could easily end up focusing on things the former Secretary of State would rather not call attention to. Among the few things we know about it is that it will begin in 1998, and you don’t need a degree in history to realize that means it will spotlight the impeachment trial following Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. And while that still leaves plenty of time for her political career in the Senate and White House, that span could also re-open wounds from what was, at least for a while, a badly divisive primary fight with Barack Obama in 2008.

Maybe making a show with Clinton played by a movie actress is inherently aggrandizing; on the other hand, USA essentially did a fictionalized version of that in Political Animals with Sigourney Weaver last year, and that show didn’t exactly catch fire. Still, I have to wonder if NBC, anticipating inevitable political criticism, pointedly waited until after it picked up the followup to Mark Burnett’s hit Bible miniseries. (I hate to imply that a miniseries about Clinton can only interest liberals and that the audience for The Bible is inherently conservative; those are gross generalizations. On the other hand, “gross generalization” is probably the closest synonym for “ratings” that there is.)

If I had to guess, I’d bet that any broadcast-network drama about a current viable politician will end up even-handed to the point of blandness. A show like this is more effective, more engaging and alive, if it has a point of view–not a political platform necessarily, but a theory of the politician and her personality. HBO’s political series do that (for better or worse; I wasn’t a fan of the Sarah Palin caricature of Game Change).

I doubt NBC’s will, and yet it will probably draw huge amounts of flak regardless–and the network can blame itself, at least in part, for its ill-advised decision to hire Chelsea Clinton as a correspondent. If you don’t want to be seen as partial to politicians, maybe don’t hire their kids as celebrity journalists? (See also NBC and Jenna Bush Hager.)

That’s fine for NBC, since attention means ratings. As someone who follows networks, the most quaint thing about the claim that networks program primetime for political ends is that it assumes these companies are far more altruistic than they actually are. NBC doesn’t employ birther / reality-TV host Donald Trump because it wants to publicize its platform of crankery. It just doesn’t care one way or another–like any broadcast network, it cares about making money, and to that end, it needs a Hillary Clinton miniseries way more than Hillary does.

For Clinton, it’s probably a greater risk than she really needs, as she doesn’t exactly need the name recognition now. But NBC doesn’t need permission, and as Greenblatt pointed out at TCA, it shouldn’t face any legal equal-time problems, since Clinton isn’t an official candidate for anything, and won’t be for some time.

If Clinton wants to keep the project from going forward, in other words, the best way would be for her to run for president–now.

19 comments
Lucelucy
Lucelucy like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Just taking this space for a shoutout to @anon76 You bravely went where I couldn't get up the gumption to go this morning.  Respect.  :)

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

Sooner or later the presstitutes love affair with Hillary will backfire on her. Some Americans may be stupid but not all are full fledged idiots. Just like forcing Obamacare down their throats they will tend to wise up and see the scam. But sometimes it is too late. Just like electing Obama.

timeserf
timeserf

Wonder if they will use the Elton John song "The B**** IS Back" for the theme.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

I commend James Poniewozik for taking a balanced approach to this 'Hillary mini-drama.'  Both her clean and dirty laundry have the potential to be aired if the show is green-lighted.

However, judging by NBC's treatment of Democratic candidates/minorities on shows, does anyone really think that NBC will shine a 'harsher light' on Hillary?  After all, she was a highly successful woman who persevered through many challenging times (i.e. her husband's numerous adulterous trysts, a Rottweiler-GOP out to rip her to shreds).  Even the Benghazi story will portray Hillary as, 'rising above the fray,' and elevating U.S. diplomacy to new heights. 

Coupled with the fact that NBC will not want to alienate its core demographics (Democrats, the '18-49 younger crowd'), it's hard to see how 'Hillary' won't play out as an exaltation to the woman of the same name.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@mrbomb13 Not if the GOP choose another wimp like Romney or a RINO like McCain or a wimp and RINO like Dole. Somebody who is not afraid to hit and hit her hard like Christie. Otherwise it will be 2008 and 2012 all over again.


INDY_COLTS_18
INDY_COLTS_18

Funny, the Clintonians and even Chris Matthews is all over Weiner and his wrongdoings, but now we will have a picture about the responsible person behind Benghazi and Slick Willy's part time wife.   Now we have the 3 Dem Amigos, the SD Mayor, Weiner, and Spitzer lmao....let's toss in Eric *Tickle Me* Massa* and Johnny  Edwards....talk about WAR on WOMEN? haha

anon76
anon76 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@INDY_COLTS_18 

Isn't it sad when these people turn their backs on their long-time partners?  It just takes one bad stretch in their otherwise idyllic relationship, and they immediately decide to drop their beau and try their Luck with someone new.  Do they not see how unpalatable this makes them to the public?  Is it really worth the thrill of something new?  In conclusion, Go Broncos!

MarcHandler1
MarcHandler1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

In the first paragraph you wrote:  "... and are presumably preferably to the event of no one watching NBC."   .... You meant:  "... and are presumably preferable to the event of no one watching NBC."

Honestly aren't you embarrassed at constantly making such basic mistakes in a national magazine? How can teacher's tell their students to write correctly when Time Magazine can hardly print a single article without glaring errors. Some 40,000 million Americans have college degrees. Can you really not find one who can proofread your articles for basic mistakes?


anon76
anon76

@MarcHandler1 

Not to belabor the obvious, but this is a blog on the Time website, not an article in the magazine.  Blogs are written with the intent of rapid author-reader interaction, and as such should be read as works in progress, not to be confused with the finished level of professionalism expected in a printed product.  If you've come here looking for 100% grammatical accuracy (as opposed to say, self-aggrandizement via grammar naziism), then you're in the wrong place, bub.

More germane to your question: why bother hiring a proofreader for money, when folks like you will so kindly oblige for free?  And a paid employee probably wouldn't accomplish the task with the same sweet disposition that you have displayed.

MarcHandler1
MarcHandler1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@anon76 @MarcHandler1    Hm, Okay, I go to the Time Magazine Web Site, main page, at the top. It lists articles called "don't miss"   including an article by James Poniewozik who is a regular Time Magazine columnist. It seems to be indistinguishable from any other article with captioned photos, references, and detailed information, and nowhere is it identified as a blog --- but it IS a blog, not an article -- so it's okay for it to have glaring English errors? ------ Honestly, can you really look at this article and tell me it was thrown together so hastily that the author, who makes his living as a writer, didn't have time to check the sentences?

I'd propose a different policy to the Time Editors. If you're posting it on the website where thousands of people will be reading it, and referencing it, and using it for classroom discussions, have a proofreader take 5 minutes to fix the glaring errors.

Speaking of "sweet disposition" --- is encouraging a major publication like Time to avoid basic errors comparable to Nazis who carry out mass murder? Nice comparison. How is it self-aggrandizing? Is there an awards ceremony for people who encourage normal publishing standards? If this kind of error were occasional, I wouldn't mention it, but Time  is riddled with errors like this. It would be nice if a major publication upheld higher writing standards than someone writing an email.

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

Hillary easily has had enough drama in her life for a three volume miniseries. That script practically writes itself. I could probably have one in to a publisher within weeks if asked.

swagger
swagger

the right wing extremists will go berserk about their villian "main stream media" promoting their other arch villain hillary.

INDY_COLTS_18
INDY_COLTS_18

@swagger You mean to point out the Dem War on Women? Edwards, Spitzer, Slick Willy, Weiner, Spitzer....whew i gotta stop..my fingers are tired..:-)

anon76
anon76 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@INDY_COLTS_18

Ensign, Vitter, the Newt, Sanford, Vitter ... whew!

If your concern is about which group has the most members that act like a$$holes to their wives, then let the party that is without sinning Lotharios cast the first phallic symbol.

If your concern is about which group is restricting reproductive resources to women, forcing wands into their very private regions, and trying to delineate between "legitimate" vs. other types of rape, then only one party is guilty.

littleredtop
littleredtop like.author.displayName 1 Like

I'm anxiously awaiting "Bill Clinton" the cartoon.  While I say that in jest I am concerned about how the entertainment media can so easily brainwash the general public.  Many of our current social ills can be traced back to the entertainment industry - violence, gun violence, irresponsible sex, the glamorization of criminals, fake human rights issues etc etc etc.  Now an attempt to take a sleazy, criminally predisposed woman and humanize her through theatrical dramatization.   Why, to put her in the White House.  The people and motives behind these endeavors must be investigated and exposed.  Where is Jessie Ventura when we need him?   

anon76
anon76

@littleredtop 

These intertubes can be so informative.  Before reading your post, for instance, I had no idea that violence and gun violence only existed after the development of Hollywood, or that before Hollywood all sex was of the "responsible" variety (sounds kinky!).  I guess now it's up to me to research just which human rights I should consider fraudulent.  I'm looking at you, "liberty".

littleredtop
littleredtop

@anon76 @littleredtop   Undesirable human social issues, many of which I've mentioned, have always existed and have been a source of concern for literally thousands of years.  Hollywood certainly didn't invent them nor did any other element of the entertainment industry.  However, it was those irresponsible leaders of that industry that found profit in glamorizing undesirable and dangerous behavior thus giving it a blessing of sorts and encouraging the youth of America and the world to partake in destructive behavior.  While basic human rights certainly are not fraudulent as you have indicated, it's the false claims and exaggerated dramatization for which the entrainment and industry can be blamed.   Is this all part of a bigger conspiracy or just an irresponsible quest for profits?  Where will Hillary Clinton, armed with the power of the presidency, fit into this probable conspiracy?  Will Obama become the puppeteer replacing the aging George Soros?   Who has the guts to investigate and expose these charlatans?   Where is Jessie Ventura when we need him?

anon76
anon76 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@littleredtop

proto-littleredtop, ca 3000 years ago:

Can you believe all the mindless violence that Homer has Achilles inflict on the poor Trojans?  And don't even get me started on Virgil with his Aeneas-Dido affair and those damned Sumerians with the Gilgamesh-Ishtar liaison.  These irresponsible epic poets with their deviant fixations on sex and violence are actively seeking to undermine civilization and turn us all into a herd of braying aurochs, doing it I'm sure in the pursuit of the almighty denarii.

anon76
anon76

@littleredtop

Jesse Ventura?

Maybe Rosenblatt was right- when the line separating the vitriolic conspiracy-monger from the typical smart@ss becomes too blurry to discern, irony really is dead.