He's not President, nor does he play one on TV . . .



Does anybody out there really give a shit if TV networks run old shows, films, or TV appearances of an actor-turned-politician? Would seeing Fred Grandy playing Gopher on Love Boat or Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator really make the difference in the way someone votes?



There's a storm brewing over the Equal Time law and Republican candidate Fred Thompson, brought on by some of the other candidates as well as other folks. NBC has pulled the Law & Order episodes in which Thompson appears as D.A. Arthur Branch from the airwaves without so much as a whimper (since the show hasn't been on in weeks and will return in January with that role re-cast, I don't exactly see a big sacrifice here). They usually pass on the previous seasons to TNT for re-broadcasting when the new TV season begins, which is right around the corner.

Therein lies the rub. Apparently, the law doesn't cover cable networks, and TNT is saying no way will they pull their episodes with Thompson.

Hell, the election is still over a year away, and TNT didn't exactly pay Monopoly money for the broadcast rights to Law & Order. I can't say I blame them for refusing to go along. L&O is a big ratings getter for them (personally, I'd rather watch reruns of this and a few other shows than a lot of the other first-run crap that's on the air). They didn't know when they shelled out for the license (including, I believe, the rights to the season that just ended) that Ol' Fred would return to politics and make a run for the highest office there is and they would be asked to temporarily (for 14 months, yet!) shelve three or four years' worth of their most recent shows.

Are we as a people so easily influenced that we'll flock around our TV sets to get a glimpse (it's a relatively small part) of a presidential candidate playing a dramatic role and think it's the real thing? Did anyone out there believe that Ronald Reagan really had his legs amputated by a demented small-town doctor (King's Row), or that he was a hood who slapped women (the remake of The Killers)? How about that movie when he played a college football player and died, for crying out loud (Knute Rockne, All-American)?

It's a role, folks. If the other candidates are seeking equal time, maybe they should book themselves on Jay Leno.

9 comments:

Gwyneth Bolton said...

It doesn't make any sense to me. I thought it only applied to campaign ads or campaign related appearances? Odd...

Gwyneth

bettye griffin said...

Gwyneth,
I don't think there was a clarification made in the law itself, because the people weren't likely to see political candidates on old movies and TV series. Some people are crying foul, complaining that seeing Thompson in his TV role plants subliminal messages or stuff like that.

I think it's silly. These guys must truly be insecure.

Patricia W. said...

My husband and I were talking about this yesterday. What does this law mean for Oprah if she puts her weight behind Obama? She's got a television show and a popular magazine. Will she have to feature every candidate?

Donna D said...

The law, as it stands, only applies to networks. And you're right Bettye. TNT runs L&O incessantly and Thompson has been on it for 5 years - nearly 100 episodes. To pull them from the rotation would be a hardship and a financial/ratings disaster.

I love Fred Thompson as an actor, especially on L&O. But would I vote for him? I don't think so. His politics don't mesh with mine.

bettye griffin said...

Good point, Pat. I do remember George Bush asking for equal time on Oprah after she arranged to interview the Democratic candidate (can't remember if it was Gore in 2000 or Kerry in 2004). She gave it to him. But at that point the conventions had already been held and the nominees selected; there wasn't a crowded field of applicants for the job!

Donna, you're clearly able to separate the man from the parts he portrays. I guess the other candidates are worried that people who like his Law & Order D.A. will want to vote for him simply on that merit!

I've said this before, but Fred Thompson was the only Republican I saw who, during the debacle following the 2000 election, didn't have that in-your-face, we-won, tough-shit, don't-be-such-a-sore-loser attitude that the rest of his party demonstrated toward Al Gore. Instead he spoke about how unfortunate the whole mess was and that the election system is clearly in need of fixing. That alone earned him my respect . . . although I don't believe I see eye-to-eye with him on other matters.

Allison Brennan said...

Very well said, Bettye! And I'll take reruns of L&O over almost any current running show out there (HEROES excluded . . . )

bettye griffin said...

Thanks, Allison!

Chelle Sandell said...

Yep..I'm a huge L&O fan, reruns or not. I like him as an actor but haven't followed his politics...but will now because the race is heating up.

bettye griffin said...

Thanks for posting, Chelle!