ANOTHER RIGHT-WING SETBACK
It’s pilot time in Hollywood, as networks begin planning next season’s prime-time schedule. So what happened to the supposedly “hot” Washington, D.C.-based drama that was going to feature conservatives and Republicans in a somewhat more positive light? This time last year, word was spreading in the conservative community that ABC and parent company Disney were seeking writers for a show that would provide ideological balance to NBC’s liberal-minded “The West Wing.” The show would be set on Capitol Hill and would feature Republicans and conservatives doing the good work of the American people.
“It was going to be ‘The Right Wing,'” says a young conservative writer who presented his résumé to the ABC development folks. “They were excited at the prospects of having two shows going head to head that would present two very different political perspectives in a dramatic fashion.” But that show, apparently, will never be made, even at a pilot stage, due to the glut of Washington shows already on the air or in the pipeline. NBC has “The West Wing” and CBS and ABC both have Supreme Court dramas on the air.
CBS has commited to a Washington-based show for next season that springs from the fertile mind of former Washington Post “Style” section maven Sally Quinn, a.k.a. Mrs. Ben Bradlee. ABC is developing at least one other Washington show, possibly focusing on the machinations of Capitol Hill, but not the one with so-called “conservative” spin. “It was never going to work out,” says a Los Angeles-based talent agent. “I heard they got plenty of people in Washington who wanted to write, but you couldn’t find a top flight actor in this town willing to play a conservative in a friendly light for very long.” But what about James Garner, who plays a conservative chief justice on the CBS Supreme Court drama? “He started out conservative, but they already have him voting with the court’s liberal wing four shows into the run,” says the agent. That must explain why Garner’s character got confirmed in the first place.
Others say the conservative show was doomed from the start. “The knockoffs, and this would have been a ‘West Wing’ knockoff, never work out. It’s best for everyone,” says a New York-based screenwriter. “But anyone who thought Disney would give you a ‘conservative’ show is nuts. Hell, even Fox wouldn’t give you that.”
Democratic Party supporters of New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen are using the ongoing crisis in the Middle East to help fill her coffers for what is expected to be a tough Senate race against either current Sen. Bob Smith or Republican challenger Rep. John E. Sununu. While Smith is given the edge in the Republican primary because of his incumbency, Sununu, son of the state’s former governor and Bush I chief of staff, has the backing of the Republican Party — partly because polling numbers which have Smith losing to Shaheen show Sununu beating the popular two-term governor straight up.
Shaheen’s people clearly are more concerned about Sununu. How else to explain the whispering campaign in New Hampshire, Boston and New York that has seen Democratic fundraisers asking prominent Jewish donors to pony up $1,000 donations for Shaheen in order to keep Sununu from winning the seat.
“They say that Sununu is of Arab descent and will side with the Palestinians,” says one donor who heard the pitch at a recent dinner party fundraiser in New York City. “I don’t know anything about him, or her, for that matter, but it bothered me that my party would spread rumors about him, especially now.” Sununu is a devout Roman Catholic, who has focused much of his time in the House on budget and constituent issues.
“Get real, this is the kind of thing Republicans and Democrats do to each other all the time,” says a DNC fundraiser not involved in the Shaheen race. “I can’t say I haven’t done similar things for other races. That Senate seat is important to both parties. I’d love to hear what Smith and Sununu people are saying about Shaheen. The reality is the Jewish vote probably doesn’t mean much in New Hampshire, but if you can raise an extra $100,000 for that race in New York or Boston by scaring some donors, most fundraisers would do it in a second.”
First Names Named: Check today’s Reader Mail for entries in our “Name That Clinton Dog” contest announced here yesterday.