“The Good Fight” on CBS and “The Loudest Voice” on Showtime Sunday night make almost as many political statements and arguments Sunday as were made during the Democratic presidential debates Wednesday and Thursday.
I can almost hear the shouting from conservatives if they watch either program.
First, “The Good Fight.”
If you haven’t hopped aboard the sequel to “The Good Wife” yet, Sunday is a perfect time to join the party.
The good thing about CBS’ decision to air “The Good Fight” in prime time two years after it ran on its pay-channel CBS All-Access is that the episodes remain timely.
One of the most timely episodes of the 2017 season, “Stoppable: Requiem for an Airdate,” airs at 10 p.m. Sunday on WIVB-TV (Channel 4).
It concerns a television writer being sued for posting an episode of a series he wrote online because he believed the show’s network wasn’t going to carry it for fear of reprisals from President Trump. The episode in question concerned a politician being accused of sexual indiscretions, which remains a topic that Trump continues to deal with after the latest sexual assault allegation by E. Jean Carroll, a columnist for Elle magazine.
It isn’t the only time a Trump storyline remains current two years later. Later in the first season of “The Good Fight,” Trump's harsh comments about the wrongly convicted “Central Park Five” are briefly addressed. He recently refused again to apologize for those comments.
Sunday’s episode also includes a lot of inside baseball conversation about the TV business, including what an owned-and-operated station is and how many episodes a broadcast network typically receives. But more importantly, the episode deals with the chilling effect a president can have on networks that rely on their licenses to be renewed by the government and to approve potential mergers.
It also gives viewers an education into the media power that six corporations have in America.
Near the episode’s end, Robert Boseman (Delroy Lindo), the partner in the African-American firm where Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) now works, explains that “90 percent of the media in this country is controlled by six companies.”
Some media experts believe that percentage is a little high but there is no question that the Big Six – Comcast, Disney, Fox, CBS, Viacom and AT&T’s Warner Media – have enormous media power that could be abused.
As Boseman, Lindo delivers a powerful speech at the end of the episode that makes it worth viewing on its own. Lindo makes the series worth watching as much as Baranski.
Sunday’s episode also features the return of Carrie Preston as the quirky lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni who made “The Good Wife” so much fun.
Elsbeth is on board to defend the law firm of Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad, against the sleazy, unscrupulous prosecutor so deliciously played by Matthew Perry.
The good news is that CBS wasn’t afraid of airing this episode or any of the subsequent anti-Trump episodes that ran on pay-cable in the first season.
Some might even say CBS’ decision to air the episode and first season of “The Good Fight” during the summer seemingly contradicts the premise that Americans should be very worried about the Trump administration have a chilling effect on the media.
“The Good Fight” airs opposite the 10 p.m. Sunday premiere of “The Loudest Voice” on Showtime, a docudrama based on the 2014 biography by Gabriel Sherman about the rise and fall and power and influence of the late Roger Ailes.
He was the architect of Fox News, which he envisioned as the cable voice of conservatives as an alternative to what he perceived as the liberal media, including cable news channels CNN and MSNBC, “full of bias, full of lies, full of crap.”
Ailes’ mission is to appeal to “the forgotten America” and “reclaim the real America.”
“People don’t want to be informed, they want to feel informed,” says Ailes.
Russell Crowe stars as the overweight and over-the-top Ailes, who cared less about telling the truth to viewers as telling them what they think they want to hear. He ultimately resigned in disgrace in 2016 after being accused of sexually harassing females at Fox for years. He died about a year later.
His influence lives on, with the series showing Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” was uttered by Ailes years earlier and he may have been the one to get then citizen Trump to falsely suggest President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States.
The excellent cast includes Seth MacFarlane as an Ailes adviser; Naomi Watts as former Fox host Gretchen Carlson; Sienna Miller as Ailes’ wife, Beth; Annabelle Wallis as Fox booker Laurie Luhn who Ailes reportedly had a sexual relationship with; and Josh Stamberg as Fox News executive Bill Shine, who went on to work in the Trump administration.
Watts has little to do in the first four episodes made available for review, but she should be more prominent as Carlson in succeeding episodes of the limited series of seven episodes.
Sunday’s premiere on a network, CBS, owned by one of the six powerful media companies, focuses on the 1995 creation of Fox News, which is owned by another one of the Big Six corporations. There is an early Buffalo reference of little consequence.
The second episode deals with the Fox News reaction to 9/11 and its outsized influence on President George W. Bush and the Republican Party.
It also addresses Ailes’ affinity for a future talk show star, Sean Hannity, who was painting houses before he became a talk show host. Admiring Hannity’s style, Ailes also notes Hannity needs to use his brain before he talks.
“Find me guys like that,” says Ailes. “Real guys.”
The rise of Hannity and his current influence on Trump will frighten liberals even more than they already are.
The third episode deals with the 2008 election of Obama, which horrified Ailes. “That man is a danger to the country and it is on us to let the voters know,” Ailes tells his troops.
The episode also deals with Ailes’ manipulative powers to get total editorial control of Fox News from News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch, who he isn’t afraid to clash with over the channel’s content and treatment of Obama.
“I’m the same paranoid nut job lining your pockets,” Ailes tells Murdoch, who is depicted as appreciating money much more than media fairness.
The fourth episode deals with the hiring of another provocateur, talk show host Glenn Beck. It also deals more than the first three episodes with the sexual abuse allegations against Ailes.
Looking a bit like Benjamin Franklin, Crowe does admirable work (presumably wearing a fat suit) imitating Ailes’ walk, right-wing philosophy, brutal management style, crude behavior, lack of journalistic ethics and volatility.
It is a devastating portrait, though it does give Ailes credit for understanding television and some of his innovations.
Fox News is extremely popular in Western New York and this series should be must-see TV for those viewers here. You might think that this series would inform those viewers about the hate, bias and lies the news channel spread under Ailes’ dangerous marriage of politics and the media that has made Murdoch a fortune and a powerful figure in America.
But as compelling as the case is made that Ailes cared little about the truth and more about his version of it and stoking America’s anger, I suspect most Republicans and conservatives in this political age likely will just view the series as more evidence of liberal media bias.