Alec Baldwin’s MSNBC talker Up Late With Alec Baldwin -- aka Republican National Committee’s Talking Point No. 2 in its State of Upset Address about NBC’s now-defunct plans to air a miniseries about presumed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — premieres October 11. Let the promos begin:
2ND UPDATE 6:30 PM: The Republican National Committee is taking credit for NBC and CNN deep-sixing what the group calls “their Hillary Clinton infomercials”. In August, the RNC threatened to block both networks from the 2016 presidential debates if they were forward with their Clinton programs. Here RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski’s statement on their cancellation: “This was only the first step in the Republican Party taking control of our debate process. The purpose of our party’s debates is to better inform our grassroots and those participating in Republican primaries and caucuses. Now that CNN and NBC have canceled their Hillary Clinton infomercials, we will work on developing a new debate model that will address the timing, frequency, moderators and venues that will come in the next few months. Any media organization looking to be part of the debate process will have to comply with the new system.”
UPDATED, 3:18 PM: Having lost its production partner on its Hillary Clinton miniseries back in August, and with all the brouhaha that had erupted over its Clinton mini (and CNN’s documentary), NBC planned to announce that its biopic was a goner sometime down the road, a source tells us. But when CNN this morning announced the demise of its Clinton documentary, NBC pounced on the opportunity to slip its news into the CNN story, rather than have reporters pound away with will-NBC-or-won’t-NBC sidebars and second-day stories. This is known as taking out all the dirty laundry in one afternoon — public relations 101.
Now CNN has bailed on its plans for a Hillary Clinton documentary, but insisted the director made the call. The news comes just weeks after NBC issued a statement saying its Hillary Clinton miniseries — which was the biggest bit of news at its TCA Summer TV Press Tour appearance — was after all only a project in development and might never see the light of day (translation: don’t hold your breath). CNN let it be known this morning its CNN Films division had informed the mothership it would not move ahead on its Clinton docu – because the director had bowed out. “Charles Ferguson has informed us that he is not moving forward with his documentary about Hillary Clinton … [W]e won’t seek other partners and are not proceeding with the film,” CNN Worldwide told Politico. Message of the message: CNN did not decide to cancel the docu — it was the director’s decision.
In one of those incredible coincidences that makes this industry so interesting, Ferguson this very morning wrote a blog post published on Huffington Post, in which he complained pressure from Clinton’s camp and the Republican National Committee led many of his prospective interviewees to give him a “no dice” response to appearing in the docu. He expresses surprise to discover “that nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in helping me make this film. Not Democrats, not Republicans — and certainly nobody who works with the Clintons, wants access to the Clintons, or dreams of a position in a Hillary Clinton administration. Not even journalists who want access, which can easily be taken away. I even sensed potential difficulty in licensing archival footage from CBN (Pat Robertson) and from Fox. After approaching well over a hundred people, only two persons who had ever dealt with Mrs. Clinton would agree to an on-camera interview, and I suspected that even they would back out.”
UPDATE, 1:30 PM: “Any concerns the Clinton team had are all gone. This puts the ‘P’ in puff piece,” a Republican National Committee rep said this afternoon, in response to our report about the announcement by CNN Films that it had hired senior director Courtney Sexton, who previously oversaw Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and the bio-docu Jimmy Carter Man From Plains among many other projects. “What’s next: Michael Moore directing?” added Sean Spicer, the RNC’s communications director, in an email to Politico about Deadline’s coverage of the hire.
PREVIOUS: CNN Films, the division of CNN Worldwide responsible for commissioning the documentary about Hillary Clinton that’s got the RNC’s knickers in a knot, today announced it is welcoming Courtney Sexton to its Los Angeles team as senior director. The Republican National Committee may latch on to this news — in much the same way it did reports MSNBC was giving Alec Baldwin a program — because Sexton has spent the last eight years working with Participant Media where, CNN noted, she managed from development to release such documentary films as An Inconvenient Truth. That’s the Oscar-winning docu about former Veep Al Gore’s global warming campaign. Other titles Sexton shepherded include Jimmy Carter Man From Plains, among many titles. Prior to joining Participant, Sexton worked for two years with filmmaker Davis Guggenheim — An Inconvenient Truth’s director — on the HBO series Deadwood, among other projects.
NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd — the guy who complained NBC News would only “own the negative” aspects of NBC Entertainment’s planned Hillary Clinton miniseries, seemed in a much better mood this morning, after NBC Entertainment said late Friday the mini might never be programmed. …
NBC began to circle the wagons on its Hillary Clinton miniseries this afternoon, hours after the Republican National Committee blocked the network from GOP primary debates, calling the miniseries a Clinton promo. “The Hillary Clinton movie has not been ordered to production, only a script is being written at this time,” NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt said this afternoon in a statement. “It is ‘in development’, the first stage of any television series or movie, many of which never go to production. Speculation, demands, and declarations pertaining to something that isn’t created or produced yet seem premature,” he added. The statement was issued not long after word got out that Fox TV Studio, which had been in early stages of talks to produce the miniseries, would not move ahead with the project about the former First Lady and Secretary of State.
NBC’s took on this headache when Greenblatt made the Clinton miniseries one of his big announcements at his Summer TCA Press Tour appearance on July 27. Network execs like to come to Press Tour with these kinds of bright shiny lights, to distract the press so they don’t ask too many uncomfortable questions about ratings and some of their new series pickups, etc. Greenblatt announced that the network was preparing the four-hour miniseries as part of an ambitious slate of longform projects with which he hopes to make noise and boost ratings. “We need to be in the event business,” Greenblatt said back then.