7.24.2011

Ellen Gray: Murdoch scandal has all the elements of good drama

Current info about is not always the easiest thing to locate. Fortunately, this report includes the latest info available.

Those of you not familiar with the latest on now have at least a basic understanding. But there's more to come.

SO MUCH television, so little time:

* Sunday's World Cup match between the U.S. women's team and Japan may have proved to ESPN that we Yanks will watch soccer - because 13.5 million Americans can't be wrong - but are we really ready for scandal, British-style?

The 24-hour news networks seemed to think so yesterday, providing wall-to-wall coverage of the testimony of a craftily clueless and occasionally cranky Rupert Murdoch and his smooth-as-silk son James before a House of Commons committee looking into the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed the now-closed British tabloid News of the World and may threaten Murdoch's media empire.

I'm not saying the Murdochs weren't good television (though I'm still trying to figure out why the best moment, when Wendi Deng sprang into action to defend her 80-year-old husband from a man with a pie, wasn't initially clear - Fox News seemed to have the best view of the attack - but by midafternoon was everywhere).

For the purpose, however, of the seemingly inevitable movie, the subsequent testimony of Rebekah Brooks was probably more useful.

Not so much for what she said, but because of how she said it.

And, let's face it, how she looked saying it.

Brooks, the 43-year-old former News of the World editor and News International chief executive who was arrested Sunday in connection with the phone-hacking scandal, is just the kind of character who'd render a movie about the scandal watchable, with a meteoric rise from humble beginnings followed by a terrible fall.

And the fact that she's an interesting-looking woman with an unruly mane of red hair doesn't actually hurt.

So for "Hacked" (or whatever they eventually call it), I propose Julianne Moore for Brooks and Michael "Dumbledore" Gambon for Rupert. Lucy Liu could probably handle Deng's moves (and vice versa).

But as for James Murdoch, any pretty boy in a suit who can stick to a script would probably do fine.

* I'm not sure who first decided that one of the big incentives - let's just call it a prize - on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Weight-Loss Edition" (10 p.m. Mondays, 6ABC) should be skin-removal surgery, but it kind of makes me miss the days when people just went on TV to win cars or refrigerators.

OK, so maybe a fridge would send the wrong message, but what's the right message here? That someone who's upended his or her life to lose a tremendous amount of weight shouldn't expect to be physically acceptable until a surgeon's been involved?

Or that although many surgeons reportedly recommend waiting a year or two after reaching a goal weight before going under the knife, "Extreme Makeover," which this week featured a woman who'd lost more than 200 pounds in a single year, simply can't wait that long?

Or - and here's an idea - maybe losing more than a hundred pounds in a single year is too much change for anyone's body to properly absorb and what "Extreme Makeover" is doing is simply too extreme?

* In a move that would probably never fly on a network that depended on advertising dollars - and the 18- to 49-year-old viewers those dollars chase - HBO's decided to put Dick Cavett and Mel Brooks together onstage before a live audience and just let them - talk.

Actually, the pair, who've been discussing this on and off for decades, filmed the hourlong special last December. But I'm guessing that like the men doing the talking, the show's well-preserved.

"Mel Brooks and Dick Cavett Together Again" will premiere on HBO Sept. 9.

* HBO's not the only premium network going retro for a night.

As the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches, Showtime's announced the Sept. 10 premiere of "The Love We Make."

A documentary from Albert Maysles ("Gimme Shelter," "Grey Gardens") and Bradley Kaplan, it follows Paul McCartney's "poignant and cathartic journey through the streets of New York City in the aftermath of the World Trade Center's destruction," according to Showtime, as well as chronicling the planning of the subsequent "Concert for New York City."

(McCartney was on a plane in New York, waiting to leave the U.S., when the World Trade Center was attacked.)

Oh, and if the focus on the former Beatle isn't retro enough, the film itself is in black and white, shot on the same 16 mm film Maysles employed in 1964 for "What's Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A." *

Is there really any information about that is nonessential? We all see things from different angles, so something relatively insignificant to one may be crucial to another.

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