Meredith Vieira, center, with Millionaire contestants for American Pride… (Courtesy of Valleycrest…)
Discovery Channel might have Robert Redford, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Ben Bradlee reminiscing about the Watergate scandal and Redford-starring vehicle, “All the President’s Men” in a two-hour Redford-produced documentary airing in 2013.
But British network BSkyB has President Richard M. Nixon, as played by Harry Shearer, in a TV comedy called “Nixon’s the One” airing April 26.
“Nixon’s the One” is based on hours of verbatim White House recordings Nixon made between February of 1971 and July of 1973 — conversations he had with his aides and confidants, including Henry Kissinger, who will be played by Henry Goodman.
Addressing a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch Tuesday in London, Shearer said he’d sold his little Oval Office-set comedy to a U.K. network first because U.S. network suits wouldn’t get the joke (see Discovery documentary, above) — and because the American scene these days is too politically shrill.
“I knew it would not be done the way I wanted it in the U.S.,” he told the crowd, according to various reporters who attended.
“In the U.S., Nixon is still regarded as a highly political character, whereas this is a nonpolitical show. . . . The show lacks the surface controversy that would have made it a sell in the U.S.,” Shearer added, according to accounts in the Guardian and the trade paper Variety.
“It’s not about Watergate or Vietnam, but about Nixon as a character,” Shearer said. “There are so many conversations on the tape that are profoundly revealing of what a strangely twisted . . . guy he was,” he said, according to Variety’s London office.
Shearer is a regular on Fox’s “The Simpsons” who’s best known for voicing Mr. Burns and Waylon Smithers. He has also voiced Bill Clinton for “The Simpsons” and released an album of tunes about George W. Bush.
Shearer acknowledged that he’s obsessed with Nixon, the trade paper the Hollywood Reporter said in its coverage of the lunch.
For years, Shearer has worked on the tapes — which were released by the Nixon Presidential Library in 2008 — with Nixon scholar and University of Wisconsin professor Stanley Kutler.
Only now is Shearer trying to sell the show to a U.S. network, he told attendees, adding: “I could see this working as an acquisition for someone like HBO.”
‘Jeopardy!’ in D.C.
The syndicated quiz show “Jeopardy!” has released the names of the “power players” who will participate in its annual Power Players Week in Washington, playing for charities of their choosing.
Once again, the list includes no sitting political figures, who are too skittish about competing in a test of knowledge.
Instead, once again, the list is thick with media types, and Power Players Week will be an exercise in picking lice off each other’s backs. You know: “Hardball” star Chris Matthews promotes “Jeopardy!” And “Jeopardy!” promotes Matthews and “Hardball.” Everybody wins, and some charities get some money.
Yes, MSNBC’s Matthews is returning to compete on the show; he’ll be joined by CNN (and syndicated talk-show host) Anderson Cooper. CNBC’s David Faber. BBC World News America’s Katty Kay, Kelly O’Donnell of NBC News, CNN’s Lizzie O’Leary, Fox News Channel’s Dana Perino, NBC’s Chuck Todd and Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace.
This year’s players also include TV’s Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times, retired NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and native-son comic Lewis Black.
The episodes will tape Saturday in front of an audience at DAR Constitution Hall and air May 14-18.
Power Players Week has some competition this year. Days before those broadcasts, the syndicated quiz show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” — for the first time — will spend a week and a day “celebrating everything that makes America great!” with something it’s calling American Pride Week.
American Pride Week will feature firefighters, teachers and members of the U.S. military — all dressed in red, white and blue, and also competing for charity.
American Pride Week will also feature U.S. Olympians: Gymnasts Dominique Dawes and Jonathan Horton and swimmers Dara Torres and Ryan Lochte will play “Millionaire” as two-person teams and will donate their winnings to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
American Pride Week will air April 30 to May 4 and have an additional broadcast May 7.
Just one week later, Power Players Week debuts.
A “Millionaire” source insists that the themed episodes weren’t conceived to compete with Power Players Week, but rather to tap into viewers’ interest in the coming Summer Olympics in London.
“Jeopardy!” has a huge advantage over “Millionaire” heading into its dueling flag-waving, Memorial Day walk-up episodes. This season, “Jeopardy!” averages 9.1 million viewers a day; “Millionaire” averages 3.6 million.
“Jeopardy!” boasts that it’s the country’s No. 1-rated “quiz” show (a subsection of the “game” show genre, “Wheel of Fortune” being the nation’s most popular syndicated program) and reaches 25 million viewers each week.
That means 25 million viewers sample the show across its multiple broadcasts in the course of a week. That number makes advertisers happy, because the assumption is that viewers see an ad break.
Not making advertisers as happy: The “Jeopardy!” audience skews a very old 64.8 years — which means half of its audience is older than about 65. The median age for “Millionaire” is 62.2. (For comparison’s sake, the syndicated tabloid show “TMZ” has a median age of 45.2.)
To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/