I wouldn't have watched this show, because I never watch shows like this. What does "like this" mean? Oh, there are at least five factors that would designate this as the kind of thing I don't watch: 1. network drama, 2. hyped miniseries, 3. dramatization of some hot issue, 4. 4 hours long, 5. lots of concerned emoting by actors who are often looking at video screens or arguing on the phone or sitting around fretting about things. I could go on. Basically, I don't like watching much of anything, though I do like the occasional HBO series and I enjoy unwinding to certain bloggable reality shows that I don't necessarily really like all that much.
But I am going to watch this now because of all the fuss. So take that! That's what you get for making the fuss. I am going to watch. And, since at least one reader has requested it and since it's the main thing that makes watching TV worthwhile, I will simulblog (or as some people like to say live-blog -- though the thing is not live, nor am I on the scene except in front of my HDTV). I may not have much to say, but I'll be saying whatever I feel like saying as the occasion arises. I'll put time-stamps on the following paragraphs so you can see what's new as we go along. Here goes.
7:10. There is a disclaimer explaining how dramatizations are done, by compressing time, combining characters, etc. An elegant opening sequence with black and white photography and tastefully minimal music. Early scenes show various earnest low level investigators who are generally thwarted by higher ups. We see a brief shot of a George Bush, sweating in a stretched out T-shirt, seen on an airport TV on 9/11, before the attacks, and later a bit of Mario Cuomo, just after the 1993 WTC attack. Each says a few words, enough to give us the sense that they are disengaged from the problems that are brewing underneath them.
7: 55. It's talky, interspersed with some action scenes. There are also scenes in nightclubs and closeups of bombmaking doings. In film, it seems, you have to constantly think about keeping people excited. It's not really an effective way to convey information. I'd much rather get it in writing. So many names and dates fly by. The terrorist guys are all sweaty, grimy, and pimply. No one worried too much about ethnic sterotypes.
8:06. "I don't want any lawyers getting in our way," says Harvey Keitel, as John O'Neill, showing up and taking charge, barking orders. (A little "Pulp Fiction" resonance there.) I'm totally bored, clicking over to websites to read the details of Ramzi Yousef to make sure I've got his story straight. I realize it's way easier and quicker this way. The movie is more about making you feel the frustration and the danger.
8:20. But I don't like surrendering to the manipulation of my feelings. I don't need a movie to help me feel something about 9/11. I'd rather read the 9/11 Report... or any number of things. I especially hate the scenes where characters walk quickly through hallways with the camera shaking and swinging about so we'll sense the urgency. Sometimes the camera is taken in and out of focus to try to make it seem like a documentary filmed on the fly. I have to confess I switched it off just now. I'm still TiVo-ing it, so I can go back, but the flashy cutting and the anxious actors yammering at each other are getting on my nerves. I need a break. You know this commercial-free thing has a down side.
9:18. That's an irrelevant timestamp, just the time here in Madison, Wisconsin, after I've taken a break and gone back to the TiVo'd version of the show. I don't like it at all. Too chaotic. Really, I've got to wonder how those geniuses at ABC figured out how to get Bill Clinton, et al., to do their publicity work for them. Totally viral!
9:29. Osama Bin Laden is introduced in a scene where O'Neill must tell Sandy Berger, "We're at war." The screen goes black, and the disclaimer runs. Something was cut here!
9:48. A vivid scene showing Berger accused of caring too much about following the law and covering his ass gives way the voice of Bill Clinton saying "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." The visual is a little Clinton, a little Monica, and a little Washington Monument (for the phallic effect). Then Keitel in a car, hearing the tail end of the Clinton assertions, being told that the President insists the scandal won't affect his decisionmaking. Keitel is all "So it's okay if somebody kills bin Laden, as long as he didn't give the order. That's pathetic."
9: 56. The scene with Berger refusing to give the order to kill bin Laden ends early.
10:09. I'm turning it off with an hour left on the TiVo. Maybe I'll pick it up tomorrow, but I'm just forcing myself, and only half watching it. Hey, I was forced into it. But I can only take so much.