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September 06, 2002 - Image 143

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-09-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Happy Holidays to Our Wonderful Customers!

his father's recordings," Bernstein says.

— Ruth E. Gruber
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Hitler Miniseries

P ho to co urtesy CB S •

"Prime Time for Hitler" headlined the
Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
"Swastikas for Sweeps" reported the
New York Times. "CBS Greenlights
`Hitler,'" noted Daily Variety,
Hollywood's trade paper.
The three headlines referred to a
recent announcement by the CBS-TV
network that it would air a four-hour
miniseries next year called Young Hitler,
a title hastily revised to Hitler: The Young
Years, and then to just plain Hitler.
Whatever the title, the miniseries
will cover Hitler's life from the ages of
18 to 34 and will be broadcast during
one of the annual "sweeps" periods,
when television networks and stations
air programs likely to garner the high-
est audience ratings.
For the time, the
project has attracted
mainly critical jeers,
ranging from con-
cerns by Holocaust
scholars to gleeful
jibes from competing
television networks.
But Leslie
Moonves, CBS presi-
dent and CEO, and
the network's pro-
gramming president,
Nancy Tellem, are
sticking to their guns.
"We know how the
story ends, but this is how Hitler came
to power," said Moonves. "This is
Hitler from a very early age in which _
people don't know much of the story.
This is a very timely subject about
how bad guys get into power, and how
it affects the rest of he world."
CBS's main line of defense is that
the script for the docu-drama is based
on the acclaimed book Hitler: 1899-
1936 Hubris by respected British his-
torian Ian Kershaw.
This earnest explanation has only
encouraged the detractors.
"I wouldn't touch the subject with a
10-foot barge pole," one rival network
boss told Sally Ogle Davis and Ivor
Davis, who wrote the extensive Jewish
Journal article.
Another network head commented,
"If they had come to me with this, I
would have told them to turn around
and leave."
New York Times columnist Maureen
Dowd observed that the 18 to 34-age
span of Hitler in the TV program cor-

responds directly with "the demo-
graphic sweet spot of network televi-
sion. If there is one thing Hollywood
executives understand it's megaloma-
nia. And if there is one audience they
crave more than any other, it's
teenagers and young adults."
No cast for the docu-drama has
been announced, but the buzz points
to Ewan McGregor as a likely candi-
date for the title role.
Given the large numbers of Jewish
executives and producers in American
television, it is no surprise that the initia-
tors of the project are Jewish: Moonves
says his grandmother's family in Poland
was all but wiped out in the Holocaust,
and Tellem is the daughter of survivors.
The miniseries is being produced by
Alliance Atlantic, whose CEO is Peter
Sussman, who was raised in a
Conservative Jewish congregation in
Toronto.
The miniseries' chief critics also are
Jewish. Writer/producer Lionel

"This is a very
timely subject
about how
bad guys get
into power."

— Leslie Moonves,
CBS President and CEO

Chetwynd, who created the documen-
tary The Man Who Captured
Eichmann, put his finger on one of the
project's chief difficulties.
"To do a young Hitler, you have to
humanize him, and what are the ethi-
cal implications of that? The minute
you bring in a good flesh-and-blood
actor, he's going to humanize him,"
Chetwynd told the Davises.
Holocaust scholar Michael
Berenbaum agrees. "CBS is taking a
monumental gamble because if it
shows us Hitler's humanity and
makes him a sympathetic character,
it's a total outrage.
"If it makes him into a monster with-
out us understanding how he became a
monster, it allows us to say that Hitler
was Hitler, he shared no humanity with
us, so we don't have to worry about
him. There are a thousand ways they
can make mistakes with this, but only
one or two ways to get it right."

— Tom Tugend
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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