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Made For TV Makes Me Happy

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You know what I've rediscovered the past two nights? I know, you don't, so I'm going to tell you — made-for-television movies and mini-series.

No, seriously.

Well, okay, you got me, not all made-for-TV stuff (most of those Sci-Fi Channel ones I could do without), but some of it is quite good. Sunday night, for instance, I watched Recount, HBO's retelling of the 2000 election debacle in Florida. Then last night I watched part one of The Andromeda Strain, A&E's update of the Crichton novel.

Recount, almost unquestionably, is the better one of the two, but as the subject matter is totally different I could see your disagreeing with me. Frankly though, in my mind, Recount is just better made. They're both undeniably fun, but Recount has far more substance to it. The problem with Recount though, and most people would say that it's actually a good thing, is that it makes you care about what happened in 2000 again.

I'm not going to get into a Republican vs. Democrat thing; both sides are made to look pretty poor in the film in my opinion. Republicans would argue that Baker is portrayed as a mean guy, more interested in swindling an election than allowing the people to have their say. Democrats would argue that Warren Christopher isn't the doddering old fool he's made out to be. They're probably both right, but, let's face it, this was only "based on a true story" and not actually a true story, so you have to give the writers and actors some leeway.

Looking beyond the partisan bits and pieces, the whole thing just made me angry. Is our nation really so bad off that we can't even manage a presidential election? How is it that someone can be in charge of certifying election results and help chair the campaign? Isn't that almost the definition of "conflict of interest?" So, give it to Recount for stirring up emotions eight years gone and convincing everyone (as if we didn't know already) that this election is an important one and that we should all go out and vote (if only HBO could make there be candidates we respect and agree with, too, they'd really have something).

As for The Andromeda Strain, well that's just pretty good popcorn TV, isn't it? I've always been a Crichton fan, and his books seem hard to adapt to film because they deal with the most up-to-date high-tech stuff around. If you wait a few years from book to film (in this case a few decades for the update) you end up needing to rewrite the whole thing. Crichton's such a good storyteller that the updates often pale in comparison. My only real quibble with last night's first part of the series is that there was no tension about the decision to drop and then not drop the tactical nuclear weapon. You knew something had to go wrong at the end of the mission because it was just too easy for Benjamin Bratt and company to call it off. There was no fear that they might not reach the pilot in time even though they only had 30 seconds for the stop order to go up, and then back down, the chain of command. Maybe they'll work out such tension-building in tonight's second half; we'll find out.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.