The USA network suffered through a bruising session with critics on Thursday over the upcoming movie “Marilyn & Bobby: Her Final Affair,” which the basic cable web has dubbed a “fictional account” of the relationship between Marilyn Monroe and Bobby Kennedy.

Critics at their twice-annual tour blasted the network and producer Barry Weitz for nearly the entire one-hour session, using terms like “reprehensible” to describe the movie (which airs Aug. 4) and collectively moaning when Weitz said the filmmakers “tried to go the high road here.”

‘Interesting fiction’?

Weitz said the goal of the project is to “create an interesting fiction around their two lives,” not to present a documentary.

He added that “we are only presenting (depictions of the Kennedy-Monroe relationship) as possibilities,” but that didn’t mollify the writers, who wondered aloud whether the project would be libelous if the parties were still living, and brought up the issue of obligations toward surviving members of Kennedy’s family.

In the same vein, USA Networks exec VP David Kenin also rattled off a laundry list of exploitation movies that will air on the service, prompting questions about whether USA felt any obligation to adhere to the sort of content guidelines recently discussed in regard to the broadcast networks.

Kenin quipped that, in USA dramas, “we like to have bad things happen,” and said the cabler has run advisories for years based on content and will continue to do so.

‘Duckman’ debuts

USA announced a new half-hour comedy, “Duckman,” an animated adult-oriented series from Klasky Csupo Inc. (which produces “Rugrats”) in association with Paramount, an equal partner in USA with MCA.

The company wouldn’t identify its companion comedy, but it’ll apparently be “Weird Science,” a new sitcom from Universal TV.

The network is also launching a new original children’s hour composed of “Problem Child” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” also from Universal and Paramount, respectively.

Kenin said the original fare would have to make it to strip form for USA to make money or even break even on the effort.

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