NBC has pulled the plug on its Hillary Clinton biopic miniseries, making it official a few hours after CNN confirmed it was nixing a planned documentary on the presumed Democratic presidential candidate.
NBC’s narrative miniseries was to have starred Diane Lane. The script hadn’t even been written, but the Peacock’s announcement of the project in July stirred a hornet’s nest of protest from Republican circles, citing the perceived favoritism of focusing on a presumptive Democratic candidate in 2016.
CNN Films made its decision after the director stepped down from the project, citing pressure from both sides of the political aisle.
A spokesperson for CNN Worldwide explained, “Charles Ferguson has informed us that he is not moving forward with his documentary about Hillary Clinton … [W]e won’t seek other partners and are not proceeding with the film.”
The projects had the potential to bring a broader array of viewers to both networks, both of which are in the midst of rebuilding. CNN has made some ratings gains under CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, while introducing a slate of so-called “docu-series” and documentary films. NBC, meanwhile, has been casting about for programming that will add to the momentum it gained last season from “The Voice.”
The controversy surrounding the two projects points to challenges many TV networks could face as they seek to tackle more special events and limited-series programming tied to real-life stories. Fox, for example, has announced a project based on the life of O.J. Simpson. Earlier today, CBS put in place an executive whose job it is to acquire new projects that could come from books and historical events.
But like reporters chasing a potentially hot story, the networks may find the subjects of these new program ideas simply don’t want to be part of the story.
Ferguson wrote a blog for the Huffington Post today, where he said that pressure from Clinton aides and supporters — as well as from the Republican National Committee — led to many interview subjects and sources shying away from him.
He wrote, “When I approached people for interviews, I discovered that nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in helping me make this film. Not Democrats, not Republicans — and certainly nobody who works with the Clintons, wants access to the Clintons, or dreams of a position in a Hillary Clinton administration.”