Boycott threats surround 'Reagans'

— The angry buzz about "The Reagans" has grown louder and more pointed.

"Advertisers will bail on CBS' anti-Reagan movie," commentator Pat Buchanan predicted Sunday on "The McLaughlin Group." Two days later, a conservative media watchdog group announced a boycott call-to-arms.

But CBS isn't showing signs of regretting its excursion into political drama. Based on experience, observers say, it probably doesn't need to.

"The bottom line is, the more attention it (the miniseries) gets, the more people are going to watch it," said television analyst Marc Berman of Media Week Online. That spells opportunity for sponsors and ad dollars for CBS, he said.

Last season, pre-broadcast protests greeted the network's miniseries about Adolf Hitler's early years, which some feared would have the effect of fostering sympathy for the Nazi leader.

The drama ultimately drew solid ratings, praise from previously skeptical Jewish leaders and Emmys.

"The Reagans," a two-part miniseries about former President Reagan and his wife, Nancy, airing Nov. 16 and 18, is being condemned by Reagan friends and supporters as a hatchet job.

The miniseries has been the hubbub du jour on a number of shows, including CNN's "Crossfire," Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" and MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews."

"CBS is serving up a new version of the Ronald Reagan story, just before Thanksgiving," host Robert Novak said last week on "Crossfire." "That's appropriate. With all the Hollywood liberals involved, it could be a real turkey."

On Tuesday, the watchdog Media Research Center decided to take action, calling on 100 major companies to consider avoiding buying ad time on the miniseries.

Especially troublesome, critics say, is how the script portrays Reagan's handling of the dawning AIDS crisis in the 1980s. He is depicted as uncaring and judgmental toward those with the disease, according to the Times.


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