A taste, Barack Obama’s former chief of staff continues, that most of the President’s team “hadn’t acquired” when the two sides met last year to prevent a tumble over the so- called fiscal cliff.
“Cliffhanger,” an illuminating Frontline installment chronicling the failed negotiations for a budgetary Grand Bargain, peppers the financial saga with telling accounts of the egos, miscalculations and maneuverings that careened to stalemate.
(Among the journalists appearing on camera is Joshua Green of Bloomberg Businessweek).
Scheduled to air the night of Obama’s State of the Union Address, “Cliffhanger,” is a case study in failed politics.
While laying out the familiar stances -- Cantor’s just-say- no approach to tax hikes butting against Obama’s demands for new revenue -- Frontline peeks behind the grandstanding to observe the personal slights that were droplets of kerosene on a political blaze.
One anecdote has the President delivering a scathing speech against Rep. Paul Ryan’s barebones budget proposal, unaware that Ryan is sitting in the audience.
“I mean, Jesus, it was heavy,” says former Senator Alan Simpson. “It was tough and it was nasty.”
When Ryan made a quick exit, Obama’s economic advisor Gene Sperling dashed after him. “I was trying to let him know that we did not know [he] was coming,” Sperling recalls.
Too late. The President, a furious Ryan charged, had “poisoned the well.”
Not all the battles are Republican versus Democrat. “Cliffhanger” is most intriguing in presenting the intra-party power struggle between Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner, whose willingness to bargain with the President drew hard-liners’ ire.
“It was to the point where the grumbling came to my ears and other friends of Boehner,” says former Rep. Steve LaTourette. “And we sat down [with Boehner] and said, ’You’ve to pull this back because you’re way out over your skis.”
“Cliffhanger” airs Feb. 12 on PBS’s “Frontline” at 8 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***1/2
Twelve, we’re told at the start of ABC’s loopy new conspiracy drama “Zero Hour,” is a magic number, “both the beginning and the end of time.”
Can’t say we weren’t warned. “Zero Hour,” created by Paul Scheuring (“Prison Break”) is about to make “The Da Vinci Code” seem like a lodestar for reason and logic.
Anthony Edwards, as grim-faced as he was in “ER,” stars as Hank Galliston, the editor of a Brooklyn-based skeptics magazine who needs to learn a thing (or several dozen) about faith.
After he buys a beautiful old table clock at a Brooklyn flea market, Hank’s wife is kidnapped by a mysterious evildoer who really, really wants that clock and the diamond hidden inside it.
When held to light, see, the diamond projects a map onto the wall.
“Treasure maps don’t exist!” barks Hank, despite the one flashing behind him.
A backstory involving Nazis, Rosicrucians and some sort of devil baby unfolds at breakneck speed during the humorless show’s pilot episode, setting up Hank’s globe-hopping hunt for his missing wife and, we can all too safely assume, his inevitable acceptance of the Unknown.
“Screw logic, Hank!” says one of his young reporters (Scott Michael Foster), while another (Addison Timlin) chimes in, “You’ve got to believe!”
These are skeptics? Something else we’ll just have to take on faith.
“Zero Hour” airs Feb. 14 on ABC at 8 p.m. New York time. Rating: **
“I think we can maintain this for a few more years,” says the Eagles’ Don Henley from the back of a limo. It’s 1977.
Thirty-seven years later, the band -- minus a few who walked or got booted -- are still in the game, if not on top of it. The country-rock band that defined the Southern California style of the 1970s has outlasted critics and its own life in the fast lane.
Showtime’s “History of the Eagles,” produced by Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”) and directed by Alison Ellwood, is a candid two-part, three-hour documentary that chronicles the band’s rise, fall and rise again with a trove of old clips and interviews as fresh as unhealed wounds.
While Part II captures the band today, the two-hour Part 1 is the meaty episode, covering the group’s early days as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band to its vitriolic 1980 break-up.
The songs -- “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Hotel California,” among them - are present and accounted for, and the legendary battles (with drugs, drink, David Geffen and, most viciously of all, themselves) get a thorough going-over.
“I’d sooner die that let you beat me,” Geffen recalls telling Henley’s manager over a particularly nasty $30 million lawsuit.
Only Geffen doesn’t say “beat.” This peaceful, easy music was as high-stakes as it was catchy.
“History of the Eagles” airs Feb. 15 and Feb. 16 on Showtime at 8 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***1/2 stars
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Good ** So-So * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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