Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Life on 'Deadline'

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Life on 'Deadline'

Article excerpt


Wallace Benton will have j-school ethics professors rolling in their graves. Even if they're still alive.

Wallace Benton is a big-headed, full-bellied star columnist for the tabloid New York Ledger who calls 'em like he sees 'em, even though he doesn't always see 'em right.

Benton, a smart-alecky Mike McAlary-type played by Oliver Platt, is the protagonist of "Deadline," the weekly newspaper drama that premieres today on NBC.

Benton is meant to be a charming rogue, blustering but benign thanks to Platt's uninhibited habitation of his character. But members of the Fourth Estate who watch the first two episodes of "Deadline" will certainly ask the question: Is this good for the press?

The answer is no. As an investigative reporter, Benton has no hesitation in being dishonest with sources. "You lie with such incredible ease," said one of his awestruck female admirers. But he believes he lies for a higher purpose: "It's about the truth," Benton says without a shred of irony, in the first episode.

"Truth" may be the second most frequently occurring word in "Deadline." The most often heard word is apparently "Bushmills." Benton is almost never seen without a glass of the Irish whiskey in his hand. Whether he is a functioning alcoholic or merely the conduit for sneaky product placement (he orders his brand by name) is difficult to determine.

Charming rogue columnists may indeed dip their pens in many inkwells. And it's not unheard of for college professors to have sexual relations with their students. But that doesn't make it right -- or appropriate. Benton, who, besides being a star columnist, teaches investigative reporting at a grad-level j-school like Columbia, doesn't seem to have a problem with it. His cute student sidekick also seems to be his lover. In an amusing but unfortunate scene, Benton's ex-wife Brooke -- yes, music lovers, she's Brook(e) Benton -- is moving her belongings out of the magnificent Tudor City apartment she'd shared with the columnist. Brooke, also a shrewdly manipulative reporter on the Ledger, is gulping down a martini when Benton's student paramour arrives, apparently with her own key.

In a misdirected attempt to level the sexual playing field in "Deadline," the second episode turns around the bitchin' babe of a city editor, Nikki Masucci, played by the leggy Bebe Neuwirth. The editor happens to be having a passionate physical relationship with one of the city's major politicians, even hiding him out in her love pad when the Ledger reveals that he's really a former 1960s-era radical wanted as a fugitive felon. …

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