Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

TV Stays Away from Riot Movie

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

TV Stays Away from Riot Movie

Article excerpt

EXACTLY 34 days elapsed between the Branch Davidian compound fire in Waco, Texas, and the first TV movie about it.

More than 17 months have gone by since Los Angeles set fire to itself during three days of bloody and deadly rioting, and there has been not one TV movie about any of it.

What gives? Have the networks come down with a delayed sense of propriety? Are they maintaining a respectful distance from the country's worst civil disturbance of the century?

Not likely. This real-life subject may be a Hollywood first - too complicated, too controversial and too close to home for even docudrama-obsessed network movie divisions.

Many series, including "L.A. Law," used riot-related themes last season, but nothing has come out in long form, a vehicle that lost no time in depicting Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh or the ravages of Hurricane Andrew.

The lack of riot product also is evident at film studios, though television now is the traditional medium for reality-based dramas.

The absence of Hollywood interest has confounded and disappointed those peddling movie rights for some of the most famous - and infamous - figures of the 1992 violence.

"Everyone got scared of the story," said attorney Harland Braun, who represented officer Theodore Briseno, one of four police officers charged in the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King.

"I was surprised when I talked to some agents ... and they were saying that some kind of collective decision had been made back in New York to not touch it right now because it was so controversial," Braun said.

In April, Briseno and rookie Timothy Wind were acquitted of charges that they violated King's civil rights. Sgt. Stacey Koon and officer Laurence Powell were convicted and each are serving 2 1/2-year prison terms.

Besides being controversial and encompassing contemporary race issues (which television does not like to tackle), the spring riots also present another problem when it comes to neatly packaged TV dramas: There were unresolved issues, such as the trial of two men accused of beating trucker Reginald Denny at the riot's flashpoint. …

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