Discovery Channel might have Robert Redford, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Ben Bradlee reminiscing about the Watergate scandal and Redford-starring vehicle, “All The President’s Men” in a two-hour Redford-produced Discovery Channel documentary airing in 2013.
But British network BSkyB has President Richard M. Nixon, as played by Harry Shearer, in a TV comedy called “Nixon’s the One,” airing April 26.
“Nixon’s the One” is based on hours of verbatim White House recordings that Nixon made between February of 1971 and July of 1973 — conversations he had with his aides and confidantes, including Henry Kissinger, who will be played by Henry Goodman in the TV comedy.
Addressing a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch on Tuesday in London, Shearer said he’d sold his little Oval Office-set comedy to a UK network first because U.S. network suits wouldn’t get the joke (see Discovery documentary, above) — and because the American scene these days is too politically shrill.
“I knew it would not be done the way I wanted it in the U.S.,” he told the lunch crowd, according to various reporters who attended.
“In the U.S., Nixon is still regarded as a highly political character, whereas this is a non-political show. . . . The show lacks the surface controversy that would have made it a sell in the U.S.,” Shearer added, according to accounts in the Guardian and the trade paper Variety.
“It’s not about Watergate or Vietnam, but about Nixon as a character,” Shearer said. “There are so many conversations on the tape that are profoundly revealing of what a strangely twisted . . . guy he was,” he said, according to Variety’s London office.
Shearer is a regular on Fox’s “The Simpsons” who’s best known for voicing Mr. Burns and Waylon Smithers; he has also voiced former president Bill Clinton for “The Simpsons,” and released an album of tunes about George W. Bush.
Shearer acknowledged that he’s obsessed with Nixon, trade paper the Hollywood Reporter said in its coverage of the lunch.
For years, Shearer has worked on the tapes — which were released by the Nixon Presidential Library in 2008 — with Nixon scholar and University of Wisconsin professor Stanley Kutler.
Only now is Shearer trying to sell the show to a U.S. network, he told attendees, adding: “I could see this working as an acquisition for someone like HBO.”