IN MR. HAUCK's account of the creation and demise of the television show "Mister Dugan", there are only two basic problems. First many of his facts are inaccurate; second, the motivation attached to those facts is incorrect.
Although in the past (recent past included) there has been a lack of understanding and a number of misconceptions in portraying minorities across the video screens of America, I do believe that the networks are trying to move in the right direction and will eventually eliminate these negative stereotypes. The networks are attempting to program shows that cast minorities in a positive light. One such attempt was the production of "Mister Dugan." However, in my opinion, as a television viewer and a black member of Congress, the show fell far short of its goals.
Whether or not the show was originally written for a black or a white, a man or a woman, the show was filled with misrepresentations of the legistive process, the general lifestyle of the members of Congress, the realities of being black, and the experience of being a freshman representative in Congress.
As one of the creators of the show, Mr. Hauck obviously did not agree with the opinions of Norman Lear and various other independent groups that were asked to view the show before airing.
As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, I was present for the viewing and subsequent discussions Norman Lear and Alan Horn of TAT Productions were present, as were several others. Mr. Hauck was not one of them.
Had he been there, he would not be inaccurately reporting hearsay comments and making assumptions that are simply not true. For instance, the members of the Caucus did not, in their infinite wisdom, vote "along racial lines" against the program. There was no vote at all. Mr. Lear asked us each to comment, as so we did. Had Mr. Hauck been present, he would have perceived that discussion of the film was a healthy exchange of thoughts and opinions. Strong objections were voiced on the portrayal of the character, not the subject content of the show. There is a difference. Accolades should be given to Norman Lear and Alan Horn for the responsible way they handled a sensitive situation.
Let me address the inaccuracies of the show as it represented a new member of Congress. Although not stated in the particular episode we saw in Washington, the show's premise was that Mr. Dugan got his congressional set by appointment, an impossibility so intended by the United States Constitution. A person can be appointed to a vacant U. S. Senate seat, but a vacant congressional seat must be filled by election.
In addition, Mr. Dugan was situated in lovely mansion, complete with live-in maid. I certainly don't live in such sumptuous surroundings nor do a vast majority of other representatives, black or white.
Mr. Dugan also had so-called competent staff that made him appear inefficient and incapable of holding office. All members of Congress strive to develop a competent staff, and one that makes the member appear incapable of doing the job would not be considered, by any standards, competent.
As for the presentation of a black person and the personality traits, mannerisms and set of values that surround the black person/character in the snow, I believe most black people would find the total presentation offensive. Placing Mr. Dugan in Congress, dressed in a three-piece suit and a tie, does not relieve the show's responsibility of presenting to the public a high-quality show that does not demean the very subject it is trying to tout.
Returning to the topic of the Black Caucus itself, Mr. Hauck attributes to us various remarks and views as he read them in Daily Variety, the show business trade paper, and from what he heard from someone else. I can truthfully say that the Caucus was not unduly influenced by any one person, any one group or any one idea.
In fact, we did not even state our views as one group: We made our remarks as individuals concerned with a show that presented blacks, members of Congress, and specifically new members of Congress, in an inaccurate manner - and with a lack of sensitivity to the high office, the man it tried to portray and the situation it created.
Mr. Hauck may feel that the members of the Black Caucus were too critical and harsh in our view of a comedy series about a black. I believe Mr. Hauck was not critical enough about two subjects he obviously knew nothing about - blacks and Congress.
"If the news isn't accurate, why should the comedies be?" is Mr. Hauck's statement regarding the accuracy of his show. My reaction to that is: If Mr. Hauck's comedies aren't accurate, why should his writing be? There are as many flaws in his article as there were in the television show.
I cannot understand the implication of Mr. Hauck's closing remark that his next pilot will be about dogs. Perhaps his experience with "Mister Dugan" has given him the background necessary.