No sooner does CBS tamp down criticism that its upcoming Hitler miniseries would humanize the infamous German figure than it gets hit with a much bigger Hitler headache, compliments of TV Guide.
This time, the executive in charge of producing the miniseries has been canned.
Ed Gernon, longtime head of the movie and miniseries division of Canadian-based production company Alliance Atlantis, was let go because of an interview he gave regarding CBS's May sweeps miniseries "Hitler: The Rise of Evil."
In the April 12 TV Guide, the publication says that "Gernon stated his belief that fear fueled both the Bush administration's adoption of a preemptive-strike policy and the public's acceptance of it." According to the article, "Gernon said a similar fearfulness in a devastated post-World War I Germany was 'absolutely' behind that nation's acceptance of Hitler's extremism."
Gernon is quoted as saying of the miniseries, which tracks Hitler's rise to power in 1930s Germany: "It basically boils down to an entire nation gripped by fear, who ultimately chose to give up their civil rights and plunged the whole world into war.
"I can't think of a better time to examine this history than now," he added.
The article further quotes him as saying that "when an entire country becomes afraid for their sovereignty, for their safety, they will embrace ideas and strategies and positions that they might not embrace otherwise."
An advance copy of the article was given to the New York Post -- both it and TV Guide are publications of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The newspaper's Page Six gossip column did a short bit on it last Thursday, under the heading "Rise of Lunacy at CBS."
"The scraping sound you hear next month will be Hollywood's anti-Americanism hitting bottom with the CBS movie 'Hitler: The Rise of Evil,' " the item bellowed.
"Gernon tells the upcoming TV Guide that he, [actress Julianna] Margulies and director Christian Duguay believe it's a good idea to look at the Bush White House through the prism of . . . Germany's genocidal psychopath."
Yesterday, the same paper's John Podhoretz got in on the act:
"Well, the CBS television network just devoted millions of dollars and will devote four hours of prime time to a miniseries dedicated to the 'Bush = Hitler' proposition.
"In an eye-opening article published this week by TV Guide, journalist Mark Lasswell reveals that the creative team behind the upcoming docudrama 'Hitler: The Rise of Evil' believes their story is important because it might open our eyes to America's rapid descent into totalitarian terror."
"When CBS first announced it was going to air this miniseries, there were substantive protests from Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors that it might humanize Hitler. CBS took those complaints seriously enough to scrap the first teleplay and commission another.
"What they commissioned, it appears, is an act of slander against the president of the United States -- and by extension, toward the United States itself."
So today is Gernon's last day of work at Alliance Atlantis.
We have this from a rep for the company to whom we were referred when we called to try to speak to Gernon.
"As a matter of policy, we don't discuss any individual's employment status. We're not about to start now," Alliance Atlantis said snippily in a statement e-mailed to us by the rep.
What Alliance Atlantis, which also co-produces CBS's hit series "CSI" and "CSI: Miami," will start doing now is running as fast and as far from Gernon's comments as possible:
"With respect to the comments attributed to Ed Gernon in the most recent issue of TV Guide, the comments do not represent the views of Alliance Atlantis, nor do they reflect in any way the purpose of the miniseries 'Hitler: The Rise of Evil.' We have no further comment to offer on this."
Those Canadians -- not a friendly bunch.
CBS, which was said to be pleased to see Gernon booted, also went into full disassociation throttle: "We found Mr. Gernon's comments to TV Guide to be insensitive and outright wrong," the network said in its e-mail. "His personal opinions are not shared by CBS and misrepresent the Network's motivation for broadcasting this film.
"It is very important that viewers understand that these views are not reflected in the tone or the content of the mini-series, which recounts the rise of Hitler to power and portrays him as the ruthless, maniacal force he was.
"We have done everything we can to make this an important historical film that will help people to never forget how the Nazis came to power and the barbaric atrocities they committed."
CBS also wanted to make sure that we knew the miniseries would air on Sunday, May 18, and Tuesday, May 20.
Charles S. Dutton has been tapped to portray Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose in "The Beltway," USA Network's movie about last fall's sniper killings in the Washington area, the Hollywood Reporter reports.
"The Beltway," written by David Erickson and directed by Tom McLoughlin, centers on the Moose-headed police hunt for the sharpshooters who terrorized the area and left 10 dead. Bobby Hosea ("Independence Day") and Trent Cameron ("American Dreams") have been cast to play the accused men, John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, respectively. Jay O. Sanders ("Kiss the Girls") will play Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, and Charlayne Woodard ("Unbreakable") is cast as Muhammad's former wife Mildred.
Fox News Channel's growing morning show "Fox & Friends" finally edged out CBS's "Early Show" last week, according to numbers that came out yesterday.
"F&F" averaged 2.9 million viewers, "Early Show" 2.8 million.