Jan 17, 2014

Tradecraft: ABC Pulls The Assets

In some particularly discouraging news, Deadline reports that that ABC has pulled their fact-based Cold War miniseries The Assets after just two airings. It's disturbing because after a shaky but promising premiere, The Assets had really come into its own with the strong second episode. (It's somewhat tempting to compare the network to the notorious CIA traitor Aldrich Ames, focus of the miniseries, as they have both now killed The Assets.) I had hoped that an eight episode miniseries would run its course no matter what, but ratings went from dismal to... well, according to the trade blog, the worst... ever. In the history of network television. Even the normally cynical Deadline jumped to its defense, however, pointing out that the miniseries (which was slotted into the highly competitive Thursday night 10pm slot while the top-rated Scandal was on hiatus) had no stars (well, no American stars anyway) and received no marketing push from the network. There's no word yet on whether the remaining six episodes will be burnt off on Saturday nights or made available On Demand or on the network's website (where you can currently watch the first two) or what. While the upshot of the mole hunt to expose Ames is a matter of historical record, I still hope to see the rest of The Assets! In the first episode, Ames seemed so obviously a traitor that it was difficult to foresee how it would take eight episodes and nearly a decade to catch him. (Sadly, by most accounts, that's a fairly accurate portrayal, and blame lies with the CIA and not the writers.) But in Episode 2, the story expanded to include the hunts for other moles of that era (who served as a smoke screen for Ames), and Episode 3 promised us the race to catch Edward Lee Howard. Additionally, the choice to focus on the Russian CIA assets Ames exposed to the KGB looked set to provide lots of meaty material for those remaining six hours. I liked what I saw enough that I'm still hoping for an eventual DVD release, because I would like to have The Assets on my shelf.

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