Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 30, 1974 · Page 80
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 80

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 30, 1974
Page 80
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Page 80 article text (OCR)

V. S. 9 BBC join to film 'Impeachment" By Jay Sharbutt .41' Television Writer A British and American delegation sallied forth this month to Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, to oversee the videotaping of an American President's impeachment. The reason there were no news bulletins when the verdict came in was that the story was oid -- 106 years old, to be exact -- and most Americans know President Andrew Johnson was acquitted back then. The 1974 proceedings were only a television recreation, a blend of history, journalism and acting. They will be on public TV in the United States after July 1 and on British television later. The one-hour show is called "The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson." It's a joint effort by the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT) and the British Broadcasting Corp. The program, whose actors were drawn both from New York and the Raleigh- Charlotte areas, was being taped during real-life House inquiries into the possible impeachment of President Nixon. The show's aim, says Al Vecchione, held of NPACT's team, "is to bring to the English and American audiences some perspective on the present impeachment crisis." felt isn't intended as merely a reconstruction of an American history chapter, adds his British counterpart, Michael Townson, executive editor of The BBC's current affairs unit. "If that's all the program ..proves to be, then it has failed 100 per cent," Townson says. "Because in the current affairs field, that isn't our game. - "With us, the whole pur- · · pose of this form of show is to use it, where it is relevant as a model, to explain what ..happens when Congress ~, chooses to use this quite awesome authority of impeachment." xs; V sa id4he_s_hpw .was being taped in Raleigh, at* - the old state Senate Daren't allowed inllie U.S. ·Senate chambers, where Director Alvin Rakoff, renter, directs players at work on "The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson/* costing perhaps a third of the price a commercial company would have to pay, still isn't a cheap production for the BBC and NPACT. Vecchione says it's costing approximately $100,000 to produce, with the two producing companies sharing virtually all the cost. An additional payment for rights to show the program is coming f r o m the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. He dec- iined to say how much that is. He says there's also hone w i t h i n the BBC-N'P-ACT team the show can be sold for broadcast in Australia. Why did BBC enter into what Vecchione calls this "crazy, genuinely unique agreement," to coproduce a public affairs show with NPACT? To put a bit more oomph into current history for British viewers, Townson explained. "Normally, we do our programs in England in terms of the normal film approach or in terms of discussion in the studios," he said. "What this agreement stemmed from was a desire to see other ways of presenting the same kind of material in a more attractive package to the audience." »· In the case of the Nixon impeachment inquiry, he said, it's a problem that British audiences aren't as interested as they might be were their prime minister facing eviction from office. "While they want to know all about what's going on in America," he said, "they have become rather blase about the impeachment story. It's become a case of 'must we hear that again?' "They know it's an important part of news, but still, you find that in daily and weekly news programs over there, there is this audience resistance. "And therefore, because it's a story that from a responsible production point of view must be dealt with, your mind goes to different ways of presenting it. And that's all we're trying to do." Johnson's impeachment trial took place in 1868. The Raleigh chambers were chosen for their similarity to the Washington model. "And of course," Townson added, "it happens that Raleigh was the birthplace of Andrew Johnson, but that was only coincidental when we were looking for a suitable location." * The show, one of four that will be taped this year under a new BBC-NPACT production agreement, has an English scriptwriter, John Lloyd, and a BBC dramatic director, Alvin Rakoff. Subject matter for the three other shows hasn't been decided yet. Dr. Herbert Nicolas, Rhodes professor of American Institutions at Oxford University, is serving as historical adviser for the impeachment program. . Th«uAmerican cas tof 75 actors"--"Johnson is being portrayed by Walter Klavun, a New York stage veteran -will be decked out in the clothing worn by 1868-vintage politicians. NPACT correspondent Jim Lehrer and his BBC counterpart, Robert MacNeil, an NPACT alumnus, will appear both as reporters covering the trial and as modern day commentators, explaining how what hap- , pened in 1868 relates to the impeachment crisis of 1974. »· Won't there be an occasional need to modify their marrative or the cast's dialogue, or make two versions at times to clarify the American impeachment process for British audiences? "No, not at all," says Townson. "There's 1,640 pages of trial transcript. . .and in the trial section, which will take up about three-quarters of the program, we'll probably'vise 95 per cent of the actual words spoken during the Johnson trial. "We might need a few link phrases and that sort of thing, but the show really wjll be straight down the line historically. "It's not the kind of subject in which we'd want to go in for pure dramatization in which the dramatist sort of throws the pieces into the air -and applies his own creativity in sorting them out." * "The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson", while SUPER FLEA MARKET FIVE BIG DAYS-JULY 3-7 free Admission At the new Stock Market '/2 mi. no. of 1-77 Fairplain exit, on Cedar Lakes Rd. 3 mi. S. of Cedar Lakes arts crafts Fair. bed, rest rtMis, panta* ft Hglrthf, NO SEAMS ·GUARANTEED- NOTTOLEAK CONTINUOUS ALUMINUM GUTTER Made en the Job to fit ALUMINUM SIDING «-,*.. AUIMMM VUCIMBIT WMOWS ,,_ SI. Albtm.W.Vo. 25177 CONSTRUCTION CO. 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