In less than six months, the term ‘fake news’ has become so all-encompassing, so utterly prevalent, that everyone’s pretty much sick of it (sorry for putting it in the headlines, guys). But as bored as we are of articles about some asshole living in his mom’s basement who gets 50,000 likes on Facebook a day for stories about how Hillary Clinton ate a baby, it doesn’t change that the volume of clickable bullshit that plays to prejudices on both sides. And people’s willingness to ignore the truth if it backs up their beliefs is a real threat to our way of life
Which makes it a perfect time for the return of “Wag The Dog,” Barry Levinson’s 1997 comedy, written by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet and adapted from Larry Beinhart’s novel “American Hero”. A spin doctor (Robert De Niro) and a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) who team up to invent a fake war to distract from the President’s sex scandal in the run-up to an election, was seen as being prescient at the time – released just as the Lewinsky scandal was dominating headlines, and Clinton was bombing Kosovo.
But it’s only become more so in the last few months, as Trump consistently attempts to create his own reality and ineffectually bombs a Syrian airfield to distract from snowballing scandals and incompetence. So it completely makes sense, as The Hollywood Reporter reveals, that HBO is now developing a half-hour comedy based on the movie, with both Levinson and De Niro executive producing. Mamet, who went a little Scott Baio with his political beliefs a few years back, isn’t involved. Instead, the Pulitzer-nominated playwright and screenwriter Rajiv Joseph (“Draft Day”) will pen the pilot script.
HBO call the project “an ode to the classic film but moving the weapons of mass distraction beyond politics and into business, entertainment and, yes, nonprofits. In the 21st century with the tools of social media at their hands, nothing is off limits to a small group of operators when it comes to manufacturing reality. Fake news is so yesterday.” With rumors that “Veep” might be wrapping up this season, and “The Brink” having failed to take off a couple of years back, there’s potentially a gap for this kind of political satire on the network. We’ll see if it moves forward.