ABC to Produce Miniseries on Radical-Left AIDS Protesters in Reagan Years; Producer Compares It to 'Roots'

The Hollywood Reporter relayed on Thursday that “Mere days after the Academy Awards, ABC Studios has bought rights to David France’s film,” How to Survive a Plague, a hard-left documentary on AIDS activism in the Reagan years, when the Left claimed Reagan wanted them all to die off, in contradiction to the facts. They’re thinking a miniseries.

France made an odd comparison: “ABC is the network of Roots.” Perhaps then, the men with AIDS are Kunta Kinte, and Ronald Reagan is the slave master?

“For ABC, this is a continuation of a dialogue that they’ve had with their viewers and with history, and that to me was the most decisive and convincing fact in our discussion -- this idea that we can do that again and that we can be that for the gay community.

The documentary followed two radical groups dominated by HIV-positive men, ACT UP – which lowered itself to distrupting Mass and throwing condoms in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in a "Stop the Church" protest, among other scabrous actions – and Treatment Action Group. One of their anti-Reagan protesters is to your right.

France imagines turning ABC into LGBTBC, which some of its comedies and dramas already match:

Ideally, the scripted adaptation, which is in its early days of development, will go broader and deeper. “We know we’d like it to be an extended story that’s not just about AIDS and what AIDS wrought but about this tremendous civil rights movement that grew from the ashes of AIDS and the dawn of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement,” France tells The Hollywood Reporter.

His producing partner Howard Gertler echoes that sentiment. "We’re excited about the opportunity to delve into more of the personal stories of the characters that you followed in the documentary," he says. "People got a sense from the doc that many of the activists were soldiers drafted into a war that perhaps they were not ready to fight but that they had trained themselves for, and we really want to show a wide audience how that happened."

France and Gertler plan to mix in real-life protest footage from the ‘80s and ’90s. "These activists may have had to train themselves for the battle, but they were incredibly media savvy and were constantly filming everything," explained another executive producer on the new project, John Lyons. "So there's this treasure trove of this archival material, which we think can be cleverly introduced into the storytelling."

ABC had not dabbled in miniseries for half a decade, so they’re clearly passionate about this project. Perhaps they might have issues with the Parents Television Council over the sexually graphic ACT UP posters that might appear on screen...not to mention the Catholic League over the very anti-Catholic posters and activism.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis