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Profile: Bryce Zabel
Bryce Zabel was a participant or observer in the following events:
Paramount’s Sherry Lansing at a 2001 meeting to discuss the media’s role in battling terrorism. She is flanked by Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger, Karl Rove, and CBS owner Sumner Redstone. [Source: Fred Rouser / Reuters]Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, a group of senior media executives meet repeatedly with White House officials, including top political strategist Karl Rove, to discuss ways that the entertainment industry can help improve America’s image in foreign markets. The gathered officials discuss the use of “soft power”—using the influence of American movies and television shows to sway public opinion, especially among Muslim and Arab populations. Television producer Bryce Zabel, the chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, says in a memo that the US must regard itself like a consumer brand: “Products like Coca-Cola are far more effectively branded around the globe than the United States itself. The American entertainment and communications industry has the technological and creative expertise to improve relations between our country and the rest of the world.” Hilary Rosen, the chairwoman of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and a participant in the meetings, recalls in 2008 that Rove and other White House officials wanted support similar to that provided by Hollywood to the US government during World War II. “They wanted the music industry, the movie industry, the TV industry to produce propaganda,” she will recall. “Rove was putting a lot of pressure on us.” A 2008 New York Times report will conclude, “There were few tangible results from the meetings.” Harvard professor Joseph Nye, who coined the term “soft power” in 1989, will observe in 2008: “[W]hat’s interesting about the last eight years is that polls show a decline in American attractiveness.… But then you ask the follow-up questions and you see that American culture remains attractive, that American values remain attractive. Which is the opposite of what the president has said—that they hate us for who we are and what we believe in.” [New York Times, 11/30/2008]
Bryce Zabel. [Source: Publicity photo]Bryce Zabel, a longtime television writer and producer, was set to meet executives at the cable channel USA Network on this day, to present to them details of a miniseries he has been working on about an act of terrorism in the United States and how it leads to a global conflict, but the meeting and the miniseries are canceled as a result of the 9/11 attacks. [Dallas Observer, 9/20/2001; New York Times, 9/24/2001; NPR, 9/6/2002] Zabel, who was recently elected as chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, previously created television shows such as Dark Skies and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. [Deseret News, 8/12/2001; Dallas Observer, 9/20/2001] He is scheduled to meet with USA Network executives today, to present his plans for a miniseries called World War III for consideration. The miniseries, according to the Dallas Observer, would be “about how an act of terrorism on United States soil expanded into global conflict.”
Show's Creator Considered 9/11-Like Scenarios - Zabel has been working with members of the US military to help him decide what kind of terrorist attack to incorporate into the storyline of World War III. “My partner and I had worked carefully with the Air Force and some Pentagon war planners to figure out the possible scenarios by which such a conflict could come into being,” he will later recall. Zabel and the military officials apparently considered scenarios resembling the 9/11 attacks: “The irony is that we had sort of rejected something as radical as what just happened [on September 11] as being a little too much,” Zabel will say. Therefore, according to Zabel, the 9/11 attacks meant that “the cautionary tale we hoped to tell in fiction ended up becoming a cautionary tale told on the evening news, and there almost is no need for the wake-up call, because America has been woken up.”
Show Canceled due to 9/11 - It is unclear how long Zabel has been working on World War III, but according to the Dallas Observer, his scheduled meeting with USA Network executives to discuss the miniseries has been “on his calendar for weeks.” [Dallas Observer, 9/20/2001] The meeting and the miniseries are both canceled as a result of what happened on September 11. [NPR, 9/6/2002] “Obviously this show died when the victims died,” Zabel will say. [New York Times, 9/24/2001] Zabel will also note, two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, that his miniseries would have “reflected exactly what’s going on in the world right now.” [Media Life, 9/25/2001] World War III is one of a number of television dramas and movies featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten following 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Newsweek, 10/7/2001]
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