Will Obamacare become plot fodder for CBS’ Hostages and Under The Dome? A $500,000 grant awarded this week to USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center’s Hollywood Health & Society program certainly suggests it’s a possibility. In the latest push to get Tinseltown to promote President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the decade-old program has received the money from the private California Endowment to give Hollywood producers, writers and execs details about the newly launched health insurance initiative. “Our experience has shown that the public gets just as much, if not more, information about current events and important issues from their favorite television shows and characters as they do from the news media and online resources,” said Hollywood Health & Society’s Martin Kaplan in a statement today. “This grant will allow us to ensure that industry practitioners have up-to-date, relevant facts on health care reform to integrate into their storylines and projects.” Hostages’ co-EP Jennifer Cecil sits on Hollywood Health & Society’s Advisory Board as does Under The Dome EP Neal Baer. So does Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and Disney Junior’s Doc McStuffins EP Chris Nee among others. The grant comes just over a week after Jennifer Hudson appeared in a pro-Obamacare Scandal parody video produced by Will Ferrell’s Funny Or Die.
The last month has also seen social media advocating from the likes of Nashville’s Connie Britton, Olivia Wilde, Taye Diggs, Kate Bosworth, Lady Gaga and Sarah Silverman. “These are just the opening moves in a multi-pronged campaign using Hollywood as a platform for the ACA,” one insider told me. The formal use of pro-Obama Hollywood in promoting ACA was first revealed at a July 22 meeting at the White House with Amy Poehler, Michael Cera and Hudson among those in attendance along with high-level administration officials.
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With half of the total going toward Spanish-language programming, Hollywood Health & Society says that it will use the cash infusion to educate industry pros and track how often Obamacare shows up in TV dramas. It also will be used to produce pro-ACA PSAs in conjunction with series’ storylines. And the group certainly has the experience, having worked on storylines for Disney’s Doc McStuffins, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, CBS’ NCIS and The Good Wife, NBC’s Law & Order franchise, Fox’s 24 and Bones, AMC’s Mad Men and Breaking Bad, Showtime’s The Big C and Dexter and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire among dozens of shows. Hollywood Health & Society has previously received grants from the CDC, the Gates Foundation and the federal department of Health and Human Services.