A day after The Comey Rule writer/director Billy Ray released a letter to the cast lamenting the decision by ViacomCBS to slot the limited series until after the presidential elections in November, Showtime has just announced an about-face. The limited series will now air Sunday, September 27 and 28 at 9 PM.
The original decision to place the series after the elections are decided seemed suspiciously like a nod to President Donald Trump – the series chronicles his dispute with former FBI Director James Comey, whom he despises – and the new date will cheer a stellar cast who’ll now promote a $40 million four-hour series that should be a topic of national conversation in the heat of the coming battle between President Trump and Joe Biden for the White House.
Jeff Daniels (Comey), Brendan Gleeson (Trump) and the whole cast expected the series to play during election season. When they were informed that it would be placed after the elections — a slot that those behind the scenes felt would render it nothing more than a historical footnote — Daniels was leaning toward not promoting the series at all, sources said. Now, expect him to be front and center on the entertainment and political talk show circuits.
In his letter printed by Deadline yesterday, Ray said he was unclear what changed in the first place but that “Word started drifting back to me that a decision about our airdate had been made at the very highest levels of Viacom: all talk of our airing before the election was suddenly a “non-starter.” I and my fellow producers asked for a chance to plead our case on the matter, but we were told that even the discussion itself was a “non-starter.” (So was the idea of our getting the movie back from the network so as to seek another partner to air it.) Why? I don’t know. The health of a media company depends on attracting audiences – and our movie, aired in August of an election year, would have been very big news. Can you imagine the billboards? Comey Vs. Trump! A cast loaded with Emmy winners!”
Whatever prompted the change of heart at Showtime and above, it seems a good outcome for everyone but POTUS. It is also good to see a media corporation can be changeable, even if its chief Shari Redstone has a strong relationship with Trump. Showtime describes the two-part, four-hour limited series as “an immersive, behind-the-headlines account of the historically turbulent events surrounding the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, which divided a nation.”