October 13, 2005
Change of Command on ‘Commander in Chief’
Was it sex, TV politics or controversial opinions about the Middle East? Or something else entirely?
News reports and sources cite conflicting reasons why Israeli-born Rod Lurie was booted or departed as show-runner of the successful new ABC drama, "Commander in Chief," about the first female president of the United States. Lurie, the show's creator, was replaced by TV veteran Steven Bochco ("NYPD Blue," "L.A. Law") last week -- a highly unusual move on a show that is doing so well in the ratings.
Neither Lurie nor Bochco was available for comment on the backstage drama of who deposed the show's real-life commander in chief and why.
However, rumors began circulating when well-connected entertainment columnist Nikki Finke reportedly told "The Drudge Report" that Lurie was sacked for wanting a "rough" limo sex scene between the president's daughter and a Secret Service agent.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that Lurie and his bosses had "creative differences" about future episodes. A source told The Journal that the pro-Israel producer had hoped to create episodes in which the fictional president grapples with the Middle East conflict -- episodes that may have been too controversial for the network.
Lurie is the son of Ranan Lurie, the famed Israeli political cartoonist, who often entertained Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in the family's Herzelyia home. Young Rod moved with his parents to Greenwich, Conn., as a boy. He studied Middle East politics at West Point and worked for the U.S. military, before becoming a film critic and, ultimately, a director in 1999.
His first film, "Deterrence," revolved around a Jewish president of the United States (Kevin Pollock) who must decide whether to drop the atomic bomb on Iraq.
The Post also surmised that Lurie was "stretched too thin trying to handle writing, producing and directing on the series, while juggling those helpful 'notes' from 25-year-old studio and network suits."
Production reportedly fell so far behind that executives worried that they wouldn't have enough episodes to push the show through sweeps month in November. Another potential looming problem is the show's mixed critical reception: Some reviewers speculated that the appealing premise and stars - -- Geena Davis and Donald Sutherland - -- would not be enough to retain viewers, unless the quality or depth of the product improves.
Lurie will retain his executive producer title on the series, but will focus on developing new projects under his recent deal with Touchstone, a Touchstone press release said. Touchstone produces the ABC series.
"I've been a huge fan of Steven Bochco's for over two decades. I'm blown-away, excited to see how much more he will electrify 'Commander In Chief,'" Lurie said in the release.
"I have always been a big Rod Lurie fan, and I'm excited about ... helping to realize Touchstone's and Rod Lurie's vision," Bochco said in the release.
This season, the Jewish Bochco unveiled Hollywood's first TV drama on the Iraq War, "Over There," which aims at a realistic depiction of war that Bochco insists is apolitical. One can only surmise whether Bochco's approach will translate, for example, to dealing with an issue such as the Middle East in "Commander in Chief." And whether the show will rise or fall as a result.