Little noticed in the coast-to-coast celebration of Saddam’s capture was the humiliating bomb-out of Tony Kushner’s over-hyped HBO adaptation of his Broadway AIDS play “Angels in America.”
Seems that few Americans really want to watch six full hours of people dying of AIDS and being carted off to heaven by angels. The first two-hour segment of “Angels,” airing on Dec. 7 and featuring Meryl Streep as a rabbi (don’t ask!), drew a mere 4.2 million viewers, and was handily beaten out by a “CBS Christmastime treacle flick” called “Undercover Christmas, according to Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes. Also way beating out “Angels” were Trista and Ryan, with more than 12 million viewers, “Extreme Makeover” with 12 million, and those lovely Yuletide perennials, “Charlie Brown Christmas” (11 million) and “The Wizard of Oz” (6 million). But what TV viewers really ate up was “The Simple Life,” the reality saga on Fox about millionaire bottle-blondes slopping hogs on an Arkansas farm: more than 13 million viewers.
All this despite full-page rave reviews from the nation’s TV critics and huge full-color ads for “Angels” plastered all over newspapers, magazines, and even the sides of buses. Yes, Tony, AIDS is awful, but we’ve been living with it for 20 years. The play, set in 1988, is yet another effort to blame the spread of the disease on the supposedly homophobic Reagan administration, and it also, bizarrely, blames Joe McCarthy’s staff lawyer Roy Cohn, who was later to die of AIDS, for the execution of that lovable lamb Ethel Rosenberg. Tony, call CUNY extension to sign up a history lesson. Joe McCarthy looked mean and waved around a lot of papers, but he couldn’t impose the death penalty. It was a federal court, not a congressional commitee, that convicted the Rosenbergs of treason (they were, by the way, guilty as sin) and sent them to the electric chair.
Meanwhile, we won’t even try to guess what the ratings for the second installment of “Angels” this last Sunday amid the glee over the busting of Saddam’s hidey-hole. But, hey, Kushner fans, you’ve still got a third chance,when the final two-hour segment airs this Sunday, Dec. 21, to fluff up the feathers of those sagging “Angels” wings! Maybe there’s a tie-in somewhere to Dubya’s lies.