Guest: David Gorcyca, Greg Anthony, Kermit Washington, Len Berman, Jordan Jonna, Clark Pattah, Jonathan Falvo, Ray Markham, Roger Gonda, Kirk Ewing, Marc Peyser, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Bruce Fretts
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: Out of control. Is this acceptable behavior?
And this? And what about this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unbelievable! Where‘s the civility!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn‘t start it, so I just play the game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: So who should be held accountable? Are the fans equally responsible?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say that if we do something like that, it‘s unsportsmanlike. So hopefully, it‘s unfanlike.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: And sure, they‘re rich and they‘re famous, but are they role models for our children?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a responsibility to act the right way all the time because kids are watching us play.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: We‘ll meet some teenagers who watched it all unfold in front of their eyes.
Forty-one years ago today, a shattering moment in American history. So what would possess anyone to turn the assassination of John F. Kennedy into a video game? Tonight, exclusive, I‘ll talk to the man behind this game. What was he thinking?
Sex and the burbs. It‘s the hit primetime soap opera that America can‘t get enough of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - “DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES”)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you found a way to mention you slept with half the Yankee outfield.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Just what is it about “Desperate Housewives?”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - “DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES”)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don‘t you just love being a mom?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening, everybody. Once more, here it is. You‘d have to be living under a rock to have not seen this piece of videotape. This was uglier than in the past, and the risks for injuries to players, to fans was enormous, but we have seen this kind of thing with NBA basketball before way too often. So why hasn‘t the NBA done more to prevent it?
Indiana Pacers Ron Artest, the main culprit, suspended now for the rest of the season—that‘s a total of 73 games—for storming into the stands and throwing punches after a fan threw a cup with a beverage in it at him. Overall, nine players have been suspended for a total of more than 140 games. That‘s without pay. It is the harshest penalty in league history.
Ron Artest, a pro basketball player, also seems to be a pro at this kind of behavior because he‘s been suspended at least 10 times in his professional career for a number of incidents, including destroying a camera and video monitor at Madison Square Garden in 2003. That time, he was undergoing court-ordered anger management therapy. A lot of good it‘s done. He was suspended twice last season, which makes you wonder why Ron Artest was even on the court.
This, obviously, is not how the NBA wants it, and while commissioner David Stern has dished out some harsh punishment and condemned what happened, the story probably is not ending there. Joining me tonight to discuss this is Len Berman. He‘s the sports anchor for WNBC television here in New York. David Gorcyca is a prosecutor in Oakland County, Michigan. That is where the Detroit Pistons arena is located and where the fight took place. Also with me here is NBA player—former NBA player Greg Anthony, now a basketball analyst for ESPN. He was working the night this all happened.
And Kermit Washington, who back in 1977, while playing for the LA Lakers, punched the Houston Rockets‘ Rudy Tomjanovich during a game. Tomjanovich suffered fractures to the face and skull, a broken nose, a separated upper jaw, concussion and lacerations around his mouth. Washington was suspended for 60 days. And that punch, as you will hear, changed his life forever. He‘d also like us to mention that he is the founder of Projectcontactafrica.com. That takes students from all over the world to help people in Africa.
And thank you all for being with us.
Mr. Gorcyca, I want to start with you first because right now, there is, we know, a police investigation going on. You‘ve got to look at a lot of videotape. You‘ve got to talk to a lot of people. But who is liable to be charged, and charged with what, if anything?
DAVID GORCYCA, PROSECUTOR, OAKLAND COUNTY, MI: I think a number of the players, and obviously, a number of the fans are equally culpable. Anybody that was involved in an altercation or assault will be held responsible, regardless of whether they have a jersey on. Our arduous task right now is to try to identify the number of fans in the stands that threw punches. Obviously, we know the players who were involved, but we‘re going to have to seek public assistance when we still-frame some footage and display these photos of these individuals, so we can seek them out and interview them. So right now, we‘ve got kind of a logistics nightmare.
NORVILLE: OK. Help me just understand where the lines of demarcation are. Player stays on the court, he‘s cool, player goes into the stands, we‘ve got a problem?
GORCYCA: Well, I don‘t think it‘s quite that clear-cut a litmus test like that. You know, if a player could assault somebody—for instance, Bertuzzi assaulted somebody on the ice and was subject to criminal penalty. So the fact that you‘re on a court or not on a court is not really the line of bifurcation. It‘s whether or not you commit a criminal act, whether or not on the court, against another player or a fan.
NORVILLE: And the same goes, then, for a fan against a player, I‘m guessing.
GORCYCA: Yes. You know, I think there was this past summer that fans ran onto a baseball field and assaulted a player or a coach. Those people will be held criminally responsible. As I stated before, it‘s obviously trespassing, but when Artest went into the crowd and assaulted the wrong person, quite frankly, he‘s going to subject himself to criminal penalties.
NORVILLE: OK, Greg Anthony, you were in the studio when this happened, working for ESPN. What do you think happened that went wrong? How did this escalate in—no, but seriously...
GREG ANTHONY, ESPN NBA ANALYST: Yes, it‘s—it‘s...
NORVILLE: ... it was a fight on the floor that somehow ended up in the stands and all over the place.
ANTHONY: There‘s no question. And first of all, I think no one can be absolved from responsibility in this scenario, meaning players, those responsible for securing the environment. Also fans are culpable in this scenario. At the end of the day, if you really look at what happened with the altercation, for the most part, it had been controlled until a fan decided that he wanted to get involved, or she, and threw something at Ron Artest.
Now, at that point, that‘s a provocation. It doesn‘t justify what Ron Artest did. He was still wrong, beyond wrong, to run up into the stands and assault or attack, or what have you. But there was provocation here, and I think that‘s something that we want to look at in terms of the big picture moving forward. I mean, even...
NORVILLE: See, here we see him going...
ANTHONY: ... here, if you watch this...
NORVILLE: ... over the table...
ANTHONY: And I wish you had a different angle. He actually didn‘t throw a punch there. He wanted to, but he got restrained...
NORVILLE: By that guy right there.
ANTHONY: ... here, right there. He never threw a punch. Now, he gets slammed in the face, and that‘s when Stephen Jackson goes after the person that slammed him in the face. And again, you know, this is something for legal minds to determine. My perspective, as an analyst of the game and as a former athlete, is that one thing that I want people to understand is that, as a professional athlete, you perform at an emotionally very high and intense, adrenaline-filled level. So your feeling of what you can deal with may be a little different than what the average person is going to deal with.
NORVILLE: But the average person also isn‘t getting $5 million, $10 million, $20 million. These guys are incredibly...
ANTHONY: Well—well, Deborah...
NORVILLE: ... well compensated...
ANTHONY: ... I don‘t think...
NORVILLE: ... for the stresses of their job.
ANTHONY: I don‘t think—I don‘t think the money you make should determine—should make you a better human being, or more responsible. I don‘t think the amount of money you make has anything to do with it. That‘s not relevant. That‘s the unfortunate part of...
NORVILLE: Well, it clearly wasn‘t relevant...
ANTHONY: ... living in a capitalistic...
NORVILLE: ... on Friday night. That‘s for sure.
ANTHONY: Well, yes. So we say that someone‘s a schoolteacher, they shouldn‘t act in certain ways. I mean, let‘s get the money out of this.
ANTHONY: It has nothing to do with money. This is a human being who has an emotional issue, to begin with, and acted irrationally. I‘m not justifying his actions. He was wrong, no question.
NORVILLE: Len, should he have been out on the field? Ron Artest has a long history of infractions and suspensions. This isn‘t the first time this has happened for him.
LEN BERMAN, SPORTS ANCHOR, WNBC-TV: Yes, no, he should have been
playing. I didn‘t have a problem that he was still playing. And I—this
· Greg and I were discussing earlier that the tape you just showed, where he cold-cocked a fan on the court—to me, I thought that was the most egregious part of it. I know he doesn‘t agree.
But I think a lot of—and with due respect to Greg—and I think he was a terrific player, and I think what he‘s saying helps describe the motivations—still, end of story. He went into the stands. He should have been fined. He should have been suspended. He should be out for a year. I have no problem with that. I expect players, and obviously, the players union to dispute that. But see, this is the part—well, no, this is the earlier part with Artest...
BERMAN: ... in the stands. But I just think that he should be out a year. Dumb.
NORVILLE: Kermit Washington, you know better than most how this will change Ron Artest‘s life. What‘s your take on this particular incident? And has the NBA acted appropriately in suspending him for the rest of the season, in your belief?
KERMIT WASHINGTON, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. But you have to realize that David Stern is concerned about the image of the NBA more than anything else. Was Ron Artest—did he have the right to go up into the stands? No, I don‘t think he should have gone up in the stands. I can understand some of the circumstances. I don‘t understand why Mark Jackson was up there, and a few other things that went about.
But you know something? As you get older, as I get older, I realize that David Stern is concerned about the image of the black athlete or the NBA player, and that‘s the most important thing. It‘s a business. You have to understand it‘s a business. And Ron Artest is in the business of basketball. It‘s a business that makes him a lot of money. And I think what‘s unfortunate about this whole thing is that so many people are going to lose so much money.
And is it all justified? I don‘t know. We‘ll have to wait and see when everything comes to a close. But you‘re going to have 20 people suing everybody. They‘re going to sue the league, sue the teams, sue the stadium that they played in, and it‘s going to be a mess. It will be a circus for a while. I think Ron is punished more because of the statements he made last week, where he wanted to take a month off.
NORVILLE: He wanted to take time off because he‘s got a rap record that releases, I think, later this week.
WASHINGTON: And I think that was a...
NORVILLE: And he was suspended when they said no.
WASHINGTON: Yes. I think that was a mistake for him to say. It was an embarrassment to the league, and so he‘s going to be punished more because of the statement he made last week, as opposed to what he did up in the stands, than what—you know, it‘s just a culmination of things, I think, that got Ron Artest on the wrong side of the NBA and David Stern.
NORVILLE: Well, here‘s what David Stern said in a statement that he gave to ESPN. He said, “Sports reflects society, in that we‘re a good place to get a take on society, and society has become less civil. Social norms are to an extent breaking down. What you say, what you do, how you act no longer matters, based on the old social convention.” And he said, “I think in sports, we‘re beginning to see the same thing. Athletes are not held to account. Fans can behave in boorish ways that endanger other fans and ruin the experience.”
BERMAN: Excuse me, Kermit, with all due respect, I mean, David Stern has to accept culpability for this, too. The league...
NORVILLE: You think the NBA has a lot to do with this.
BERMAN: Oh, well, I think all of the media does. ESPN does, radio talk shows, where people yell and scream at each other has something to do with this. The leagues themselves, they‘re marketing violence and sex and bad behavior to what I call the “young gangsta” generation. If you‘re going to market to these people, you sow, so shall you reap...
WASHINGTON: Let‘s go one step further. If you look at society in general, if you look what we‘re doing over in Iraq, preemptive strikes, where we hurt people and a lot of innocent people are killed, a lot of American soldiers are killed because we believe something might come about. So if we can give ourselves, as a country, the ability to strike first, you have to look at some—and look at the whole picture in basketball saying, Well, I think he was going to hit me. So...
NORVILLE: Well, that might be more of a stretch, linking what‘s going on in Fallujah to what went on...
WASHINGTON: No. No, it‘s not...
NORVILLE: ... at the Palace the other day.
WASHINGTON: It‘s not a stretch because it‘s on TV. And when you shoot an unarmed—let me see—insurgent and they‘re going to justify shooting here, all of this comes into our society. So we are a more violent society. Let‘s be realistic about it.
NORVILLE: Well, and if there‘s an example to be made in situations like this being addressed—and that‘s what David Stern is saying he‘s trying to do—Dave Gorcyca, what kind of penalties would people who might be charged in this be facing? Is it significant enough to stop somebody the next time they want to hurl a soda cup at an NBA player?
GORCYCA: Well, that‘s the nature and extent of what occurred in the stands. But I want it clearly understood by people who are watching. I know we‘re talking a lot about the players who went up there, but we‘re going to hold those fans who threw the cup and threw the chair, if we can discern their identity—we‘re going to held them responsible. But most of what I‘ve seen constitutes simple assault and battery, which is a 93-day misdemeanor in the state of Michigan, except for the individual, whom we‘re trying to discern his identity, who threw the chair...
GORCYCA: ... into the visitors‘ tunnel and struck a police officer. That individual we‘re going to look for could face felonious assault charges, which is a four-year felony.
NORVILLE: Greg, as you know, way back when, they called basketball players “cagers” because there literally was a cage around the basketball court. Does the NBA need to put walls between the fans and the players, in the same way the hockey guys do for reasons of safety of (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
ANTHONY: Not necessarily. I think there is an issue in terms of this cultural phenomena of being more accepted and more immune, if you will, to violence, to sexual activity. I mean, look what just happened with the “Monday Night Football” preview before the game started, I should say. So I think there‘s a growing phenomena that this type of behavior has become more and more accepted. And I think that‘s what the commissioner needs to look at and is looking at. I talked to him earlier tonight. And I think that‘s what everybody needs to be made more aware of. And also, keep in mind, too, I think another issue we need to talk about—alcohol played a role in all this, as well.
NORVILLE: Yes, but Ron Artest wasn‘t...
ANTHONY: There‘s no question...
NORVILLE: ... drinking beer out there on the basketball court.
ANTHONY: No, but beer was tossed on Ron Artest. And again, you can put all the blame on Ron Artest as you—that you want, and he is to blame for what happened, to a certain extent. No question about it. But he‘s not the only one culpable. And I think we need to keep the focus on all parties who were involved in this. It‘s not just point the finger at Ron because he‘s a bad guy.
NORVILLE: Kermit Washington, very briefly, do you think there will be substantive change as a result of this incident that happened Friday night?
WASHINGTON: No, not basically. I think the message has been sent when somebody loses a whole year or millions of dollars and lawsuits will be flying everywhere, where unfortunately, a lot of the guys might lose millions of dollars on top of that...
WASHINGTON: ... because of personal lawsuits. That sends a message real quickly. And I think that will clean it up because when people lose tens of millions of dollars, it wakes you up.
NORVILLE: Well, there‘s a big wake-up call going on right now.
GORCYCA: We already have a...
NORVILLE: Kermit Washington, I thank you...
GORCYCA: We already have a lawsuit filed in...
NORVILLE: There‘s already the first lawsuit filed. We heard it from David Gorcyca. David Gorcyca, thank you for being with us...
GORCYCA: First of the lawsuit‘s already filed.
NORVILLE: ... Len Berman, Greg Anthony. We know about the lawsuit now. Thank you, gentlemen, very much.
And you know, you talk about the whole role model aspect of basketball players. When we come back, we‘re going to talk with some kids who were there at the game, looking up at people that were the folks they looked up to. Do they still do so now?
And then later on: What would propel any company to make a video game out of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and then release it on the anniversary of his death? I‘ll talk exclusively with the man behind the game for his first television interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not a role model.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That was former NBA player Charles Barkley in a 1993 Nike commercial. Even back then, a lot of young people looked to folks like Barkley and other athletes and actors and rock stars as role models. So the question now, What is the impact of an incident like the one Friday night in Michigan on young people today?
Joining me now from Michigan are five teenagers who were at the game Friday night. Jordan Jonna was there celebrating his birthday. He was sitting right there in the front row and saw the fight as it happened. Clark Pattah was also there when the fight broke out. And also with us are Jonathan Falvo, Ray Markham and Roger Gonda, who were at the game, but they left before the thing we‘re talking about all happened.
Jordan, you were there when the fight broke out. What did you think when you saw the punches start flying?
JORDAN JONNA, ATTENDED BRAWL GAME: When the punches were thrown, I was—of course, I jumped up. But I saw—I thought everything would be under control with all the officials. But actually, when they ran into the crowd, you know, everyone in the Palace was actually astonished by this. So I would say that most of the people were afraid in the Palace.
NORVILLE: Were you scared?
JONNA: Really, I wasn‘t that scared because I knew there was enough security there. Apparently, there was not. That‘s a big issue. But I didn‘t feel frightened at all.
NORVILLE: Clark, when you saw this fight start breaking out, could you figure out what had started it, or did it all happen so quickly that it was impossible to tell who started what?
CLARK PATTAH, ATTENDED BRAWL GAME: As soon as it happened, I jumped up. And everybody was going crazy, and I looked around. I had a very good view of what was going on. And when I saw it happen, I saw it all going on. And then it happened so quickly, and all‘s I saw is somebody throw something. Everything was under control at first, then somebody throw something. And then all of a sudden, it just became hectic, everybody going crazy and punches getting thrown. I see a couple of the Pacers jumping in. It was just unbelievable.
NORVILLE: Were you scared?
PATTAH: I was afraid, and I was more afraid for families and children that are seeing these people as role models, especially, because look what they‘re doing as NBA professionals.
NORVILLE: Jonathan, what does this do, as far as the role model thing goes, for you? Do you think that basketball players in general have taken a hit because of what a few guys did on Friday night?
JONATHAN FALVO, ATTENDED BRAWL GAME: You can‘t blame a league for what a few guys did. It‘s—you can‘t—it‘s unfair to the rest of the league to blame the whole league for just these three guys. You still have to look at them as role models. You still want to work hard, like they did. You still want to try to get to that level when you grow up.
NORVILLE: Michael, do you look up to athletes as your role models? We did a little research and we found that about 10 years go, in 1990, when teens were asked who their role model was, 12 percent said an athlete. Now it‘s only 6 percent who say that. Are your own personal role models—I‘m sorry—Ray, are your own personal role models athletes?
RAY MARKHAM, ATTENDED BRAWL GAME: No, my personal role models are people, like normal people who are working hard and my mom and dad. And I look up to my dad playing in the NHL and how he had to work hard to get there.
NORVILLE: Yes. Your dad is a role model. He played for the Rangers. And I‘m sure a lot of kids around there look up to your dad. What kinds of things have you heard kids ask your father, as a former pro athlete?
MARKHAM: Well, a lot of kids ask, like, what he did before he got there, and like, what—like, how hard he had to work and what he‘s doing now and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) coaching the varsity at (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
NORVILLE: Yes. And you know, I want to get into this whole role model thing. When we looked a poll that‘s been done pretty recently, they asked kids what the worst role model was. And 41 percent said Michael Jackson, 11 percent said Kobe Bryant, and 6 percent said Martha Stewart. And when kids were asked what the best role models were, 28 percent said parents and 11 percent said teachers.
Roger, let me ask you, does that square with your own sense of what you hear kids talking about?
ROGER GONDA, ATTENDED BRAWL GAME: Yes. I think our role models are definitely our parents and the faculty members at St. Mary‘s and stuff like that.
NORVILLE: And I know...
GONDA: People like those are the people that you got to look up to.
NORVILLE: There at St. Mary‘s, you guys have something that they call the honor code. You guys are in your hockey jerseys. I think I hear a game going on behind you in the background. What does that mean, the honor code, for you as an athlete?
GONDA: It basically means we have to respect others and respect ourselves on and off the field and in and out of school. And the when NBA players did those things, I don‘t think they were respecting themselves or other people.
NORVILLE: Clark, were kids talking about this at school today, since they knew you had been at the game and they knew you were there when the fight broke out? What were they saying about it?
PATTAH: I had many people come up to me and ask me many questions because they knew I was sitting on the floor. And they were just talking about it, how crazy it was and how it was just very unprofessional and unsportsmanlike.
NORVILLE: Do you think that kids should look up to athletes? Do you think that athletes—let me ask it a different way. Do you think that athletes should be cognizant of the fact that kids watch what they do and many of them do hold them as role models? Is that something that athletes ought to be aware of as they go about their daily lives both on and off the field?
PATTAH: Yes, definitely, because I think a lot of young children watch basketball, they watch many sports, and they see these people as role models. They look up to them and they want to be like them. And I think that it was just unbelievable that that had to happen. It was just unbelievable.
NORVILLE: Jordan, does it change your image of the NBA? One of your friends there said, No, you shouldn‘t blame everybody for the actions of a few. Does it change your own idea of NBA players?
JONNA: Really, it does not because the actions that were taken that were acted upon was with one—one—three, four NBA players. Now, these NBA players, they acted ridiculous. And really, it gave the NBA a bad rap and also the Detroit fans, when only a few of them were to blame. So no, I wouldn‘t say this because I still look up to the NBA players. They‘re great athletes. And so they should be recognized as great athletes. But when this goes on, I feel—I don‘t feel that the NBA should be blamed, but these players should be.
NORVILLE: Do you think David Stern has done the right thing in benching Artest for the rest of the season?
JONNA: Yes. He had no really reason to run up in the crowd and attack and just one fan cheering on the fight.
NORVILLE: Yes. And Jonathan, you got your jersey on there, right behind—right behind Jordan. You play a varsity sport. I‘m sure there are kids at school that look up to you. What do you think an athlete should do to be the best possible role model to others?
FALVO: Just don‘t basically do anything that would make you—don‘t do anything that will make you look really bad and try to make people—have people see you working hard and be a role model for little kids trying to get to your level.
NORVILLE: OK. With that, we‘re going to say thank you to you all, Jordan Jonna, Clark Pattah, Jonathan Falvo, Ray Markham and Roger Gonda. Thanks for your time. We‘ll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: Still to come: One of history‘s most tragic moments is now a video game. Is this an educational recreation or merely tasteless recreation? An exclusive conversation with the man behind the game when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
NORVILLE: Could bad taste get any worse?
On the 41st anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a British company today released a video game recreating the assassination. The game is called “JFK Reloaded.” And the company that created it, Traffic, says that it‘s supposed to be educational. It challenges players to recreate the three shots fired at the president‘s car by Lee Harvey Oswald from the Texas School Book Depository.
Joining me now here in the studio to talk about it in his first television interview is Kirk Ewing. He‘s the managing director of the company behind the game, called Traffic.
How is this educational?
KIRK EWING, MANAGING DIRECTOR, TRAFFIC GAMES: I think educational is a misnomer.
We have certainly tried to demonstrate that we have an opinion about this which we want the American citizens to help us recreate. Our opinion is that there‘s no conspiracy surrounding the JFK assassination. And, as such, we want people to try to participate in what we see as an experiment.
NORVILLE: You are quoted by the Associated Press as saying this will
· quote—“stimulate a younger generation of players to take an interest in this fascinating episode of American history.”
EWING: Well, that‘s right. And we expect that they will take an interest. We hope that it ignites the kind of research that this—an event like this deserves.
The way I understand the game is, you are playing the game from the perspective of the top floor at the school book depository where Lee Harvey Oswald was on that fateful day. And if you successfully fire three shots and assassinate the president, you win and are in the running for a $100,000 prize.
EWING: The actual facts are that what we want people to do is to recreate as closely as possible the results as shown by the Warren Commission report.
Now, they say that three shots were fired, but they were fired in a very specific way. And that‘s what we want to demonstrate that that is a possible feat and that there is no conspiracy surrounding this event.
NORVILLE: The Warren Commission finished its work over 35 years ago.
EWING: That‘s correct. At it was much derided at the time for saying that this was not possible. We believe it is.
NORVILLE: You believe it is. So why not leave it rest? This seems like the crassest way to make money on an American tragedy that I‘ve ever heard of, and a lot of people agree with me on that.
EWING: We see it as a natural extension of media interest in what is one of the world‘s most pivotal historic events. What we‘re doing is, we‘re following in the tradition of books, of television shows such as your own, the film business such as Oliver Stone‘s film, “JFK,” and instead we are providing an interaction reconstruction of the event.
NORVILLE: You don‘t think this is tacky?
EWING: We don‘t believe it‘s tacky at all. We believe it‘s an incredibly detailed, vigorously researched and really I think incredible piece of work. If people visit the Web site for themselves, then they should make their own decisions.
NORVILLE: Well, but if they visit the Web site and want to play the game, it‘s going to cost them $9.95 to fire a shot at the president.
EWING: If they visit the Web site alone, then they will see the way that we‘ve tried to treat what we‘re doing.
They‘ll see whether we‘ve driven them to go back and reinvestigate the facts. And the Web site is very much geared to asking people to go and look at the history again. We think this touches a different generation.
NORVILLE: Traffic is a fairly young company.
EWING: That‘s correct.
NORVILLE: You have not released any kind of gaming properties in the past?
EWING: Not as Traffic. I mean, I certainly have released gaming properties in the past.
NORVILLE: But this company has not.
EWING: Yes. That‘s right.
NORVILLE: This is a pretty good way to get some attention for a new company, isn‘t it?
EWING: Well, we‘re certainly a small company.
But the reasoning behind it is because we have a background both in documentary and in interactive video games. And as such it‘s a marrying of those two disciplines.
NORVILLE: A lot of people were just dumbfounded that this really existed. They thought it was a joke. Article in the newspaper couldn‘t be true.
Go on the Web site, it‘s for real. It really happens. You can do this. Senator Ted Kennedy has got too much class to speak directly about this, but his spokesman, David Smith, said quite simply, this is despicable. A lot of people don‘t disagree with the man.
EWING: Well, I believe that—we sent a letter to the senator and “The Times.” We have an enormous respect for the family.
NORVILLE: If you have so much respect for the family, why would you release a video game that capitalizes—and I dare say you are a for-profit company that aims to make money on the assassination of an American president.
EWING: We are a commercial company in exactly the same way this channel is.
NORVILLE: And we‘re not producing video games where you get to play that you‘re an assassin.
EWING: We genuinely believe that this offers a unique insight into a world pivotal event.
NORVILLE: OK. There are a lot of world pivotal events. And if you want to focus on American presidents, you could do a historically accurate video game that looks back at George Washington crossing the Delaware, certainly an important moment in American history during the revolutionary times.
And we have played a little bit with the iconic picture that you can go while you‘re here in New York and go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and show it. Here, you see George Washington crossing the Delaware. And we thought, in our video game, to get kids interested in history, you could pretend that you were the other guys on the boat trying to see if George Washington really could cross the Delaware standing up, because some people suspect not.
So you take aim. You fire. Oh, my goodness, you have got George Washington, and look where he ended up. There he is, floating in the Delaware river. That‘s about as much historical learning about Washington crossing the Delaware as your video game where you get to shoot the president.
EWING: I‘m sure American people have more intelligence than that.
The data that exists and the facts that exist around the JFK assassination are what makes our game possible.
NORVILLE: But you don‘t have to go onto a video game that puts the president in the crosshairs to learn those things.
EWING: I think that you misunderstand. It‘s not a video game as such. It‘s a documentary that happens to use video game technology in order to get its point across.
NORVILLE: And your point is what?
EWING: The point is that we do not believe there was any conspiracy surrounding that event, and we hope that the American people can prove through experimenting with this product that that is the correct answer.
NORVILLE: Is it reasonable to assume that your company would, oh, I don‘t know, have Scott Peterson smothering Laci and dumping her in the water, that your company would, you know, pick any crime, pick any tragedy that you could capitalize on?
EWING: I think that this game marks the start of a great foray into using this type of technology to recreate events. I‘m not suggesting that‘s something that we would necessarily do. We think that the assassination itself lends itself to it specifically because of the ballistics evidence that surrounds it.
NORVILLE: Is there anything that you wouldn‘t put in video game form? Is there anything that would be too, I don‘t know, tragic to not make a game on?
EWING: I think it‘s Kennedy himself who said that history is the memory of the nation. And, as such, we hope that this reignites people‘s interest in what is an amazing and certainly tragic event.
NORVILLE: Well, the timing is not lost, on the 41st anniversary of the death of the president. What will they come up with next?
Kirk Ewing, thank you for being with us. Appreciate your time.
EWING: Thank you, Deborah.
ANNOUNCER: Up next, the passion of “Desperate Housewives.” What‘s really behind the success of these swinging, sexy suburbanites?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Well, let‘s see what you‘ve learned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: A revealing peek at TV‘s hottest phenomenon when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
NORVILLE: What‘s making “Desperate Housewives” a hit? Why is it that millions can‘t turn away from this Sunday night show? We‘ll find out right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES”)
TERI HATCHER, ACTRESS: You‘re the one who‘s been humiliated, Karl. Why don‘t you see that? You walked out on your family. People think you are scum, not me. So worry about yourself. I‘m OK with me. I can walk down the street and hold my head high.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That is a scene from ABC‘s “Desperate Housewives,” which is the hottest new show on television this season. Roughly 25 million viewers catch it every week. And after seven episodes, it is now the second highest rated show of the television season, right behind “CSI,” which makes it a bona fide TV phenomena.
Case in point, the cast appears on the cover of the current edition of “Newsweek” magazine. They graced the cover of on “TV Guide” magazine last week and will do so next week. And today‘s “New York Times” dissected the ratings city by city. What is it about this program that is helping it to take on a life of its own? Is it just escapist entertainment or is there something else going on, maybe a deeper reason why this show is so big?
Joining me now to talk about it is Marc Peyser. He‘s the senior writer and TV news critic for “Newsweek” magazine, one of the covers of the cover story this week about “Desperate Housewives.” Also with me here in the studio is “TV Guide”‘s senior correspondent, Bruce Fretts. And joining us as well, syndicated columnist and author Jacquelyn Mitchard. Her book “Christmas Present” is due out shortly and next April. Another book, “The Breakdown Lane, will hits bookstore shelves.
And we thank you all for being with us.
I‘m going to go to you first, Marc, because you‘ve got the latest article on “Desperate Housewives.” You say in your article that there actually may be a lot of us as viewers that we see in those women on the show.
MARC PEYSER, “NEWSWEEK”: Well, it‘s obviously a soap opera. And they make no bones about the fact that they‘re a nighttime soap, and they‘re larger than life in many ways.
But it‘s also sort of a suburban satire. I think anybody who has lived in the competitive suburbs where you‘re watching what your neighbors do and trying to be one up with them—your kids want to be on the better soccer team. You want to have the prettier garden. I think it‘s very true to life that way.
So, while it feels huge and silly at times, I do think that people, especially women, feel a lot of their own lives are in the show.
NORVILLE: Jacquelyn, would you agree with that, that there‘s a certain mirror aspect to this program that maybe we don‘t want to own up to?
JACQUELYN MITCHARD, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I absolutely would. I think it‘s more than guilty pleasure.
I mean, the reason that they have those tank tops and signs that say “Desperate Housewife on Board” is because “Desperate Housewives” c‘est moi. My book, “The Breakdown Lane,” is about a very desperate housewife indeed whose job is giving advise to other people through her newspaper column. And I myself as the mother of six children...
NORVILLE: Sort of like you, huh?
MITCHARD: And the mother of six children, I must say that no one has ever tried to—no gardener has ever tried to hit on me, except by driving into me with the lawn tractor.
NORVILLE: Bruce, what is it that you think has made it connect so quickly? Because that‘s really what the people in the TV industry are talking about.
BRUCE FRETTS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, “TV GUIDE”: Right. Right.
I think it‘s really filling the void that “Sex and the City” left. I don‘t think it‘s a coincidence this is a show about four women sitting around talking about sex a lot and about having sex a lot, but they‘re doing it in the suburbs. And I think that gives it a broader appeal. I think “Sex and the City” was a popular show among urbanites. I think it was a little harder for some people to identify with.
NORVILLE: But do you think it‘s the sex aspect of it that really has got everybody going?
FRETTS: I that is what draws people in initially. I think that people have heard about it. They want to see what it is all about. And then I think they get caught up with the characters and the storylines, because it‘s a very well written, well acted show.
NORVILLE: There was also this huge advertiser resistance from the get-go. And among others, Lowe‘s said, we‘re not going to advertise. And we actually talked about this on this program at that time. Do you think they regret that now?
FRETTS: I think they probably do, yes. I mean, other advertisers quickly jumped in to fill the void that Lowe‘s left. And they sort of left this station as it was taking off. And it‘s really gone full steam ahead without them.
NORVILLE: You also say, Marc, in your cover story that there‘s a certain regret expressed about life choices not made. Explain how that‘s coming out in this show.
PEYSER: That‘s really in a sense what the show is about. These are four women—really five or six depending on how deep you look—who are at places in their life where they‘re not sure they‘re happy with where they are. There‘s one woman who is divorced. There‘s a woman who gave up her career to stay home and raise her four children.
There‘s another woman who has this picture-perfect life, but she has sort of because emotionally dead. And Marc Cherry, the guy who created the show, really wants you to look at these women and see, they‘re not quite sure where they‘re going. They‘re at a crossroads here. And it‘s a difficult sort of place to be. Unlike the “Sex and the City” women, I think, who were sort of desperate to get to the next step, these are women who have made their choices and are now not sure that it was the right choice.
NORVILLE: And, Jacquelyn, you write about that not only in your book, but also in your columns. You get a lot of response about that very issue.
MITCHARD: Every woman, including you, Deborah, I happen to know, has had issues with work and family and the terrible—the terrible wrenching guilt that goes with owing your life to so many masters.
And that is what people see reflected back at them in this show. It isn‘t just the chance to look at some beautiful women, though it‘s nice that four women can bring in a smart and funny show like this. It‘s that you see in them your own guilt, your own feeling of being torn, the wish to be a mother, the wish to be a professional, the wish to be a woman, all of those things.
You know, Shakespeare said it hundreds of years ago. He who has a wife and child is a hostage to fortune. And now it‘s a she.
NORVILLE: Well, my own line is, God couldn‘t be everywhere, so he created guilt. Mothers couldn‘t be everywhere, so God created guilt.
But in seeing themselves reflected in this show, these women are doing things that most American moms out in suburbia aren‘t doing. And I want to get into the flip side of “Desperate Housewives” with my guests in just a moment.
We‘ll take a break and be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES”)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Mom, it‘s no big deal. Carlos and I are driving him to the baptism. Problem solved. OK. Fine. You go with Aunt Maria, and I will take Nana to church.
Take your clothes off.
OK. I got to go, mom. Yes, right now. OK. I‘ll give you directions later. Bye.
Hi. How was school?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I got an A-minus on my biology exam.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Well, let‘s see what you‘ve learned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Back talking about the hit television show “Desperate Housewives” with “Newsweek”‘s Marc Peyser, “TV Guide”‘s Bruce Fretts and syndicated columnist and author Jacquelyn Mitchard.
Everybody knows the big brouhaha that happened one week ago tonight, when “Desperate Housewives” was used as a teaser, and we mean that in every sense of the word, for “Monday Night Football.” If you didn‘t see it, we will remind you. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL”)
TERRELL OWENS, NFL PLAYER: And I got a game to plan.
NICOLETTE SHERIDAN, ACTRESS: Terrell, wait.
OWENS: Oh, hell. Team‘s going to have to win this one without me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Jacquelyn, what do you make of the brouhaha about that particular commercial?
MITCHARD: Talk about poor taste. And I think the brouhaha is overstated, too, because I don‘t think it was intended to be either—intended to be racist. However, it was as tasteless as your last segment and probably a very poor choice.
And is there going to be more use, Marc, of “Desperate Housewives” in promoting shows? Because promotion is all about getting notice, and it got real noticed.
PEYSER: Of course. And they have always tried to get sort of close to the edge with this show. They want the show to come across as edgy.
I disagree with Jacquelyn. I don‘t think it was so tasteless. It‘s the kind of stuff you see on every soap opera every day of the week. Obviously, people are concerned about that kind of stuff, but it‘s just not that racy. You didn‘t see much. It was incredibly campy. It‘s just, people don‘t know where the lines are right now. They are very concerned about from the Super Bowl, to “Desperate Housewives,” not really knowing what they are supposed to think is OK. But that really wasn‘t that racy.
NORVILLE: Bruce, there‘s also been some concern expressed that this show, like “Sex and the City” before, as you mentioned, focused so much on sexual activity, most of it outside of the confines of marriage, or just sexual activist period, that there‘s going to be a suggestive aspect.
And there was a study that recently came out in pediatrics by the Rand Corporation that showed young people who hear on television talk about sex, much less see it, are more apt to become sexually active.
FRETTS: Yes. I don‘t think there are a lot of kids watching “Desperate Housewives”. And if there are, their parents should turn it off, because it‘s not a show that‘s appropriate for children.
I don‘t think it‘s going to be a big problem with kids aping what they see on “Desperate Housewives” the night before on TV. I think it‘s a show that is aimed at adults. I think, compared to a lot of stuff on HBO, certainly compared to “Sex and the City,” it is pretty tame. So I don‘t think it‘s going to change too many people‘s behavior.
NORVILLE: I think the other thing, too, about “Sex and the City,” Marc Peyser, is, it came at a time—not “Sex and the City,” “Desperate Housewives”—at a time when there was nothing else like it on TV. There aren‘t that many shows where women are just characters, unless they are the doctor or the lawyer on some of the medical and cop shows.
PEYSER: There‘s nothing like it on TV. And there hasn‘t been since “Sex and the City.” And that was a cable show. There hasn‘t been like it on network television for quite a while.
It‘s really hard to figure out why. More than 50 percent of the audience, something like 56 percent of the audience, is female. You would think that programmers and networks would try to market to them and try to give them what they want. I think the show has clearly shown that women are really hungry to see themselves in real situations on television. And I guarantee you, next year, you will see more of it, now that this has been a big hit.
NORVILLE: Well, and talk about it being a big hit.
Bruce, you had it as the cover last week on “TV Guide” and it‘s going to be the upcoming cover as well. What does that say about everybody riding this pony?
FRETTS: It says that we are excited about this show. We have had so many reality shows as hits in the past few seasons. It‘s really exciting to have a new scripted show with attractive actresses and actors that we can put on the cover. And it‘s a show that everyone is talking about. So they want to read about it, too.
NORVILLE: And, Jacquelyn, by that measure, are you excited to see another show with women as role models—maybe they are not the one you want to be—but a woman show out on television, see more of the same?
MITCHARD: Actually, don‘t underestimate what happens in small communities.
I think that this is a send-up, but every neighborhood—I live in a very small town, and every neighborhood had its vixen, its widow, its divorcee, its snob, its society lady.
MITCHARD: And a great many marriages and ends of marriages and remarriages happen even right here in the heart of the country in small-town America.
NORVILLE: Well, everybody is looking at each other differently these days. That‘s for sure.
Marc Peyser, Bruce Fretts, Jacquelyn Mitchard, thanks for being with us.
We‘ll be right back.
NORVILLE: We love to hear from you. Send us your ideas and comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.
And that is our program for tonight. Thank you for watching. I‘m Deborah Norville.
Coming up tomorrow night, Scott Peterson‘s mother, she has been at her son‘s side ever since Laci Peterson disappeared. Now that he is facing a possible death sentence, how does she do it? Tomorrow night, we will meet a mother who sat in that exact same position as her son faced the ultimate penalty—her story when you join us tomorrow night.
Thanks for watching. We‘ll see you then.
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