The Los Angeles Times, November 19, 2001
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You...
By Bruce Kluger and David Slavin
A week ago, White House senior
advisor Karl Rove flew to Beverly
Hills to consult with the nation's
preeminent movie and television
executives about ways in which the
entertainment industry can help
promote the American war effort.
Good move. Given Hollywood's
legendary knack for turning today's
headlines into tomorrow's hits, it
won't be long before a new wave of
audience favorites, drawn from the
most current events, begin lighting
up big and little screens across
Saudi Doodi: Designed to counter-program the anti-American doctrine currently
espoused in Middle Eastern grade schools, this whimsical children's entry stars a
playful white-robed puppet who, along with his Bedouin sidekicks, Water Buffalo
Bob and Clara Al Bell, the turbaned clown, teaches kids in the studio audience that
Muslims too can embrace the joys of Happy Meals, Harry Potter merchandise and
24-hour access to South Park.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Enduring Freedom Edition: Hosted by Saudi
Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Alsaud, this overseas installment
of the hit game show features questions relating to the current calamity in the
Middle East (e.g., Question: Where can you find the best shish-kabob in
Kandahar? Next question: "Where did Kandahar go?") The first episode features
contestant Rudy Giuliani, who upon winning the million-dollar grand prize
immediately returns the check to the Prince.
Northern Alliance Exposure: So long, Alaska, hello Afghanistan. In this
imaginative adaptation of the quirky 1990s series, a Jewish physician working for
Doctors Without Borders is mistakenly assigned to an anti-Semitic band of rebel
fighters in Mazar-i-Sharif. Suspicion turns to adoration, however, when the ragtag
alliance learns to appreciate Doc's knack for navigating through HMO paperwork,
dispensing antidepressants and helping them procure preferred-parking stickers
for their camels.
Everybody Hates Osama: And you thought Ray Romano had it bad? In this
proposed half-hour sitcom, the beleaguered Al Qaeda chief copes with relentless
suburban angst, such as endless pleas for money from his pestering family,
nagging telemarketers urging him to upgrade his cellular phone service—and the
unbridled hatred of the entire Western world. In the pilot episode, Osama becomes
enraged when his latest video message is accidentally erased by one of his 26
sons, who is secretly trying to tape a Britney Spears concert on MTV.
The Shrek of Araby: Everyone's favorite ogre returns, this time blazing a trail
across the dunes on a mission to rescue MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield, who is
being held on trumped-up charges of espionage by Islamabad police. Eddie
Murphy co-stars as a donkey lost in pack-mule paradise.
Shallow Tal: In this Muslim spin on the Farrelly brothers' hit, a zealous Taliban
warrior, indoctrinated with the belief that Americans are overfed infidels, is
spiritually enlightened by a moderate cleric who teaches him to see the inner
beauty of Westerners. Crammed with sophomoric sight gags (goat droppings and
beard jokes abound), the film is followed by the sequels There's Something About
Mufti and Me, Myself & Iran.
Riding on Camels With Boys: Drew Barrymore repeats her critically acclaimed
film role as a down-on-her-luck single mother, now working as a waitress in the
Oasis Coffee Shop at the Riyadh Ramada Inn. Vexed by the oppressive heat,
bottom-pinching sheiks and a veil that's perpetually dipping into the lentil soup,
Barrymore perseveres, eventually landing the coveted job of Lottery Lady for the Al
Glitter: "They've never seen a bomb this big!" agrees the Beverly Hills consortium.
No clever adaptation here—just a wide roll-out of the Mariah Carey musical biopic
in multiplexes across Afghanistan. Military experts predict a Taliban surrender within