Review: ‘Enemies of the State’ (2021), starring Paul DeHart, Leann DeHart, Gabriella Coleman, Adrian Humphreys, Carrie Daughtrey, Brett Kniss and Larry Butkowsky

August 10, 2021

by Carla Hay

A 1990s family photo of Paul DeHart, Leann DeHart and Matt DeHart in “Enemies of the State” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“Enemies of the State” (2021)

Directed by Sonia Kennebeck

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in the U.S. and Canada, the true crime documentary “Enemies of the State” features an all-white group of people discussing the controversial case of computer hacker Matt DeHart, an American who became a fugitive of the law with his parents Paul and Leann DeHart when they defied his house arrest and they all fled to Canada.

Culture Clash: Matt DeHart was accused of luring underage teenage boys into creating child pornography, but Matt and his parents claim that Matt is not guilty of these charges, and that he is the victim of a conspiracy to prevent Matt from going public about dangerous secrets he uncovered about the U.S. government.

Culture Audience: “Enemies of the State” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in documentaries about international fugitives or government conspiracy theories and don’t mind if there are no easy solutions presented at the end of the movie.

Re-enactment actors Christopher Clark, Joel Widman and Suzanne Pratley in “Enemies of the State” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

The documentary “Enemies of the State” comes across as a compilation of interviews and re-enactments rather than an investigation that reaches a firm judgment about what really happened in a case involving numerous accusations. People who don’t mind open-ended conclusions to a movie will probably like this documentary more than people who expect mysteries to be solved by the end of the film. The movie keeps viewers guessing on who’s really telling the truth.

Directed by Sonia Kennebeck, “Enemies of the State” does a fairly good job of presenting various perspectives of a complicated matter. At times, the documentary looks like a TV-movie-of-the week docudrama, because a lot of screen time is devoted to re-enactments with actors. However, the documentary’s subject matter is intriguing enough and presented in clear-enough ways that it will be easy for viewers to determine the angles that the filmmakers chose to take in presenting this story.

Some of the major questions put forth in the documentary are: “Is computer hacker Matt DeHart guilty of treason against the U.S. government?” “What classified government information did he uncover?” “Is he a patriot or a traitor for wanting to reveal this information?” “And how credible is he when he’s been accused of being involved in child pornography?”

Here are the known facts that all of the involved parties agree are true: Matt DeHart (who was born in 1984) was part of the computer hacking movement called Anonymous, consisting of people who work covertly to expose corruption secrets of authorities. In 2008, Matt enlisted in the U.S. National Guard, where he was an intelligence analyst whose job included working in the National Guard’s drone unit.

In 2009, Matt was honorably discharged from the National Guard, due to his issues with depression. In January 2010, the DeHart home in Newburgh, Indiana—where Matt lived with his parents Paul DeHart and Leann DeHart—was raided on a warrant to search for child pornography that Matt was accused of soliciting from underage teen boys whom he met online. No child porn was found during this raid.

Shortly after this raid, Matt and Paul went to the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., to seek asylum, but their request was denied. They made a similar request to the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C., and were also turned down. In April 2010, Matt moved to Canada to become a college student. He first lived in Montreal and then moved to Prince Edward Island. He applied for a student visa at the U.S. border and was taken into custody by FBI agents.

Matt was kept in custody in Bangor, Maine, until he was transferred to Tennessee, where was jailed for 21 months. In May 2012, he was released but kept under house arrest and living with his parents in Newburgh. On April 13, 2013, Matt and his parents were in Deerhart, Indiana, when they secretly left the U.S. and fled to Canada.

Matt was deported back to the U.S. in March 2015. He pleaded guilty to child porn charges in November 2015, and received a 72-month prison sentence in February 2016. Matt was released from prison in November 2019.

Here’s where things start to get murky and where people’s stories conflict: According to Paul and Leann (who are interviewed in this documentary), Matt was drugged and tortured by the FBI when he was first arrested in 2010. The DeHarts say that Matt was targeted because he had uncovered some bombshell information about the U.S. government, and the government was afraid that Matt would make the information public through his Anonymous activities. Leann says that Matt also had ties to Wikileaks, as has been widely reported. According to captioned statements in the film, representatives for the FBI and the U.S. National Guard declined to participate in the documentary.

Matt’s parents also claim that shortly after their home was raided in 2010, Matt went to Mexico, where he gave a valuable flash drive with a lot of the classified information to an unidentified friend from the United Kingdom. Matt and his parents have refused to publicly say who this mystery friend is. Some people who know about Matt’s story believe this person exists, while others believe that the friend is a complete fabrication.

Leann claims that Matt asked her to look at the classified files that he uncovered, as a safety precaution, in case anything happened to him. She breaks down in tears when she says that what she saw convinced her that Matt was a target because of the dangerous information that Matt discovered about the U.S. government. In the documentary, the most scandalous thing that Leann talks about is that she found out from the classified files that the anthrax poison attacks of 2001 were “perpetuated by the CIA, in order to drum up support for [George W.] Bush for the Iraq War” and that the CIA’s involvement was “covered up by the FBI.”

Viewers won’t get to see Matt being interviewed for this documentary. It’s not revealed until the end of the film that he agreed to be interviewed on camera, but he never showed up for the interview. Therefore, his parents do all the talking for him in this documentary. And it’s clear that Paul and Leann will do anything for their only child.

Paul and Leann are both veterans of the U.S. military, which they say makes their current disllusionment with the U.S. government so devastating to them. Paul was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force, while Leann was an electronic warfare voice intercept operator in the U.S. Army. In other words, these parents have first-hand knowledge of how U.S. government surveillance works in the U.S. military.

Leann says that when she and her husband asked Matt if the child porn charges were true, he vehemently denied it, and the parents say they believe him to this day because of what they say they know the U.S. government is capable of doing. Leann gives her thoughts in the documentary about what she says is the U.S. government’s persecution of Matt: “We decided as a family that we were going to fight this as a family. Little did we know it was a mistake.”

And she has this to say about the U.S. legal system, which she says has victimized her, Paul and Matt: “The truth does not matter.” During an interview in the DeHart home, Leann says that they decided to live as recluses in a secluded area. She confesses that she feels paranoid every time she sees a heliciopter, plane, car or strangers walking near their property because she thinks it could be the government spying on them.

Paul and Leann sound like upstanding American citizens, right? Not according to Michael Terry, a former attorney representing Matt. Terry went from being an ally of the DeHart family to being an outspoken critic. In the documentary, Terry says that he and the private investigator he hired could find no evidence to support the DeHarts’ conspiracy claims. Terry says that he now believes that Paul lied about the government conspiracy as a way to distract people from Matt’s child porn charges.

Terry gives a damning interview by essentially saying that Paul is mentally unstable and dangerous. Terry also comments that he became alarmed by Paul and Leann’s “control over Matt’s decisions.” One of the last straws for Terry, which led him to quit working with the DeHarts, was when he says that during a meeting, Paul began babbling to him about seeing the windows in the room vibrate at that moment. According to Terry, Paul tried to convince Terry that the U.S. government was causing the windows to vibrate because the government was spying on them.

As for the child pornography charges, the law enforcement officials interviewed in the documentary present compelling evidence (text messages, email and phone recordings) to show that Matt solicited nude and other sexually explicit photos and videos from two underage teenage boys whom he sought out online. (The photos and videos are not shown in the documentary.) Paul and Leann don’t deny that this evidence exists, but they say that Matt only pleaded guilty because he was pressured to take a plea deal by the prosecution.

The Middle District of Tennessee’s U.S. Assistant Attorney Carrie Daughtrey, one of the prosecutors in the child porn case against Matt, says that Matt used a false online persona of being a teenage girl to get the teen boys to masturbate on camera. The evidence uncovered also showed that Matt used another fake persona with the underage teens who were part of the child porn case: Matt pretended to be a mobster’s son and used that lie to intimidate his victims into not telling authorities about the illegal sexually explicit contact that Matt had with them.

Brett Kniss, a former police detective for the police department of Franklin, Tennessee, says that the real victims in the Matt DeHart case are those whom Matt manipulated into making child porn, as well as their families. (None of these witnesses is interviewed in the documentary.) Kniss was directly involved in the child porn investigation, and he doesn’t mince words when he says that what Matt did was despicable. Kniss also says the investigation uncovered a third underage teenager to be an alleged victim, but Kniss says this accuser was afraid to get involved in the case by making a formal complaint.

Kniss doesn’t really comment directly on the DeHarts’ government conspiracy theory. However, Kniss does want people watching the documentary to know that Matt initially denied having anything do with child porn but pleaded guilty after he found out about all the evidence against him. In other words, Kniss believes that if Matt could lie about being involved in child porn, then he could lie about anything else.

The DeHarts have their share of supporters who are outraged because they think Matt was set up by the U.S. government on the child porn charges, in order to silence Matt over what he knows about the U.S. government. The supporters consider Matt to be a “hacktivist,” a term used for computer hackers with activist intentions. Many people consider Anonymous and Wikileaks to be part of this “hactivist” movement.

One of Matt’s supporters is Larry Butkowsky, who is the DeHart family’s immigration lawyer. In the documentary, Butkowsky essentially repeats a lot of the claims that Paul and Leann make. Also interviewed in the documentary are DeHart family supporters such as Matt’s former psychotherapist Ralph Nichols; Lily Tekle, who was Matt’s immigration attorney in Canada; Matt’s former criminal defense attorneys Mark Scruggs and Tor Ekeland.

Gabriella Coleman, a McGill University instructor who is an expert on Anonymous, says in the documentary she’s inclined to be on Matt’s side because she believes he found out information that the U.S. government wants to be kept from the public. Coleman says that she first heard about Matt when he contacted her in 2009 to claim that he had secret CIA information. Coleman comments that uncovering classified government information “was the main reason why the government went after hackers and hactivists who were part of Anonymous.”

The documentary also interviews DeHart family friends such as Jonathan Barrier, Josh Weinstein and Michon Hemenway, who is Barrier’s mother. Because the DeHarts were a military family, they moved around a lot during Matt’s childhood and teen years. Barrier and Weinstein knew Matt when they attended the same high school (in Indiana for Barrier, in New Jersey for Weinstein), and they both describe Matt as an eccentric computer geek who had a rebellious streak and a sense of grandiosity about himself.

Weinstein says that when Matt ran for the school’s student-body president, he “hired” two friends to pretend to be his bodyguards during the campaign. Matt would act like a real government official who needed to be protected. And when Matt lost the election, he put dead fish in one of the school’s main vents, so that the stink of the fish would permeate on campus.

Hemenway compares Matt to the smarmy Eddie Haskell character from the classic “Leave It to Beaver” comedy series. Eddie Haskell was a troublemaker and a bully, but he put on a smooth-talking polite persona to authority figures, in order to fool them. Hemenway says of Matt: “He can talk himself into any situation, good or bad. He can talk himself out of any situation.”

While in high school, Matt formed a computer hacker club called KAOS (an acronym for Kaos Anti-Security Operations Syndicate), which was an early indication that he would become immersed in the hacker community. In the documentary, his parents say that although they never really encouraged Matt’s computer hacking activities, they didn’t discourage it either. “We raised him to think critically,” says Paul. “We raised him to be free.”

Based on these interviews in the documentary, what emerges is a portrait of the DeHarts as a family that gave only child Matt a lot of leeway in pursuing his interests, even if those interests could get him in trouble. Paul and Leann DeHart essentially think of Matt as a good, misunderstood son with some mental health issues made worse by torture from the U.S. government. And because Paul and Leann went on the run to Canada with Matt, resulting in all three of them becoming fugitives, it shows how far these parents are willing to go to protect him.

Other people interviewed in the documentary don’t really take sides but comment on what they’ve observed in this case. Investigative journalist Adrian Humphreys wrote about Matt’s case extensively for the National Post in Canada. Humphreys says that when he began the investigation, “I didn’t realize at that point how bizarre and twisting and turning and complicated the story would really be.” Carmen Mullholland, a former nurse at Penobscot County Jail in Bangor, Maine, says in the documentary that she witnessed Matt being incoherent and unsteady on his feet while was in custody, but she denies stories that Matt was given Thorazine when he was in that jail.

The documentary’s re-enactment footage is a bit of a distraction and used more than it should be, for the sake of creating melodrama. For example, when Paul describes seeing Matt in prison, curled up in a fetal position and twitching on the floor, there’s a re-enactment of that. The actors portraying the DeHarts are Joel Widman as Matt, Christopher Clark as Paul and Suzanne Pratley as Leann, who are mostly silent in the re-enactments. But when the actors are supposed to speak in certain scenes, their voices are dubbed over with audio recordings of the real Matt, Paul and Leann DeHart. That’s what happens in re-enactment scenes depicting the DeHarts’ 2014 immigration hearings in Canada.

There’s a lot of people who feel strongly about either side of this complicated case. The documentary doesn’t advocate for one side or another, but it does show how Matt’s child porn legal issues and his government conspiracy issues can be thought of as intertwined or separate, depending on who’s being interviewed. Is he telling the truth about one or the other issue, both issues, or neither issue? “Enemies of the State” is the type of documentary that lets viewers make up their own minds.

IFC Films released “Enemies of the State” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on July 30, 2021.

Review: ‘Judas and the Black Messiah,’ starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield

February 1, 2021

by Carla Hay

LaKeith Stanfield (in front) and Daniel Kaluuya (in back) in “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Photo by Glenn Wilson/Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Judas and the Black Messiah”

Directed by Shaka King

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Chicago in 1968 and 1969, the drama “Judas and the Black Messiah” features a predominately African American cast (with some white people and Latinos) representing people involved in the civil rights movement and law enforcement.

Culture Clash: The Black Panther Party, including Illinois chapter chairman Fred Hampton, was the target of FBI investigations that included hiring an African American paid informant named Bill O’Neal to infiltrate the Black Panther Party to help the FBI bring down Hampton and his colleagues.

Culture Audience: “Judas and the Black Messiah” will appeal primarily to people interested in movies about the civil rights movement for African Americans.

LaKeith Stanfield and Jesse Plemons in “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Photo by Glenn Wilson/Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” which is based on true events, mostly succeeds as presenting a rousing and riveting depiction of a troubling side of the U.S. civil rights movement that is rarely seen as the central plot of a movie: How African Americans were used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to betray African American civil rights leaders who were labeled as “troublemakers” by the FBI. It’s a necessary and sometimes uncomfortable examination of specific people in the late 1960s history of the civil rights movement, even though “Judas and the Black Messiah” has some awards-bait dramatics that were obviously manufactured for the movie.

Directed by Shaka King (who co-wrote the screenplay with Will Berson), “Judas and the Black Messiah” shows two very different sides of the African American experience with the civil rights movement. On the one side is the urgent activism embodied by Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. On the other side, is the passive political apathy of William “Bill” O’Neal, a car thief who was lured into betraying the Black Panthers by being a paid confidential informant for the FBI, in exchange for the FBI keeping O’Neal out of prison for his past crimes, such as car theft and impersonating a FBI agent.

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” which takes place primarily in Chicago, is told from perspective of O’Neal (played by LaKeith Stanfield), but Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya) is most definitely portrayed as the heroic soul of the movie. In real life, Hampton and O’Neal were in their early 20s when this movie takes place from late 1968 to late 1969. Thankfully, the filmmakers chose “Judas and the Black Messiah” as the movie’s title, instead of the movie’s original and very misleading title “Jesus Was My Homeboy.” Jesus is not a major theme in this movie at all.

The term “black messiah” refers to then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s fear that the civil rights movement would gain momentum under a powerful and charismatic leader. For a while, that leader was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), until he was brutally assassinated on April 4, 1968. “Judas and the Black Messiah” starts off in late 1968, when the civil rights movement became increasingly fractured by ideological divides between those who wanted to follow MLK’s non-violence philosophy and those such as the Black Panthers, who wanted to follow a more left-wing-leaning “any means necessary” philosophy, even if those means included violence.

Hoover has been depicted in various ways in movies and television, but in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” there’s no doubt that Hoover (played by Martin Sheen, in prosthetic makeup) is the movie’s chief villain. In an early scene in the movie, Hoover is presumably at FBI headquarters as he addresses an auditorium full of FBI agents (all white men, as Hoover reportedly preferred), with an oversized projection screen that looks a little too ahead of its time, as if he’s giving a TED Talk. This is supposed to be 1968, not 2018. It’s one of a few details that don’t ring true in the movie.

During this FBI assembly, Hoover sneers, “The Black Panthers are the single greatest threat to our national security. Our counterintelligence program must prevent the rise of a black messiah among their midst, one with the potential to unite Communists, the anti-war and the new left movements.” A photo of Hampton then appears on the giant projection screen, to make it clear that Hampton is now one of the FBI’s main targets.

Meanwhile, O’Neal is shown being a small-time car thief with an unusual method of operation: He impersonates a FBI agent (including having a fake badge) and pretends to arrest someone for having a stolen car. He looks for potential victims, by at least finding out their names and what kind of car they have, so the fake arrest can look real. And he chooses people who are probably into illegal activities and aren’t likely to go to the police when the theft victims find out they’ve been tricked. It’s implied that all of O’Neal’s theft victims are black, since he knows he’d have very little chance of getting away with this FBi impersonation stunt if he tried it on white people.

What usually happens during this fake FBI arrest is that O’Neal gets the handcuffed person’s car keys and steals that person’s car. Except when viewers first see O’Neal in this movie, that plan backfires in a bad way. O’Neal walks into a bar while some men are playing pool and tries to arrest one of them, but this stranger resists being handcuffed. The “arrestee” has a few friends who also try to stop the detainment. They’re all immediately suspicious of this “arrest” and chase after O’Neal in the car.

One of the friends jumps on the car roof with a knife and starts stabbing through the roof and ends up stabbing O’Neal. The injuries aren’t serious, but they’re enough for this car theft to be completely botched. O’Neal barely manages to get away from the angry group when he’s pulled over by police.

The movie then fast-forwards to O’Neal in a meeting with the FBI special agent who will be the one to lure O’Neal into the FBI sting: Roy Mitchell (played by Jesse Plemons), an ambitious smooth talker who asks O’Neal why he impersonated a FBI agent for a car theft. O’Neal replies, “A badge is scarier than a gun.”

Mitchell then asks O’Neal how he felt about the assassinations of MLK and Malcolm X. O’Neal replies that he was a “little bit” upset over MLK’s murder and he didn’t give much thought to Malcolm X’s murder. It’s at this point that Mitchell knows that O’Neal doesn’t care much about politics or the civil rights movement, and therefore O’Neal can be easily manipulated into being an informant.

First, Mitchell says that the only way that O’Neal can avoid prison is to work as an informant for the FBI. Whenever O’Neal starts to express doubts about being an informant (and this happens several times throughout the story), Mitchell tells O’Neal that the Black Panthers aren’t much different from the Ku Klux Klan, because Mitchell says both are radical, unpatriotic groups that want to divide people by their races and overthrow the U.S. government.

It doesn’t take long for O’Neal to infiltrate the Black Panther Party in Chicago and gain the trust of Hampton, who makes O’Neal the head of security. Hampton is a smart and magnetic leader who is respected by other party members because he often shows through words and deeds that the cause he’s fighting for isn’t about his ego but is about the people and future generations. Unlike other Black Power leaders, who wanted to keep black people separate from people of other races, Hampton embraced alliances with like-minded people of other races.

Hampton is credited with creating the Rainbow Coalition in 1969, which aimed to unite other anti-establishment groups for shared causes. It was a concept that was met with some resistance from the separatist Black Panthers, but because this is a movie, the Rainbow Coalition’s origins are a little too oversimplified and streamlined. One minute, Hampton and some other Black Panthers are showing up uninvited to meetings by the Young Patriots (a group of working-class white people) and the Young Lords (a group of Puerto Ricans) and making themselves known as unexpected allies. The next minute, Hampton is leading a Rainbow Coalition rally with members of the Black Panthers, the Young Patriots and the Young Lords in attendance.

The movie also shows how Hampton spearheaded the alignment of the Black Panthers with a Chicago-based African American gang called the Crowns, in order for the Black Panthers to have access to weapons and armed security backup. And what do you know, one of the Crowns just happens to be someone who was in that group that chased after O’Neal in that botched car theft. There’s a very “movie moment” when O’Neal is sure this guy is going to remember him, thereby making O’Neal more paranoid that his cover will be blown.

Some of the other Black Panther Party members who are featured in the movie include Jimmy Palmer (played by Ashton Sanders), Jake Winters (played by Algee Smith), Judy Harmon (played by Dominique Thorn) and Deborah Johnson (played by Dominique Fishback), a wide-eyed student who is in awe of Hampton and ends up becoming his girlfriend. In real life, Johnson is now known as Akua Njeri, and she gave birth to Fred Hampton Jr. in December 1969. Njeri and Hampton Jr. both were consultants on “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

Of course, in any movie that involves spying, there are double crosses and constant questions about loyalty, honesty and who can be trusted. The movie ramps up the tension not only outside the Black Panther Party but also within it. “Judas and the Black Messiah” also raises thought-provoking questions that will make people wonder about the prices that people pay for freedom, however freedom might be defined by individuals. And when there are informants or spies who are paid to betray, to what extent should they be branded as the “enemy”?

“Judas and the Black Messiah” has undoubtedly powerful performances by Kaluuya as Hampton and Stanfield as O’Neal. Kaluuya has the flashier role that will get more attention, mainly because there’s no ambiguity about his purpose in the film: depicting Hampton as a civil rights hero. In the few times Hampton was depicted in scripted projects before “Judas and the Black Messiah” was made, Hampton was usually a marginal character who didn’t have much depth, such as in the Netflix 2020 movie “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

In “Judas and the Black Messiah,” Hampton is a larger-than-life personality who gets the big speeches, the leadership position at rallies, and the martyrdom when he lands in prison at the height of his power. Hampton’s biggest showcase speech scene comes after he’s released from prison and gets a hero’s welcome during a Black Panther rally in Chicago. After leading the crowd to chant, “I am a revolutionary!” several times in the speech, he declares poetically: “You can murder a liberator, but you can’t murder liberation! You can murder a revolutionary, but you can’t murder a revolution! You can murder a freedom fighter, but you can’t murder freedom!”

Stanfield has the more difficult and nuanced role as the conflicted and duplicitous O’Neal. On the one hand, O’Neal knows he’s a traitor. On the other hand, O’Neal is portrayed as someone who genuinely became friends with many people in the Black Panther Party, but he felt powerless to stop the informant deal that he made with the FBI. There are times when O’Neal shows so much loyalty to the Black Panthers that FBI agent Mitchell doubts whose side O’Neal is really on.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” doesn’t let O’Neal completely off the hook for his betrayal, but the movie gives the impression that his decisions were not about the money but about his fear of going to prison if he didn’t comply with what the FBI wanted. In real life, O’Neal gave only one TV interview about his Black Panther/FBI informant experience. It was in 1989, in an interview for the PBS show “Eyes on the Prize 2,” which aired the interview on January 15, 1990. Clips of this interview are recreated in the movie.

The performances in “Judas and the Black Messiah” are impactful and deserving of high praise. Where the movie falters is in some of the scenarios depicting the interactions between O’Neal and his FBI contact Mitchell. In the movie, Mitchell deliberately kept O’Neal’s identity a secret from most his FBI colleagues. (Hoover knew though.) Therefore, it doesn’t make sense that the movie shows O’Neal and Mitchell openly meeting several times in upscale restaurants, where O’Neal is obviously the only black person there as a dining patron. It wouldn’t have been hard for the movie’s screenwriters to keep all of the meetings between O’Neal and Mitchell in less public places.

O’Neal’s wardrobe gets a little more stylish as he starts to make more money from the FBI. But in the beginning, O’Neal definitely stands out in these restaurants because he’s dressed inappropriately (too casual) for these kinds of dining establishments. If you were to believe this movie, in 1969 Chicago, a black man in “street clothes” can walk into an upscale restaurant where all the other patrons are white, sit down, have dinner with a white man in a suit, and no one notices, stares or questions why this inappropriately dressed black man is there. Things like that would’ve definitely gotten noticed in the real world. And this scenario is not exactly O’Neal and Mitchell keeping their relationship undercover or incognito.

Another “only in a movie” contrivance is in a scene where a despondent O’Neal ends up in a bar, where a woman shows a romantic interest in him after she rejects a fur-coat-wearing motormouth at a nearby barstool. The rejected man (played by Lil Rel Howery), who is identified only as Wayne in the movie’s end credits, is a stranger to O’Neal, but Wayne drops hints that he knows that O’Neal is working for the FBI.

O’Neal, who is already feeling very uneasy, follows Wayne out to Wayne’s car and demands to know who he is. The movie, with anxiety-filled music building to a crescendo, then has Wayne reveal something that’s meant to shock O’Neal and the audience. It’s highly doubtful this confrontation ever happened in real life, but fans of the Oscar-winning 2017 horror movie “Get Out” will be happy to see “Get Out” co-stars Kaluuya, Stanfield and Howery reunited as cast members for “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

As the only women with significant speaking roles in the movie, Fishback (as Hampton’s girlfriend Johnson) and Thorne (as Black Panther member Harmon) show considerable talent, although this is definitely a male-dominated film. Johnson’s character evolves from being a star-stuck fangirl of Hampton to being a loyal romantic partner to being a strong-willed expectant mother, who can’t help but feel impending heartbreak and doom when she hears Hampton give a speech saying that he will probably die for his people. Thorne’s Harmon is a badass who can get down and dirty in fight scenes just like the men do, such as in a tension-filled shootout between the Chicago Police Department and the Black Panthers.

The flaws in the movie’s screenplay are outweighed by the significant talent of the cast members and the ability of director King to maintain a suspenseful edge. Even though many people watching this movie might already know what happened to Hampton and O’Neal in real life, “Judas and the Black Messiah” triumphs in capturing the essence of this era of the civil rights movement in America. There might be fabricated “only in a movie” moments, but the film authentically conveys the passion and necessity for civil rights.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “Judas and the Black Messiah” in U.S. cinemas and on HBO Max on February 12, 2021.

Review: ‘MLK/FBI,’ starring Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young, Clarence Jones, Beverly Gage, Donna Murch and David Garrow

January 18, 2021

by Carla Hay

Martin Luther King Jr. in “MLK/FBI” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)


Directed by Sam Pollard

Culture Representation: The documentary “MLK/FBI” features an American group of white and black scholars, authors, civil rights activists and law enforcement officials commenting on American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. being a target of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), led by J. Edgar Hoover, when King was at the height of his power in the 1960s.

Culture Clash: King’s civil rights activism and vocal opposition to the Vietnam War angered high-ranking U.S. government officials, who labeled him as an enemy.

Culture Audience: “MLK/FBI” will appeal primarily to people interested in King’s legacy, the history of U.S. civil rights and reports involving government conspiracies.

Martin Luther King Jr. (speaking at podium) in “MLK/FBI” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

The riveting documentary “MLK/FBI” gives a clear and precise presentation of how the FBI targeted civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. King, who was also a Baptist minister, was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39. It isn’t a secret that the FBI, under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, had intense surveillance of King and plotted to dig up scandalous information on him, in order to disgrace King and take away his power. The FBI documents detailing this surveillance have been declassified and are available for public viewing. What “MLK/FBI” (directed by Sam Pollard) does notably is provide an important historical context of what was going on in King’s life that escalated the FBI’s scrutiny of him.

“MLK/FBI” immerses viewers into King’s civil rights years by having almost nothing but archival footage from this era. The only exception is toward the end of the documentary, when several of the commentators who are interviewed or shown on camera during the last 10 minutes of this 106-minute film. Prior to being shown on screen, the commentators are only heard in voiceovers.

Many documentaries fall into a trap of interviewing too many people, which can often overstuff a documentary and make it too messy and unfocused. Instead, “MLK/FBI” wisely took a “less is more” approach. Only eight people are interviewed in the documentary. They are:

  • James Comey, FBI director from 2013 to 2017
  • Beverly Gage, Yale University history professor and author of “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the American Century”
  • David Garrow, author of “The FBI and Martin Luther King Jr.: From ‘Solo’ to Memphis” (which is the basis of the “MLK/FBI” documentary) and “Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference”
  • Clarence Jones, attorney and former speechwriter who worked with King
  • Charles Knox, retired FBI special agent in counterintelligence
  • Donna Murch, Rutgers University history professor and author of “Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California”
  • Marc Perrusquia, journalist for the Memphis-based newspaper The Commercial Appeal
  • Andrew Young, civil rights activist and former politician who was executive director of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) from 1964 to 1969. King was the first president of SCLC, which was launched in 1957.

All of them except for Perrusquia and Comey (who doesn’t say much in the movie) appear on camera at the end of the documentary. But what they all have to say confirms that by the time that King was murdered, the FBI had labeled him a menace to society and he lost the support of U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ). In addition to King’s political activities making him a target of the FBI, his marital infidelities became the focus of a smear campaign to ruin his credibility as a moral leader.

It’s already been widely reported that the FBI’s plan, according to declassified documents, was to expose salacious details about King’s sex life. The FBI audio recorded many of his trysts with women by spying in hotels and various other places, and placing recording devices in the rooms where King was staying. King and many of his close associates had their homes “bugged” with surveillance devices, and their phones were wiretapped.

The documentary mentions that in 1977, the FBI was ordered to turn over the surveillance tapes to the National Archives. These sealed recordings can be unsealed and released to the public in 2027. While retired FBI agent Knox says in the “MLK/FBI” documentary that no good come from releasing the tapes, most of the other pundits in the documentary say that it’s in the public’s best interest to know what’s on the tapes.

There’s no doubt very explicit sexual content on the tapes, and it’s been public knowledge for decades that King cheated on his wife Coretta. But aside from the sexual content, the curiosity about the tapes has a lot to do with how far the FBI went in trying to bring down King and ruin him. Who was worse in the failings of morality and ethics? The FBI or King?

“MLK/FBI” also mentions a disturbing allegation noted in the FBI surveillance documents: During an alleged sex orgy, King allegedly stood by and laughed while witnessing an unnamed Baltimore minister rape a woman. However, Murch, Gage and some of the other documentary pundits point out that what the FBI agents reported should get some level of scrutiny and skepticism, since the FBI agents who were spying on King were rewarded for digging up the nastiest dirt possible on King. Therefore, it’s likely that some FBI agents might have been motivated to exaggerate or fabricate information that was put in the written documents.

It’s not a mystery why King became a target of the FBI. Gage comments: “The FBI was most alarmed about King because of his success. And they were particularly concerned that he was this powerful, charismatic figure who had the power to mobilize people.” Murch adds that civil rights leaders are often seen as heroes by the general public but are branded as “troublemakers” or “threats” by law enforcement: “When you look at the social movements from the point of view of the FBI, it looks very different … J. Edgar Hoover is famous for saying that he feared a black Messiah.”

Young and Jones, the close confidants of King who are interviewed in “MLK/FBI,” both say that the U.S. government underestimated King and then eventually began to fear him. King advocated for a non-violent civil rights movement, in keeping with his Christian faith. It’s a philosophy that not everyone agreed with (such as the Black Panthers and other left-wing groups) because these critics of King’s non-violent approach felt that the use of violent force was necessary to get things done.

Young comments on being involved in a grassroots movement for social change where King told activists not to use weapons and to treat their oppressors with kindness: “He let us accept the fact that what we were doing was insane … We were trusting in the power of God, and only crazy kind of people of faith would be willing to put their lives on the line and trust in God.”

What wasn’t crazy was Jones’ paranoia that King and his closest associates were under FBI surveillance. Jones found out that his own home was “bugged” and wiretapped when his wife told him about men who came to their house while Jones was away. These men claimed to be phone company employees who were ordered by Jones to work on the house’s phones.

However, what the men said was a lie because Jones made no such request. Jones says that King didn’t believe at first that the FBI would go to the trouble of spying on King. However, King got a rude awakening when the FBI sent sexually explicit recordings of his infidelities to King and his wife, with a cruel note saying that King should kill himself.

According to the documentary, the FBI also leaked some of these sex recordings to the media when King was alive, but the media refused to report these scandalous details, much to the annoyance of Hoover. Ironically, Hoover had his own sexual proclivities that he wanted to keep secret from the public. The documentary alludes to Hoover’s reported homosexuality (without mentioning that he was also a cross-dresser in private), but doesn’t sink into tabloid territory by going into tawdry details, since the movie is about King, not Hoover’s private life.

However, the documentary repeatedly names Hoover (who founded the FBI and was the FBI’s leader from 1935 to 1972) and William C. Sullivan (who was FBI director of domestic intelligence operations from 1961 to 1971) as the chief instigators of the campaign to ruin King’s life. According to Jones, the FBI under Hoover’s leadership had this attitude toward King: “We must mark him now as the most dangerous Negro in the future of this nation.”

King’s close friendship with attorney/accountant Stanley Levison, who got to know King through Jones, also made King a target of Hoover’s Communist-hating FBI because Levison was a known Communist associate. As Garrow explains it in the documentary, the FBI went to then-U.S. attorney general Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) and then-U.S. president John F. Kennedy Jr. (JFK) to warn the two brothers about King’s ties to Levison. RFK then advised King to distance himself from Levison, and King agreed.

But in reality, the FBI found out through surveillance that King still secretly kept in touch with Levison. The FBI took this information back to RFK as “proof” that King couldn’t be trusted. RFK then authorized the wiretaps of King. But what started out as surveillance of King as a perceived “Communist threat” turned into something much more personal when the FBI discovered that King was a serial cheater in his marriage.

The FBI surveillance wasn’t the only way that the FBI dug up dirt on King. The FBI also paid informants who were either part of King’s inner circle or had regular close access to King. It’s explained that because FBI agents at the time were almost all white men who couldn’t go undercover as black people, the FBI used black people as informants to get other inside information on King. Two of the African American informants named in the documentary are photojournalist Ernest Withers and SCLC comptroller Jim Harrison. None of this is new information, since it was reported decades ago.

The documentary also chronicles how the FBI’s vendetta against King went public when Hoover ignited a feud with King in 1964, when he told reporters at a press conference in Washington, D.C., that King was “the most notorious liar in the country.” King then offered to meet with Hoover to try to sort out their differences. That closed-door meeting, which was the first and only time that King and Hoover met in person, was described as “very friendly” by King in the documentary’s archival footage of King being surrounded by reporters after coming out of the meeting.

However “friendly” that meeting might have been, it didn’t stop the FBI surveillance, and King continued to speak out and protest against racial injustice. And he also took up the cause of the anti-Vietnam War movement. LBJ was King’s ally until King began speaking out against the Vietnam War.

It’s pointed out in the documentary that in 1965, King had abided by LBJ’s request to stay publicly silent about the Vietnam War. King heeded that request until 1967, when he saw a photo spread in Ramparts magazine that had graphically gruesome photos of Vietnamese people (particularly children) who were bombing victims in the war. Footage of King’s famous 1967 anti-Vietnam War speech at Riverside Church in New York City is included in the documentary.

King was assassinated shortly after he announced the Poor People’s Campaign protests to march near government buildings and demand more resources for financially disadvantaged people. A longtime criminal named James Earl Ray was arrested and convicted of the murder, but some of the documentary’s pundits imply that Ray was not someone who acted alone to plan this heinous crime.

In addition to a wealth of archival visual footage (which naturally includes King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington), “MLK/FBI” also includes snippets of audio recordings that were secret at the time. There’s an undated audio clip of a conversation between LBJ and an unidentified FBI agent. In the conversation, LBJ says he’s being pressured to attend a dinner in New York with King, and he wonders if he should still go. The FBI agent advises LBJ not to attend the dinner. (The clip doesn’t say which dinner this was, so viewers won’t know if LBJ actually did attend or not.)

For some added pop-culture context, “MLK/FBI” also includes clips from the 1959 movie “The FBI Story” (starring James Stewart as a loyal FBI agent) and the 1948 film “Walk a Crooked Mile,” starring Dennis O’Keefe as a crusading FBI agent who teams up with a Scotland Yard detective to track down Communists. These clips are used in “MLK/FBI” to contrast the heroic images of FBI agents in entertainment media with the sinister reality of what the FBI was doing behind the scenes to King.

Several of the people interviewed in “MLK/FBI” say that the real motive to make King a target of FBI surveillance wasn’t because he was a threat to U.S. democracy but because he was a threat to white supremacy. After all, King preached non-violence and he was definitely not a Communist. King’s colleague Young says in the documentary: “In a very emotional and volatile environment, it was very important for us to come across as reasonable, sane and patriotic—because we were. We just wanted America to be what America said it was supposed to be.” Tragically, King was murdered for these beliefs, but his civil rights legacy continues to live on.

IFC Films released “MLK/FBI” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on January 15, 2021.

2018 TV Upfronts: CBS announces 2018-2019 schedule; see photos and videos

May 16, 2018

by Carla Hay

Damon Wayans Jr., Amber Stevens West and Felix Mallard in “Happy Together” (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS)

CBS officially announced its 2018-2019 schedule during the network’s upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall in New York City on May 16, 2018. Most of the existing shows had previously been announced as renewed. However, the upfront presentation made it official that the following shows have been cancelled: “Kevin Can Wait,” “Wisdom of the Crowd,” “Superior Donuts,” “Me, Myself & I,” “9JKL” and “Code Black.”

New scripted shows include “FBI,” “The Neighborhood,” “Fam,”  “The Red Line,” “The Code” Some of actors starring in these shows are known for starring in past long-running hit shows. “The Neighborhood” co-stars Cedric the Entertainer and Tichina Arnold previously starred in “The Soul Man” and “Martin, ” respectively. Nina Dobrev (“Fam”) is a former star of “The Vampire Diaries.” “The Red Line” star Noah Wylie is best known for being an alum of “ER.” Damon Wayans Jr.  of “Happy Together” previously starred in “Happy Endings.”

CBS will have two reboots of TV series from the 1980s: “Magnum P.I.” will have a new cast, including Jay Hernandez as the title character. Meanwhile, “Murphy Brown” is returning with mostly the same cast, including title character Candice Bergen.

Please note that shows picked up but not listed on the schedule below will debut at other times in the 2018-2019 season. They include new shows “The Red Line,” “The Code” and “Fam” and renewed shows “Life in Pieces,” “Instinct,” “Elementary,” “Man With a Plan,” “The Amazing Race” and “Celebrity Big Brother.” Season premiere dates for all of these shows are to be announced.

The following is an excerpt from a CBS press release:


All times listed are Eastern/Pacific Time.


8-8:30 p.m.   “The Neighborhood”
8:30-9 p.m.   “Happy Together”
9-10 p.m.        “Magnum P.I.”
10-11 p.m.       “Bull”


8-9 p.m.        “NCIS”
9-10 p.m.      “FBI”
10-11 p.m.     “NCIS New Orleans”


8-9 p.m.        “Survivor”
9-10 p.m.      “SEAL Team”
10-11 p.m.     “Criminal Minds”


8-8:30 p.m.   “The Big Bang Theory”
8:30-9 p.m.   “Young Sheldon”
9-9:30 p.m.   “Mom”
9:30-10 p.m. “Murphy Brown”
10-11 p.m.       “S.W.A.T.”


8-9 p.m.        “MacGyver”
9-10 p.m.      “Hawaii Five-O”
10-11 p.m.     “Blue Bloods”


8-9 p.m.        Crimetime Saturday
9-10 p.m.      Crimetime Saturday
10-11 p.m.     “48 Hours”


7-8 p.m.       “60 Minutes”
8-9 p.m.      “God Friended Me”
9-10 p.m.     “NCIS: Los Angeles”
10-11 p.m.    “Madam Secretary”



Zeeko Zaki and Missy Peregrym in “FBI” (Photo by Michael Parmelee/CBS)

From Emmy Award winner Dick Wolf and the team behind the “Law & Order” franchise, “FBI” is a fast-paced drama about the inner workings of the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These first-class agents bring all their talents, intellect and technical expertise to tenaciously investigate cases of tremendous magnitude, including terrorism, organized crime and counterintelligence, in order to keep New York and the country safe. Craig Turk, Dick Wolf, Arthur W. Forney, Peter Jankowski and Niels Arden Oplev (pilot only) are executive producers for Universal Television in association with CBS Television Studios. Oplev directed the pilot from a story by Wolf and Turk, and a script by Turk.

“FBI” stars Missy Peregrym as Maggie Bell, Zeeko Zaki as Omar Adom “OA” Zidan, Jeremy Sisto as Jubal Valentine, and Ebonée Noel as Kristen Chazal.


Brandon Micheal Hall and Violett Beane in “God Friended Me” (Photo by Jonathan Wenk/CBS)

“God Friended Me” stars Brandon Micheal Hall in a humorous, uplifting drama about Miles Finer (Hall), an outspoken atheist whose life is turned upside down when he receives a friend request on social media from God and unwittingly becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him. After repeated pokes by God, Miles’ curiosity takes over, and he accepts the ultimate friend request and follows the signs to Cara Bloom (Violett Beane), an online journalist. Brought together by the “God Account,” the two find themselves investigating God’s friend suggestions and inadvertently helping others in need. Miles is set on getting to the bottom of what he believes is an elaborate hoax, but in the meantime he’ll play along and, in the process, change his life forever. Steven Lilien & Bryan Wynbrandt, Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter and Marcos Siega are executive producers for Warner Bros. Television and CBS Television Studios. Siega directed the pilot from a script by Lilien & Wynbrandt.

“God Friended Me” stars Brandon Micheal Hall as Miles Finer, Violett Beane as Cara Bloom, Suraj Sharma as Rakesh Singh, Javicia Leslie as Ali Finer and Joe Morton as Reverend Arthur Finer.


(Image courtesy of CBS)

“The Code” is a drama about the military’s brightest minds who take on our country’s toughest legal challenges, inside the courtroom and out, in the only law office in the world where every attorney is trained as a prosecutor, a defense lawyer, an investigator – and a Marine. Operating out of Judge Advocate General Headquarters in Quantico, these active-duty Marines are attorneys who have chosen to serve their country in pursuit of military justice at home and abroad. Craig Sweeny, Marc Webb, Carl Beverly, Sarah Timberman and Craig Turk are executive producers for CBS Television Studios. Webb directed the pilot from a teleplay by Sweeny, and story by Sweeny and Turk.

“The Code” stars Anna Wood as Major Maya Dobbins, Ato Essandoh as Major Trey Ferry, Phillipa Soo as Lt. Harper Rein and Raffi Barsoumian as Warrant Officer Rami Ahmadi.


Jay Hernandez in “Magnum P.I.” (Photo by Karen Neal/CBS)

“Magnum P.I.” is a modern take on the classic series starring Jay Hernandez as Thomas Magnum, a decorated former Navy SEAL who, upon returning home from Afghanistan, repurposes his military skills to become a private investigator. A charming rogue, an American hero and a die-hard Detroit Tigers fan, Magnum has Juliet Higgins and her Dobermans to keep him in line, as well as his trusted buddies and fellow POW survivors TC and Rick when he needs back-up on a job. With keys to a vintage Ferrari in one hand, aviator sunglasses in the other, and an Old Düsseldorf longneck chilling in the fridge, Thomas Magnum is back on the case! Peter Lenkov, Eric Guggenheim, Justin Lin, John Davis, John Fox and Danielle Woodrow are executive producers for CBS Television Studios in association with Universal Television. Lin directed the pilot from a script by Lenkov and Guggenheim.

“Magnum P.I.” stars Jay Hernandez as Thomas Magnum, Perdita Weeks as Juliet Higgins, Zachary Knighton as Orville “Rick” Wright and Stephen Hill as Theodore “TC” Calvin.


Noah Wyle and Aliyah Royale in “The Red Line” (Photo by Elizabeth Morris/CBS)

From acclaimed producers Ava DuVernay and Greg Berlanti, “The Red Line” is a drama that follows the lives of three vastly different Chicago families whose stories of loss and tragedy intersect in the wake of the mistaken shooting of an African American doctor by a white cop. As the stories of the Calder, Young and Evans families crisscross and converge, a message of hope appears – it’s possible to emerge from tragedy stronger, and it’s important to come together with others, not just to survive, but to thrive. Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominee Ava DuVernay, Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter are executive producers, and Caitlin Parrish and Erica Weiss are co-executive producers for Warner Bros. Television and CBS Television Studios. Victoria Mahoney directed the pilot from a script by Parrish and Weiss.

“The Red Line” stars Noah Wyle as Daniel Calder, Emayatzy Corinealdi as Tia Young, Aliyah Royale as Jira Calder-Brennan, Noel Fisher as Paul Evans, Howard Charles as Ethan Young, Elizabeth Laidlaw as Vic Renna, Vinny Chhibber as Liam Bhatt and Michael Patrick Thornton as Jim Evans.



Felix Mallard, Amber Stevens West and Damon Wayans Jr. in “Happy Together” (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS)

“Happy Together” stars Damon Wayans Jr. and Amber Stevens West in a comedy about a 30-something happily married couple who begin to reconnect with their younger, cooler selves when Cooper (Felix Mallard), an exuberant young pop star drawn to their super-ordinary suburban life, unexpectedly moves in with them. Austen Earl, Tim McAuliffe, Ben Winston, Harry Styles, Michael Rotenberg and Jonathan Berry are executive producers for CBS Television Studios. Phill Lewis directed the pilot from a script by McAuliffe and Earl.

“Happy Together” stars Damon Wayans Jr. as Jake, Amber Stevens West as Claire, Felix Mallard as Cooper James, Stephnie Weir as Bonnie and Chris Parnell as Wayne.


Sheaun McKinney and Cedric the Entertainer in “The Neighborhood” (Photo by Monty Brinto/CBS)

“The Neighborhood” stars Cedric the Entertainer as an opinionated neighbor in a comedy about what happens when the friendliest guy in the Midwest moves his family to a neighborhood in Los Angeles where not everyone looks like him or appreciates his extreme neighborliness. When Dave Johnson (Max Greenfield) and his family arrive from Michigan, they’re unfazed that their new dream home is located in a community quite different from their small town. However, their opinionated next-door neighbor, Calvin Butler (Cedric the Entertainer), is wary of the newcomers, certain that they’ll disrupt the culture on the block. Dave realizes that fitting into their new community is more complex than he expected, but if he can find a way to connect with Calvin, they have an excellent chance of making their new neighborhood their home. Jim Reynolds, Aaron Kaplan, Dana Honor (Kapital Entertainment), Wendi Trilling, Cedric the Entertainer, Eric Rhone and James Burrows (pilot) are executive producers for CBS Television Studios. Burrows directed the pilot from a script by Reynolds.

“The Neighborhood” stars Cedric the Entertainer as Calvin, Max Greenfield as Dave, Sheaun McKinney as Malcolm, Tichina Arnold as Tina, Dreama Walker as Gemma, Marcel Spears as Marty and Hank Greenspan as Grover.


Tone Bell and Nina Dobrev in “Fam” (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS)

“Fam” stars Nina Dobrev and Tone Bell in a comedy about a woman whose vision of a perfect life with her adoring fiancé and his wonderful parents is radically altered when her 16-year-old, out-of-control half-sister unexpectedly comes to live with her. As the family Clem (Dobrev) chose and the family she has blend, Clem realizes that this new happy fam may be the perfection she’s always been seeking. Corinne Kingsbury, Bob Kushell, Aaron Kaplan, Wendi Trilling, Dana Honor and Scott Ellis (pilot only) are executive producers for CBS Television Studios in association with Kapital Entertainment. Ellis directed the pilot from a script by Kingsbury.

“Fam” stars Nina Dobrev as Clem, Tone Bell as Nick, Odessa Adlon as Shannon, Brian Stokes Mitchell as Walt and Sheryl Lee Ralph as Rose.


Multiple Emmy Award winners Candice Bergen and series creator Diane English reunite for “Murphy Brown,” the revival of the groundbreaking comedy about the eponymous broadcast news legend and her biting take on current events, now in a world of 24-hour cable, social media, “fake news” and a vastly different political climate. Amid a divided nation, chaotic national discourse and rampant attacks on the press, Murphy returns to the airwaves with her original FYI team: lifestyle reporter Corky Sherwood, investigative journalist Frank Fontana and producer Miles Silverberg. Murphy’s son, Avery, shares his mother’s competitive spirit and quick wit, and has followed in her journalistic footsteps – perhaps too closely. Now back in the game, Murphy is determined to draw the line between good television and honest reporting, proving that the world needs Murphy Brown now more than ever. Diane English returns as executive producer with Candice Bergen for Bend in the Road Productions, Inc., in association with Warner Bros. Television. English created the series. Pamela Fryman will direct the pilot from a script by English.

“Murphy Brown” stars Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown, Faith Ford as Corky Sherwood, Joe Regalbuto as Frank Fontana, Grant Shaud as Miles Silverberg, Jake McDorman as Avery, Tyne Daly as Phyllis and Nik Dodani as Pat Patel.

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