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Moore&#39;s <I>Awful Truth</I> Series Set Bows April 29

11 Apr, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

Even though Michael Moore's controversial Bowling for Columbine is on indefinite hold for a video release date, dealers need not send their customers away empty-handed: New Video's Docurama label is releasing Moore's equally controversial TV series “The Awful Truth” in a four-disc DVD set April 29 ($69.95).

“We started planning it last summer, but we had seen Bowling for Columbine and knew it was going to be huge,” said Susan Margolin, COO of New Video. “We never dreamed that he would be the hot topic at the water cooler, which he has been since the Oscars.”

Moore also is celebrating what some see as a cynical play for the spotlight: the backlash from his criticism of the Bush administration at this year's Academy Awards ceremony.

“In the week after the Oscars, my Web site was getting 10 million to 20 million hits a day -- one day we even got more hits than the White House! The mail has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive (and the hate mail has been hilarious!),” Moore wrote in his April 7 e-mail newsletter. “In the two days following the Oscars, more people preordered the video for Bowling for Columbine on Amazon.com than the video for the Oscar winner for best picture, Chicago. In the past week, I have obtained funding for my next documentary, and I have been offered a slot back on television to do an updated version of ‘TV Nation'/‘The Awful Truth.’

A handful of independent rental dealers posting comments to the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) discussion board the day after the Oscar ceremony threatened to boycott Columbine because of Moore's remarks -- a hollow threat in any case, since MGM postponed the home video release indefinitely -- but at least one poster mentioned that 20 customers who had never before heard of Moore marched into his store that day and asked to rent the film.

Fans of “The Awful Truth” would love to see the series revived. Typical of Moore's style, each half-hour episode features two or three segments with Moore and cohorts confronting public officials, corporate execs and self-appointed spokespersons with what he (and often others) see as the folly of their ways.

“He's taking issues that are real to so many people's lives and making a point,” Margolin said. “The thing about the subjects in ‘The Awful Truth' is that they are not really time-sensitive. They are issues about treatment of employees and politicians, and kind of timeless issues. He's dealing with certain specific situations that speak to the broader problems.”

For the second-season DVD release (included in the set), Moore did a commentary that reveals what was happening behind the scenes on four of his favorite episodes -- things like what it took to get into a particular building or how events in the show unfolded. Other included extras are Lenny “The Bookie” odds not featured in the original episodes, “Moore” Awful Truths and a Moore biography.

“Michael came into the session and sat down and basically talked for three hours nonstop. His commentary was hysterical, in some ways more entertaining than what you were seeing on the shows at the moment,” Margolin said.

One thing not mentioned in the commentary is that Moore got the idea for Bowling for Columbine when he was making the first two seasons of “The Awful Truth,” which was in broadcast release when the Columbine High School tragedy took place. He waited for some of the emotional wounds to heal before tackling what became Bowling for Columbine.

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