Watch: Sneak peek of "The Comey Rule" released, Showtime's bid to shake up the presidential election

A trailer has been released by Showtime for the upcoming docudrama adapted from James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty. It’s titled The Comey Rule. The sneak preview is dark and ominous, declaring that no matter which side you are on, you only know one side of the story.

Dramatic, right? It is a four-hour mini-series that will air on September 27 and 28. Originally, Showtime scheduled the limited series to air after the presidential election in November but, because of the pushback from those involved – the actors and the filmmaker – the release has been pushed up. What’s the point of a hit piece against President Trump if it comes after the election happens? This is the description used in a piece on the production when I wrote about it in June:

According to Showtime, the series is an immersive, behind-the-headlines account of the historically turbulent events surrounding the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, which divided a nation. It’s not a biopic, but is instead the story of two powerful figures, Comey and Trump, whose strikingly different personalities, ethics and loyalties put them on a collision course. It’s described as an insider’s journey down the corridors of power, where decision-makers struggle to apply old norms to a dramatic new paradigm in the face of Russia’s deep and unprecedented penetration into American politics, with our nation’s rule of law hanging in the balance. Each character’s actions in these historic months made the careers of some, destroyed the careers of others and helped shape the incendiary political landscape we live in today. Part one of the series examines the earliest days of the Russia investigation, the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and their impact on Election Night 2016, when Donald Trump stunned the world and was elected president. Part two is a virtual day-by-day account of the tempestuous relationship between Comey and Trump and the intense and chaotic first months of the Trump presidency – where allies became enemies, enemies became friends and truth depended on what side you were on.

Who’s ready for some more of Russia, Russia, Russia, and Hillary’s emails? I can’t stop rolling my eyes when I read the bit about the comparison between Trump’s ethics and Comey’s. Comey managed to tick off both sides of the political aisle in order to manipulate the 2016 presidential election by allowing the FBI to become a political arm of Trump’s opponents, especially among creatures of the swamp. Comey got a sweet book deal when he tried to rehabilitate his reputation and now he’ll rake in some more money from the liberal cable network Showtime. Painting the president in the worst possible light will be priority one.

So, you can understand why the anti-Trumpers on this project were upset that Showtime first scheduled this for after the election. The goal is to stir things up and do the bidding of his opponent. Both Jeff Daniels, who plays Comey, and Brendan Gleeson, who plays President Donald Trump, are Democrat activists. Daniels even changed up his working schedule so that he could participate in this hit piece. When filmmaker Billy Ray learned of the original air date he launched a protest. Showtime caved.

“We all were hoping to get this story in front of the American people months before the coming election,” read Ray’s protest letter, according to Deadline. “And that was a reasonable expectation considering that we’d been given a mandate by the network to do whatever was necessary to deliver by May 15. But at some point in March or April, that mandate changed. Word started drifting back to me that a decision about our airdate had been made at the very highest levels of Viacom: all talk of our airing before the election was suddenly a ‘non-starter.’ I and my fellow producers asked for a chance to plead our case on the matter, but we were told that even the discussion itself was a ‘non-starter’ … Why? I don’t know. The health of a media company depends on attracting audiences — and our movie, aired in August of an election year, would have been very big news. Can you imagine the billboards? Comey Vs. Trump! A cast loaded with Emmy winners! Yet here we are….”

Ultimately, of course, Ray prevailed and the date was changed.

It is being referred to as “activistic filmmaking”. Though some concerns by reviewers are voiced over the fact that Trump’s first term isn’t even finished yet and here comes the books and adaptations meant to affect his re-election bid, the purpose of the two-night series. Comparisons are being made to other political thrillers like All the President’s Men and W.

From a purely artistic standpoint, I’m not entirely sure we get the best pieces of political filmmaking when they’re produced so closely to the thing that’s actually happening (see: Oliver Stone‘s W.). In this case, Trump hasn’t even finished his first term, and we’re already fictionalizing his first term. How can we know what it means in a broader context so we know what to say about it? Then again, Trump’s presidency knows no precedents, and Ray’s purpose of urgent activistic filmmaking is both palpable and contagious. The trailer gives me shades of popcorn-political thrillers of the ’90s, and of the maestro of “important people saying mean things quickly” Aaron Sorkin. Plus, All the President’s Men was only released two years after President Nixon’s resignation. I’ll be watching this thing — and I imagine Ray hopes many potential voters will be, too.

There is no mystery here. The Hollywood reviews will be gushing and critics will do their best to applaud the man that neither side of the aisle respect, just to muddy the waters before the presidential election. Comey can write as many books as he can get deals for but his reputation is forever slimed and the destruction he brought upon the FBI will take decades to undo.

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Jazz Shaw 5:01 PM on March 22, 2023