Another story ready for prime sleaze time

DAN RODRICKS

August 10, 1993|By DAN RODRICKS

Not long ago, I received a call from a savvy young man who said he was in Los Angeles, employed as a "development associate" with a television network and cruising for ideas for made-for-TV movies.

What could I offer the guy? All those movies -- serial killers, spousal abusers, child abusers, disaster survivors, medical miracles, women in trouble -- have been done, haven't they?

Didn't one of the networks just air a movie about women who posed for Playboy?

In the last made-for-TV movie I saw, Veronica Hamel, formerly the hot public defender from "Hill Street Blues," killed a guy in a motel room. I don't know why she killed him -- I had the sound turned down -- but I'll bet the guy was a stalker.

I saw some movie about a woman who loved Elvis, starring Roseanne Arnold, and when it wasn't boring it was dreadful.

I watched all of "Lonesome Dove" and, before that, "Roots." I watched "The Thornbirds," but only the parts with Rachel Ward.

And I really liked Robert Conrad as G. Gordon Liddy.

Beyond that, I haven't seen too many made-for-TV movies, under the general assumption that 99 percent of them stink. And most seem to be concerned with the bleak side of life. (Who needs it in prime time when there's so much on the 11 o'clock news?) In one week in 1991, ABC had a mother poison her husband and daughter, CBS had a brother shoot his brother, and NBC had a nurse kill a baby.

Asked to name the worst he ever saw, Michael Hill, long-time television critic for The Evening Sun and now The Sun's correspondent in South Africa, thought long and hard and came up with a four-star stinker entitled, "Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery."

Made-for-TV movies? We're talking Joey Buttafuoco -- on all three networks.

And yet, millions of people watch them. That's why the networks keep producing them.

The young "development associate" who called me from Los Angeles insisted that his production outfit was looking for made-for-TV movies that had "a positive social message." His group, at least, was interested in stepping to a higher ground.

Enter Ron Price.

I guess not every Hollywood producer wants to get nose bleed stepping to higher ground.

Price is the Anne Arundel County teacher who has been accused of having had sex with students and who has admitted, almost everywhere except in court, to seven liaisons with students over 20 years at Northeast High.

Officially, Price is charged with sexually abusing three female students.

Unofficially, he should be charged with being a public nuisance.

He already has done "Geraldo" and "A Current Affair." He's given interviews to newspapers and TV stations. And while you might laugh at the idea that a Hollywood producer would be interested in Price's story for prime time, it's no joke. Someone has actually paid for the option to sell Price's life story to a movie producer.

You can bet it's not all of Ron Price's 49 years Hollywood will be interested in. The part most likely to be covered in a movie would be the 20 years Price spent ducking in and out of storage rooms at Northeast.

Socially redeeming?

I guess the movie would have some value if it examined how Price got away with having sex with students for so long -- whom in authority knew what and when. Otherwise, it's just more pulp.

The attorney general of Maryland, Joe Curran, went to court to try to keep Price from selling his story on the noble premise that a criminal should not be allowed to profit from his crimes.

Two things wrong here: Price has not been convicted of anything yet, and no matter how sleazy the whole thing is, the man has a constitutional right to sell/tell his story. Hard as it is to stomach, in this country anyone, even someone depicted as a Teacher From Hell, can hustle his story to anyone willing to pay for it.

Amazing. There I was, on the phone with Los Angeles, scratching my head to come up with a unique idea for a made-for-TV movie, when Ron Price had already cut his deal. He's no dummy. The man knows the genre. He knows he's a walking made-for-TV movie. He knows what the public wants. He knows that his tale is ready for prime time.

Sure, it's disgusting. Sure, it's revolting. So don't watch.

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