Some people in television have no shame. And a lot of them seem to work for cable's USA Network.
There's proof month after month in USA's sleazy-but-successful lineup of original TV movies. But sometimes USA even outdoes itself.
On Wednesday, USA presents Melody Anderson and James Kelly in "Marilyn & Bobby: Her Final Affair," a fiction about Robert F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe based in quasi-fact.
Most of the 100 or so critics attending the annual summer press tour in Los Angeles had gotten used to USA's trashy TV dramas.
Many critics even enjoyed, in a camp kind of way, USA programming executive David Kenin's presentation, in which story lines for upcoming movies drew unexpected laughter.
Just listen to some of the movies Kenin--who tried to keep a straight face but couldn't--had to plug:
-- Praying Mantis, starring Jane Seymour and Barry Bostwick, in which a femme fatale who marries her victims and murders them on their wedding night moves into a small town and attracts the attention of an unsuspecting bookstore owner. (Aug. 11)
-- Rubdown with Michelle Phillips, Jack Coleman, William Devane and Catherine Oxenberg, a tale about a Beverly Hills masseur who has an affair with one of his clients and ends up framed for murder. (Sept. 15)
-- The Substitute with Amanda Donahoe and, as Kenin put it, "that lovable Marky Mark" in a thriller about "a deranged teacher who seduces a high school senior into a one-night stand that leads to murder." (Sept. 22)
-- The Cover Girl Murders with Jennifer O'Neill, Beverly Johnson and Lee Majors in a film about six gorgeous models on a tropical island for a sports swimsuit magazine shoot who end up stranded and stalked by a killer. (Oct. 27)
In other words, Kenin said, cutting some of his own pitches short when critics began to laugh out loud, "bad things happen" to people in USA Network movies.
Bad things certainly happened at the interview session for "Marilyn & Bobby," featuring Anderson and Kelly and executive producer Barry Weitz.
"About the kindest word I can think of for this show is reprehensible," a reporter told Weitz, kicking off the news conference. "And I wonder how you can justify doing a telemovie about an affair for which there isn't a shred of evidence?"
"There is evidence that the two people knew each other, that they spent time with one another, that Bobby helped Marilyn through some very bad times," Weitz responded. "And I'm assuming that you saw the film and saw the beginning of it, where we say that this is based on fiction and the public lives of Marilyn and Bobby. We feel we covered that and tried to create an interesting fiction around their two lives."
There is no evidence, he admitted, that Bobby was in the room as Marilyn lay dying, as this movie shows, though Weitz said, "We have information that he was in L.A. at that time, (contrary) to a lot of information saying that he wasn't."
Many of Weitz's explanations followed a similar tack--that there was some fact in the fiction and that he didn't feel he owed the Kennedy family any apologies for this movie.
The movie is just entertainment, Weitz said. "We never ever went out to do a documentary."
There's little chance of that happening. But "Marilyn & Bobby" is bound to achieve some of the highest ratings in USA Network history, based on all the negative press--but press nevertheless--the film will receive.