Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Review: The Assets (TV)

Not an asset to ABC

By Morris Dean

ABC started running its series The Assets early in January. My wife and I watched the first two episodes and loved the program, which is based on the career of CIA analyst Aldrich Ames and how he was identified as the mole who had sold lethal information to the Soviets in the 1980s. The CIA officers who encouraged and led the investigation, Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille, wrote the book, Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames, on which the series is based.
    Then, as my wife was trying to program our DVR to record the third episode, she learned that ABC had abruptly cancelled the series – even though all eight of its episodes had been produced. How can this be?, I almost heard her shriek.
    Well, how it could be was that it appears ABC is in the business of selling advertising and, according to Wikipedia,

The pilot episode earned a 0.7 rating in the 18–49 year old demographic, making The Assets the lowest rated drama premiere ever on one of the big three networks.
    On January 10, 2014, ABC canceled The Assets due to low ratings.
    We just knew that the remaining six episodes would have to be available some other way, so we sat tight. (At the time we were unaware, again according to Wikipedia, that "ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee disclosed at the Television Critics Association press tour that the unaired episodes would be made available at some point in the future.")
    By the time in July that my wife became aware that more episodes had already been aired (on Saturdays in June), we had missed the opportunity to record them (we see very little "live," we go to bed so early), but they were available on "On Demand." In the meantime, according to trusty Wikipedia, "after just two additional airings [Episodes 3 & 4], ABC again pulled the miniseries from [the] new Saturday night timeslot in favor of Sunday afternoons in late July and early August." Golly, that was early enough for us to watch the actual broadcasts!

Aldrich Ames's mug shot
Anyway. I think part of my own fascination with the series, aside from the fact that I was very much aware of Aldrich Ames's arrest in the early 1990s (he's serving a life sentence without possibility of parole) and was aware that the information he sold to the Soviet Union contributed to the deaths of at least ten Soviet intelligence officers who had spied for the United States...I think a large part of my fascination with watching The Assets was the perfectly nervous portrayal of Ames given by actor Paul Rhys.

    Another element that captivated me was the heroic portrayal of one of the exposed Soviets, Major General Dmitri Polyakov (General!), whose brutal interrogation and execution in the Lubyanka was recorded by the Soviets, and the recording (according to Episode 8) was obtained by the CIA and helped spur Sandy Grimes, especially, on to try to identify the mole, despite resistance from higher-ups.
    And yet another storyline that held my attention was the way Sandy Grimes's husband dealt with her having a job about which she could tell him nothing (beyond the fact that she worked for the CIA).
    Speaking of spouses, Ames's wife knew a good deal more about what he was doing than Grimes's husband knew about her activities, and the FBI got Ames to confess by promising that his wife would only have to serve five years before being deported back to her native country (Colombia), a deal he took because, otherwise, their 5-year-old son would never see either of his parents again.
    Excellent series, and I highly recommend it as dramatic entertainment and history.

The Internet Movie Database has an episode guide, in case you want to read more about the details of the story rather than try to view the series.

Copyright © 2014 by Morris Dean

1 comment:

  1. There has been a lot of shows I started to watch while we lived in the States. Most can be found somewhere on the internet, however I cannot commit myself to the time of finding them. It must have been a very, very , good show.(smile)