Press Reaction

From Daily News by Eric Mink

"Tonight's solid FRONTLINE breathes life into the behind-the-scenes story of the legal strategies that cracked the once impregnable fortress of the tobacco industry.

The story, produced by Neil Docherty and co-written by Docherty and correspondent Lowell Bergman, is organized around several graduates of the University of Mississippi, Ole Miss, and the events that eventually drew them together over tobacco."

"...The program loses points for not exploring more fully the animosity that clearly exists between the Mississippi bunch and Minnesota officials bringing a separate anti-tobacco action, but it is a fascinating story nonetheless."

From Gist (online paper) by Margarette Loke

"If you're unable to keep up with the latest revelations and legal maneuverings but want to know in a nutshell what's behind the recent tobacco deals between cigarette makers and various states, don't miss FRONTLINE 's superbly succinct and absorbing retelling of how two Ole Miss alumni took on big tobacco and won.

Don't expect Inside the Tobacco Deal to be a simple good-guys-vs. bad-guys story. It starts out that way, but by the end of the documentary, it isn't clear if the "good guys" are the good guys we thought they were. And early in the program, almost as a hint of things to come, we are asked to view Dick Morris as a good guy as he comes to the aid of the battlers of big tobacco because of his access to the President Clinton.

From New York Times By Caryn James

"Setting up a David and Goliath struggle is one certain way to enliven a complicated news story. Tonight's lucid though naggingly short-sighted documentary lionizes the men who devised the strategy that brought the giant tobacco companies not to their knees, but at least to a bargaining position."

"...But history has managed to sneak up and bite this documentary. The settlement is all but scuttled, replaced by tougher legislation now in the works, which is itself the focus of a seesaw battle. While the FRONTLINE story is true enough in its view of how the important Mississippi strategy developed, it has the uneasy feel of scrambling to keep up with its own story.

Though this solid work has a strong point of view, it presents evidence fairly enough for viewers to come up with an alternative, more complicated narrative. " "If this FRONTLINE does not have lucky timing on its side, it does have a reporter who knows the story inside out........Mr. Bergman's straightforward approach and uncharismatic presence is pure FRONTLINE, with no network gloss. But his time is coming. A film is being made in which Mr. Bergman will be played by Al Pacino."

from Rocky Mountain News by Dusty Saunders

"Inside the Tobacco Deal , a program that utilizes FRONTLINE's two strong points. The hour uses a documentary technique to show how two small-town lawyers brought the supposedly invincible tobacco industry to the bargaining table. FRONTLINE also breaks news by reporting that executives at tobacco giant Brown & Williamson have been notified by the Justice Department that they can expect to be indicted."

"...FRONTLINE also outlines the present debate before Congress about how to deal with the once arrogant tobacco industry, now facing bankruptcy and criminal prosecution.

And the debate rages: Should there be legislation or financial settlements?

All of this plays out like a John Grisham novel. It's not make believe. But FRONTLINE, within its documentary format, has developed an involving story-telling technique.


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