Never let the truth get in the way of a good script!
That seems to be the ever-growing mantra in recent historically-inspired TV programming, and Lifetime's new miniseries Bonnie & Clyde, which premiered tonight, appears to push that notion even further. In this version, starring Emile Hirsch (Milk) and Holliday Grainger (The Borgias), Clyde suffers from Donnie Darko-style visions of his bloody future, and just wants to settle down, and it's Bonnie who persuades him to embark on an epic crime spree. Poor Clyde just couldn't get out from under her clutches.
Many critics are appalled, particularly because the four-part docudrama is also being televised on the History Channel (and A&E), but B&C's head writers aren't having any of it, insisting that they have every right to take creative license in order to tell a great story.
"Even the best documentary isn't actually true with a capital T," co-writer Joe Batteer tells TheWrap. " There's opinions and points of view. Ultimately, we're dramatists and we're trying to tell a story. We don't just want to write down the facts. Hell, anyone can do that. We're interested in telling a tale, taking people on a ride and we think we did."
"My favorite movie was Amadeus," adds co-writer John Rice. "And it exposed me to Mozart by making a drama where there's a lot of truth and there's a lot of conceit that probably isn't true in any way at all. But, it worked as a movie and made us aware of this man's life. We like to say there are 57 truths in Bonnie & Clyde that people don't know anything about. Other movies didn't get four hours of screen time to tell all the truths. Our conceit is based on truth for both of the characters, that everything is 100 percent true is probably not true… There's so much that we get to tell by shaping it as a drama that adheres first to a story that people want to watch as opposed to a historical retelling in a chronological order."
Most recently, the CW's Reign was called into question for bending the truth of the life of Mary Queen of Scots, and Killing Kennedy also raised some brows over the emphasis on Lee Harvey Oswald in telling the story of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But the fact that Bonnie & Clyde also airs on The History Channel clearly doesn't do it any favors when it comes to creative license. Just a wild guess here, but people who watch the History Channel are probably expecting, as Batteer might call it, actual history with a capital H.
Part two of the miniseries airs Monday at 9 pm.