BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - November will bring a slew of JFK-related programming for the 50th anniversary of the president's assassination, but, so far, only one program I know of is identifying a Secret Service agent as a second shooter who accidentally fired the fatal shot.
It's not the first time that the agent, the late George Hickey, has been named as the shooter: One contributor to the documentary, Bonar Menninger, identified Hickey as the shooter in his 1992 book, Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK, and was sued by him in 1995 (too late to avoid the statute of limitations, though St. Martin's Press did pay Hickey "a nominal sum," said Menninger, to forestall an appeal).
"JFK: The Smoking Gun" is not, admits Reelz channel CEO Stan Hubbard, in line with Reelz's show-business-focused mission - some would argue that upcoming "reality" shows like "Hollywood Hillbillies" aren't, either - but the way he figures it, the Kennedys are grandfathered in.
"Because we stepped into the fray of the Kennedy miniseries a few years ago [airing it after the History Channel passed], everything Kennedy comes to us," Hubbard said yesterday, during the Television Critics Association's summer meetings.
"No detective has ever done a cold-case forensic analysis of the crime scene," said Colin McLaren, an Australian identified as an investigative writer and author of "JFK: The Smoking Gun."
Hickey died two years ago, and "we're naming him today for the legitimacy of the show" McLaren said.
The program - which critics haven't yet seen - argues that Hickey was a Secret Service driver who was handed a gun the morning of the assassination, perhaps because, according to McLaren, "everyone in the Secret Service [detail] had been out drinking the night before" and some may not have been in shape to serve.
"They gave him a weapon he shouldn't have held and [when the car lurched and the gun discharged] he accidentally killed JFK," McLaren said, and "the U.S. administration covered this up . . . as high up as Bobby Kennedy."
At a reporter's request, McLaren got up to demonstrate the trajectory of the three shots using a collapsible metal rod and the head of show producer Jesse Prupas.
I asked Menninger if Hickey could have sued again if he were still alive, and he said it was possible. But: "I'm sure that he suffered greatly from this. The fact that he's passed on, maybe it's time that we talked about it," said Menninger.
Return of 'Sharknado'
By the next morning, it felt more like a shared hallucination than an actual movie, but Syfy's Twitter sensation, "Sharknado," is headed to a theater near you, if only for one night.
On Friday at 12:05 a.m., the low-budget disaster movie, starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, about a storm that sucks sharks from the Pacific Ocean and into Los Angeles, will be shown in some 200 theaters nationwide, including Riverview Plaza 17, in South Philadelphia, and Regal's Burlington 20, in Burlington, N.J. Tickets are available at theaters or at FathomEvents.com.
"Sharknado" director Anthony C. Ferrante is an entertainment journalist whose separate lives collided this month during the TV critics' gathering, as he found himself answering questions, not just asking them.
"I think it was a ridiculous concept," Ferrante said when I asked why he thought "Sharknado" caught so many viewers' attention (at least on social media). "It looked huge, but I think everybody wanted to be dared to not like it. And when they saw it, they were like, 'Well, they're at least trying to do something interesting here,' whether they hated it or liked it."
You can find much more from my interview with Ferrante - including his hopes for the already scheduled "Sharknado 2" - on my blog, EllenGray.tv.
'The Writers' Room'
One of the cooler things about my job is that over the years I've gotten to spend time with the people behind some of the best shows on television (including one unforgettable afternoon with the writers of "Everybody Loves Raymond").
Starting tonight, with the premiere of "The Writers' Room" (10 p.m., Sundance Channel), that's a privilege not limited to the few.
Actor and Oscar-winning screenwriter Jim Rash ("The Descendants") hosts a weekly discussion group with writers - and in some cases stars - of a different show every week, kicking off with AMC's "Breaking Bad," making this must-viewing for anyone counting the hours till the show's final eight episodes begin Aug. 11.
On Twitter: @elgray