Prepare to feel old. The Will Smith / Gene Hackman movie, Enemy of the State hit theaters in 1998. The old days where you could have a plot of a movie about a rogue NSA official trying to peel back privacy notions still held by most Americans. Well, this is uncomfortable. Art imitating life?
Jerry Bruckheimer was behind the movie and is back for the TV sequel. It will air on ABC and will do a time jump of 20 years. The plot is ripped from the pages of the Snowden leak, except in this fictional tale, the uncovering of a police state actually has consequences. Imagine that.
In the TV version, there’s the NSA agent who allegedly leaked classified material to the public. An ‘idealistic female attorney’ teams up with a ‘hawkish FBI agent’ to bring down the global conspiracy threatening to expose ‘dark secrets.’ Hmm, there’s the fictional part. Taking it to the system.
Since Snowden leaked the surveillance programs, nothing has changed. The NSA was cleared of all abuses of power by what is supposed to be an oversight committee, and Section 702 of FISA remains in effect until 2017. It’ll get bundled into an omnibus bill that year and get its extension.
In the eighteen years since the movie, it’s fun to look back at the shady repairmen installing wiretaps and cameras in your home to spy on you. Nah, intelligence agencies can switch on your smartphone and host of connected devices to handle the spy work.
The sci-fi trickery used to model out the planting of information on Will Smith’s character? Yeah, there’s a top secret Air Force spaceship circling Earth for reasons unknown. Even Mark Zuckerberg covers up his audio jack and webcam on his computers. If the founder and CEO of Facebook is paranoid, it’s not tinfoil conspiracy theories. Even the UK government has instituted an informal ban on smartwatches out of fear the foreign agencies can switch them on to eavesdrop.
Being on network TV limits what Bruckheimer can do with the show. The reality of government surveillance is shrugged at but can make for engaging television. We can look at the success of Mr. Robot and see there is a formula for success in capturing an audience. But on ABC? Maybe pair it with Designated Survivor for fun.
It’s sad we look back 18 years and consider the movie a work of fiction. Today, it’s an indifferent shrug at our new normal. No word on a premiere date or casting. Look for that to change rapidly if ABC picks it up once the pilot is shot.