If the neverending news cycle that is Trump’s America has taught us anything, it’s that the president is always involved in some kind of drama and scandal. One of the biggest controversies to emerge from this presidency, though, has been the firing of former FBI director James Comey, which led to the publication of the best-selling memoir “A Higher Loyalty: Truth Lies and Leadership.”
Now Deadline has revealed that CBS Television Studios has won a hotly-contested bidding war to acquire the TV rights to the book. Oscar-nominated writer Billy Ray (Captain Phillips) is attached to pen the script. Alex Kurtzman (who has enough projects on his plate as it is) and Shane Salerno will executive produce.
Comey has made headlines for his revelations about Trump, the Clinton emails, and the investigation into Russian collusion. Naturally, these have been the main focus of conversation surrounding “A Higher Loyalty.” Trump especially. In the book, the current president is portrayed as a Mafia-like figure who allegedly demanded Comey’s loyalty at an eerie dinner for two. Comey’s disloyalty is supposedly what led to his dismissal. Other passages depict the president as a self-proclaimed “germaphobe” who would never let anyone, under no circumstances, pee on him. That’s where politics is at these days. Where’s Alan J. Pakula when you need him?
The Trump and Russia stuff will likely be a strong focus of the series since that’s what people are most interested in. But if they want to make this engaging as a dramatic series with a beginning, middle, and end, they’ll need to focus on Comey’s career as a whole for the sake of good storytelling.
Really, Comey’s experience with Trump is a story without an end and a small part of his career in the grand scheme of things. He was fired before his investigation really gained any real steam. Robert Mueller’s future story will likely be the definitive dramatization of this chapter in US history when it’s all said and done. But the riveting crime thriller which chronicles the downfall of Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, and whoever is pinched next is still a work in progress.
That said, Comey’s experience could still make for some engaging television. Prior to being appointed by Barack Obama as director of the FBI in 2013, Comey served as US attorney for the Southern District of New York. He was also appointed the US deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. During his career, he prosecuted the Mafia and Martha Stewart and influenced the Bush administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance. Needless to say, he’s probably seen some shit. All of this is worth televising.
But Comey is a controversial figure who’s divisive among both sides of the political spectrum. The Democrats have criticized him because of the Clinton email scandal, which they believe played a crucial part in getting Trump elected. Meanwhile, the Commander-in-Chief and his Republican base aren’t his biggest fans, either. Still, polarizing figures make for the most interesting case studies.
Of course, the popularity of the book and Comey’s history makes this an appealing adaptation for those who are interested in stories about powerful real-world figures. Additionally, Ray has an acclaimed track record when it comes to dramatizing nonfiction stories, so the project is in admirable hands at least.
My only concern is that this adaptation has too much of Comey’s input. Just how much criticism is he willing to take? Will he want any juicy dirty laundry aired? While his career has been fascinating, no one wants to see a show that’s afraid to shy away from warts and all. Furthermore, a common opinion of his book is that it’s very self-aggrandizing. A successful show will need to be nuanced, so I hope Ray and co. are willing to consider these factors.
Now, let’s end with the big question: Who will play Comey? My guess is Tom Hanks.