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THE BOTTOM LINE
By Jill A. Hargrave

GENRE: Romance, Drama
LOGLINE:

To save his news team’s journalistic integrity and the destruction of TV News as a public trust, a charismatic, highly principled news anchor risks his career in 1988 to battle his narcissistic billionaire boss by refusing to replace fact-based news with “infotainment” and biased reporting. 

SYNOPSIS:

It’s January 1988 in New York City. John Harrison, American Television Network’s News Anchor, is 38, charismatic, number one in the news ratings and enjoys his celebrity. But tensions are rising in the newsroom because business tycoon, Henry Tilden, a narcissist who prides himself on his squeaky-clean image as a philanthropist and successful businessman, recently acquired ATN and wants to cut costs and radically change the news format. At the same time, the news team’s union contract is about to expire and everyone’s on edge until they sign a new contract.

John belongs to a different union. His contract expires next year, which gives him and his Managing Editor, Dennis O’Connell, full editorial control of news content. John is number one in the news ratings and believes the news is a public trust that his viewers rely on. Tilden demands that John includes “infotainment” in the line-up to make the news “sexier,” and replace Dennis with his own News Operations Manager, Phyllis Springer, to oversee his vision for ATN News. John adamantly refuses to compromise his news team’s journalistic integrity and makes it his mission to stop Tilden from changing the news format. This infuriates Tilden who only rewards those who do his bidding. Unbeknownst to John, he finalizes his plan to bust the news team’s union to achieve his vision for ATN News and punish John for his disloyalty.

John and his producer, Kate Reynolds, joined ATN a decade ago and fell in love. But John screwed up their relationship when he got drunk one night and cheated on her. Kate believes, “Once a cheater, always a cheater,” and dumped him immediately. They decided not to ruin their careers over a failed romance, and enjoy a good working relationship, today. To move on from Kate, John’s dated many woman, earning him the reputation of being a womanizer, just like his Dad, who he never wanted to emulate. John’s tired of his superficial relationships and wants to change his lifestyle. He realizes he still loves Kate, admits to her that he let celebrity go to his head, and asks if she’ll give him a second chance. Kate agrees to let him back into her life because she’s always loved him and believes he’s matured and truly wants to regain her trust.

Sally Robbins, a twenty something, intelligent blond beauty eager to further her career at ATN, arrives at the beginning of contract negotiations as Kate’s Associate Producer. Phyllis immediately befriends her as she plans to use Sally when Tilden forces the news team’s union to strike. As the shop steward, Kate tells John that Tilden is playing hardball, demanding a fire-at-will clause and unlimited use of temps in the contract, which no union can accept. John’s concerned for his news team and confronts Tilden who appeases him by explaining that those demands are just bargaining tools.

Kate invites John and Sally to union headquarters for the signing of the contract. However, when the final offer is made, John’s shocked to find out that Tilden’s included those untenable demands, forcing the union to strike. To make matters worse, Kate mistakenly thinks John’s making a play for Sally when he leaves with her following the strike announcement. Kate believes him when he explains why he took Sally for a drink, but because it reminded her that she still has trust issues when it comes to John and other women, she insists it’s best they just go back to being friends. John tries to change her mind, but fails.

John and Dennis actively support their news team by attending rallies and covering the strike on ATN News. Editors work-to-rule, making life difficult for the scabs and causing on-air glitches. Tilden tries to break the union’s solidarity by coercing its members to cross the picket line. He considers John his cash cow, and makes him a lucrative offer that will end the strike provided he agrees to include “infotainment” in the lineup and allows Tilden to fire Dennis and replace him with Phyllis. That’s the last straw for John, who partners with Dennis and secretly sets up their own production company to derail Tilden’s “divide and conquer” scheme.

Through his loyalty to Kate and the news team during the strike, John wins her back. In a last ditch effort to stop Tilden from busting his news team’s union, John gives him an ultimatum – offer the union a fair contract or he’ll expose Tilden’s sleazy tactics on ATN News. Tilden hates to lose, but decides to end the strike rather than risk John damaging his public image.

At the after-the-strike party, John and Kate are a happy couple and his news team is excited about leaving ATN News when John’s contract expires. They look forward to producing fact-based, unbiased programming for John and Dennis’s new production company in an effort to counter the influx of “infotainment” and keep journalistic integrity alive.

WGAe Registration #: 1322901

Maurice Vaughan

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Jill A. Hargrave

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Jill A. Hargrave

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