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Reviewers turn thumbs down on ABC-TV “bird flu” movie

May 8, 2006 - The reviews are in, and ABC-TV’s Tuesday night movie “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America” is apparently a stinker.

“Listless and artless,” “overplayed, overwrought,” “a wretched disappointment,” “thoroughly depressing,” “the dreariest TV movie in recent memory,” “tedious,” “scare tactics at their worst and most exploitive,” are among the comments made by professional reviewers.

“TV viewers in search of entertainment, escapism, and/or emotional uplift will find absolutely none of the above in ‘Fatal Contact’,” wrote the reviewer for the Dallas Morning News. The review notes that ABC has agreed to put a disclaimer in the movie “that essentially reduces the film to a fraud.” Remarkably enough, the review was reprinted on the web site of WFAA-TV -- an ABC affiliate!

ABC has already put an “informational announcement” on its own web site that reads:

“To date, there have been no cases of the H5N1 virus in the United States nor has there been a human transmission of the disease in a form that could fuel a pandemic. However, experts around the world are monitoring the Avian Flu situation closely and are preparing for the possibility that the virus could begin to spread from person to person. For information on the virus log onto pandemicflu.gov.”

Here are some snippets from the reviews.

Bird flu plans; will it provoke action?

USA Today, in an editorial on May 4:

“Since late 2003, 205 people in Asia and the Middle East have contracted bird flu; more than half have died. That makes the virus worthy of attention. But a doomsday scenario is highly unlikely. Perhaps ABC’s movie will help by raising awareness, as long as the public doesn’t confuse it with fact.”

Beware of catching “Flu”

by David Bianculli
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
May 8, 2006

“ABC's scare-tactic flick ‘Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America’ is a disaster movie predicated on a hypothetical question: What if the avian flu mutated into a strain that could be passed from human to human?

“Here's another hypothetical for you: What if ABC remembered how to make a decent movie for television?”

"Fatal Contact" (tomorrow night at 8) is written by Ron McGee, whose other disaster movies include "Atomic Twister" and "Maiden Voyage." He has also written some telemovies that were disasters, such as his docu-dramas about Meat Loaf (the singer, not the food) and the Monkees (the group, not the simians). With McGee concocting the story, it’s no wonder it’s so listless and artless.

“Yet from the network that once gave us "The Day After," one of the best of all hypothetical horror movies, "Fatal Contact" is a wretched disappointment . . . ‘Fatal Contact’ uses every trick in its boring book to try and up the emotional ante, but nothing works.”

“’Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America’ doesn't just have the smell of death. It also reeks of failure.”

Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America

By BRIAN LOWRY
DAILY VARIETY
May 8, 2006

“Of course, the movie has already generated plenty of advance publicity, which amounts to a minor victory for ABC's moribund Tuesday night; still, it’s hard to escape the sense that “Bird Flu in America” was hastily greenlit and produced on the cheap (in New Zealand) solely for shock value, an attention-getting device with scant interest in bringing additional enlightenment to a topic that warrants it.

“Granted, ascribing unsavory motives to such fare can be dicey, but in this case, if it quacks like a duck . . .”

Bird flu movie a sickly effort

Posted: May 6, 2006
by Joanne Weintraub
MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL

“The whole enterprise has the half-hearted, slapped-together feel of a last-minute assignment: “Get me a bird flu movie! We need a bird flu movie, dammit!”

“Not if it's "Fatal Contact" we don't.”

Bird-flu movie might ruffle a few feathers

By Cary Darling
FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM POP CULTURE CRITIC
May 8, 2006


“As if there isn't enough to fret about, along comes Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America to say, yeah, things are actually worse than you think. ABC's intermittently effective, fear-mongering telemovie aims to do two things: ratchet up our paranoia and the network's sweeps-month ratings.

“But American health experts probably need not worry much about mass hysteria sparked by Fatal Contact. After all, it's competing in a killer time slot, and is likely to meet its own end at the hands of something almost as infectious as bird flu: American Idol.”

A poultry offering by ABC

12:00 AM CDT on Monday, May 8, 2006
Ed Bark
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
taken from WFAA.COM

“TV viewers in search of entertainment, escapism and/or emotional uplift will find absolutely none of the above in Tuesday's Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America. Bleaker than David Lee Roth's career upside, its basic appeal boils down to a nurse's lament during the movie's apocalyptic wind-down: "I don't know how much more I can take of this!"

“She's got that right. In the disaster domain, TV networks previously have hit home screens with earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, locusts, vampire bats, killer bees, nuclear annihilation, meteor showers and Marty Ingels. Which means that bird flu had been pretty low on the pecking order until ABC had the dim idea to seize on the possibility of a worst-case scenario.”

“The California Poultry Federation and the National Chicken Council both are publicly squawking about the film, branding it irresponsible. ABC spokesman Brad Jamison told the Associated Press that the aforementioned disclaimers aren't intended to ease the pressure. “It’s being done because we're responsible broadcasters,” he said.

TV: "Fatal Contact" almost sent me to the hospital

Vince Horiuchi
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
May 8, 2006

“Last week, I caught ‘Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America.’ Sure enough, I got violently ill.

“This made-for-TV movie about avian flu wreaking havoc on the world first made my eyes water. Then it began to make me delirious with boredom. My ears were ringing from the banal dialogue. I was about to go into convulsions.

“Then I slapped in a DVD of "24" and was cured.”



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