The Loudest Voice - Show Time with Mitrajit Bhattacharya

 

When correspondent Geraldo Rivera is caught falsifying his location in Afghanistan, Roger Ailes refuses to apologize, justifying the deceit as “the fog of war”. Sounds familiar in today’s complex geo-politics?

The 7-part limited series on the founder of Fox News, Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice focuses on the rise and fall of American television’s most powerful and divisive character and the sexual harassment accusations that finally brought his career down.

Adapted from Gabriel Sherman’s unauthorized biography in 2014, The Loudest Voice in the Room, and his reporting for New York magazine, the series focuses on the years Ailes spent building Fox News from nothing into America’s most watched cable news network. With the sexual harassment scandal breaking in 2016, the stakes were raised and work on finishing the screenplay gathered steam. Ailes was still alive when the writing had started; his sudden death in 2017 rushed the writers to complete the screenplay as they had a definitive end in sight. And the ever-combative Ailes not being around, helped.

 

The series stays true to the dual track in showing Ailes as a brutal television boss and a sexual predator. Episode one begins with Ailes dead on the floor following a fall, the year after Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson- played by Naomi Watts- accused him of harassment, opening the door for other women to report similar encounters. Moving back in time, in chaotic scenes set in meeting rooms of Fox News while he was ramping up the channel, Ailes was seen telling his team how politically conservative Americans were an underserved audience that their channel could own. Coining Fox’s famous “Fair and Balanced” tagline, he claimed, while the rest of the media has a liberal bias, Fox would simply be restoring the balance by tilting to the right.

Russell Crowe, who plays the protagonist to perfection, is calm and charming one minute, exploding in anger the next; is par excellence in capturing Ailes’ legendary mood swings. Ailes was a bully; in Crowe’s own words “a very complicated bloke”. Heavy prosthetic make-up that helped Crowe match the physicality of the dominating Ailes was probably the less of the challenge, the real task for the actor was to get into the character of Ailes, exhibited skillfully by the soft and acerbic dialogue delivery as a man so obsessed with power that he took it out on colleagues, including the women that he sexually objectified, systematically. 

 

Adaptation from Sherman’s book helps demystify the complex personality of Ailes, that of being an opportunist and an ideologue. The disturbing images of people leaping from the World Trade Center on 9/11 will be etched in our minds as Ailes’ legacy in building Fox News. A right-wing ideologue and de facto Republican leader, Ailes seems to have had the White House on speed dial and was the one who orchestrated programming on his network to help the Bush administration sell the war in Iraq.

 

The vivid journey of The Loudest Voice in taking a deep dive into the frenzied American politics that impacted the country as well as the world since 9/11 and Crowe’s powerful characterization of Ailes are the real two assets of the web series, often criticized for brilliant but patchy screenplay and direction.

 

Watch on Disney Hotstar.

 

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