The Washington Times
July 20, 2001

Tinseltown earns praise

By Christian Toto

For one evening, politicians and entertainment executives found common ground - movies and TV shows that tell the truth about addiction.

A select group of Washington politicians, at the invitation of the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC), enjoyed a sneak peek at the fifth annual Prism Awards program Tuesday at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. The presentation, taped April 4 in Los Angeles, is the EIC's way of honoring TV programs and movies that honestly portray addiction. (The WB will air the awards show sometime in August).

Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat whose congressional district includes Hollywood, lauded his constituents for bringing attention to the power of addiction.

Too often, we fail to acknowledge addiction is an insidious disease, Mr. Waxman said. It's not glamorous or sexy· Hollywood can very accurately show this.

Among those attending were Reps. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, and Karen McCarthy, Missouri Democrat, plus Sens. Jon Corzine, New Jersey Democrat, and Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican. Mr. Hatch appeared in last year's Traffic, one of the films hailed for its gritty portrayal of the drug trade and the winner of four Academy Awards.

Veteran character actor Christopher McDonald, the evening's host and a co-star on CBS's Family Law, said his directors never complain when he insists his characters avoid casual smoking or drinking unless such habits are integral to the performance.

Brian Dyak, who is EIC president and chief executive officer, said addiction no longer is relegated to banal disease of the week-style programming.

If the story wasn't good, then they wouldn't do them, Mr. Dyak said. Audiences are being legitimately entertained by the programs praised by his group, he said, such as ER, Becker, and The West Wing, all of which have presented compelling story arcs dealing with addiction.