*The USA network is taking a new programming approach on Saturday nights.
In an expansion of its Characters Unite public-service initiative, the top-rated cable network is launching a quarterly Saturday film series Nov. 17 with a special airing of “The Color Purple.”
The NBCUniversal-owned net will present the acclaimed 1985 movie with limited ads and an introduction by star Whoopi Goldberg. The telecast follows an April airing of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which was introduced by President Obama.
For NBCUniversal Cable entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer, the project is deeply personal and dates back nearly two decades to when she created the socially conscious Erase the Hate campaign during her first stint at USA. More recently, she has championed the Characters Unite campaign, which is intended to promote diversity.
“I’m a big believer that we’re not born knowing how to hate; we’re taught to hate,” she tells THR of her motivation. “We may be more sophisticated in how we hide it, but there are still so many phobias in this world, whether it’s Islamophobia, xenophobia or homophobia. I’ve been trying to do things that expose and help teach and draw attention to all of the ‘isms’ and how we do or don’t deal with them in our world. ”
In addition to quarterly telecasts, Hammer hopes to arrange panels, classroom applications and discussions with talent, producers or directors to accompany the socially conscience films presented. Given the timing on “The Color Purple,” her plan at press time was to publish an op-ed, co-written with Goldberg.
“Purple’s” airing is set to coincide with both the United Nations’ International Day of Tolerance and the 30th anniversary of the publication of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel on which the film is based.
She has not yet licensed additional films to feature but already has taken a look at “Gentleman’s Agreement,” “Imitation of Life,” “Milk” and “Brokeback Mountain,” among others. Given the film series’ socially positive nature, Hammer says she doesn’t foresee encountering trouble licensing movies for a limited distribution window: “When you’re doing something good, it’s not as if people fight you about getting rights.”