The premise for the HBO movie "The Enemy Within" seems rather chillingly familiar.
It's the late 1990s. The American president (Sam Waterston) is wildly unpopular - his approval rating is at 29 percent.It's an era of belt-tightening for the government, and the president intends to go ahead with plans to cut the military budget dramatically.
The military leaders - particularly the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Jason Robards) - sees things differently. Iran not only has nuclear weapons, but it is allied with Iraq. And the American military has been assigned duties like drug interdiction and flood and earthquake relief.
Rather realistic so far.
But in order to battle those budget cuts, the chairman and various members of the president's own cabinet - even the vice president - conspire to oust him from office and take over the government themselves.
Sound fantastic? Yes.
But is it unbelievable? According to someone who should know, it's not.
"They wanted this to be a plausible, realistic, believable plot, and so some of the things we agreed on is that there would have to be a legal veneer for the coup conspirators," said Col Charles J. Dunlop Jr., an Air Force officer and former member of the Pentagon command staff who was a consultant on the film. "And there is a plausible legal veneer that the conspirators would put out to the public because, otherwise, you would never get the rank and file military to follow an obviously illegal act."
Without giving away too much of the plot, those behind the coup employ the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. It's the same scenario that Dunlop, still on active duty, used in an article he wrote in 1992 titled "The Origins of the American Military Coup of the Year 2012."
And the fact that such a coup is at least theoretically possible makes scenes in "The Enemy Within" of American troops marching into American cities all the more chilling.
Although loosely based on the 1964 movie "Seven Days in May," it's actually "quite different," said executive producer Peter Douglas. (His father, Kirk, starred in "Seven Days.") It's a reflection not only of the changing world scene but of the changed role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the passage of the 25th Amendment.
Around this framework, HBO has built a pretty good movie. The ever-talented Forrest Whitaker stars as Mac, the flawed good guy - a Marine colonel who's having problems at home and who idolizes his boss, the Chairman. But as he begins to become aware of the plot, his patriotism overrides his personal loyalty.
Mac informs the president, through his female chief of staff (Dana Delaney in a role that doesn't amount to much). And as the clock ticks down on the coup, Mac tries to find a way to thwart the conspirators.
Although it starts out rather slowly, the tension builds steadily. There are some nice plot twists, and the conclusion is both surprising and satisfying.
"The Enemy Within," which can be seen Saturday at 9 p.m., is yet another very good movie from HBO.
FOOLING THE CHIEF: Forrest Whitaker makes an extremely convincing Marine colonel - extremely convincing.
"He was a serious Marine on the set," said executive producer Peter Douglas. "It was hard to talk to him while he was working because he was in that character."
Although they didn't have clearance to shoot at the Pentagon, the filmmakers did do some exteriors at the military headquarters, including a shot of Whitaker entering the building in uniform.
"And as he does . . . a group of high-ranking types comes down and suddenly one of them calls out to him and says, `Soldier!' " Douglas said. "He turns around and says, `We don't salute anymore?'
"And it's (Gen. John) Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
Shortly thereafter, Douglas got a call from a general of Shalikashvili's staff who said, "We'd really appreciate it if you can not have the chairman in the shot."
NEMETH LANDS NATIONAL GIG: When weatherman Dave Nemeth left KTVX-Ch. 4 a couple of years
ago, it was with the announced intention of becoming a singing star - maybe weathercasting's answer to Bruce Springsteen.
Along the way, Nemeth became sort of Detroit's version of Chris Hicks, reviewing movies on station WXYZ in that city.
And now Nemeth is about to become Warner Bros.' answer to John Tesh, co-anchoring "Extra, the Entertainment Magazine" - that studio's answer to Paramount's "Entertainment Tonight."
(Tesh, of course, co-anchors "ET.")
Nemeth is pretty much a last-minute replacement. Warners demoted Ben Patrick Johnson from co-anchor to senior correspondent just weeks before the show is set to debut Sept. 5, and moved Nemeth up.
Rather oddly, the announcement comes the same week Warners mailed out press kits for "Extra" that included photos of Johnson and co-anchor Arthel Neville. (She'll remain behind the desk with Nemeth.)
Locally, "Extra" will be seen weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on KUTV-Ch. 2 - at least until that new NBC ownership forces the move of "Late Night" up behind "The Tonight Show."