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Producers pitching Smart TV movie

Family members need to exercise plenty of caution

Matthew Perry
Matthew Perry

On Wednesday, Elizabeth Smart was freed from her captors and returned to her family.

On Thursday, producers were already in the offices of various network executives pitching TV movies about the Utah girl and her ordeal.

Which shouldn't surprise us. This is the sort of story that inevitably will come to the small screen. Even at a time when networks aren't doing a whole lot of made-for-TV movies, the public interest in the Smart story makes it a natural.

TV executives are, of course, high on anything that seems to come with (relatively) assured ratings appeal. And, given the public's ongoing fascination with the case, it's going to happen. The only question is who's going to produce it and what angle they will take on the story.

It wouldn't be a surprise if more than one TV movie about the case eventually finds its way on the air. Producers and networks don't need the Smart family's cooperation to turn the story into a telefilm — there's enough in the public record to make a ripped-from-the-headlines movie.

Still, producers have been contacting (or trying to contact) members of the Smart family to make their pitches. They're tossing around promises, both about the content of the movie they'd like to make and of what they'll pay for the rights to the story.

The Smarts haven't asked for my advice, but I'll give some anyway. Be careful. There are a lot of so-called producers out there who aren't. And a lot of the "legitimate" producers aren't what they represent themselves to be.

There's actually a good way to judge who you might want to work with — look at a producer's track record. Ask for copies of movies they've produced in the past. If they're not willing or anxious to give them to you, move on.

There are some great, wonderful, sensitive people who work in the TV industry. People you can trust to tell your story. People who will neither sensationalize it or sugarcoat it.

But you've got to be careful or you'll get burned.

A "FRIEND" TAKES "WING": "Friends" star Matthew Perry is moving to "The West Wing" — but only for two episodes.

Perry will guest star in a pair of episodes as "a promising candidate for the position of White House associate counsel."

(I'm only guessing here, of course, but do you think he's going to be an unsuccessful candidate? Well, duh. He's still got that job over on "Friends." Which should take any suspense out of the question of whether he'll get the job, huh?)

In the two "West Wing" episodes, scheduled to air April 23 and 30, Perry plays Republican Joe Quincy, who's up for the same job vacated by fellow Republican Ainsley Hayes (Emily Procter) in the Democratic Bartlet administration.

At least maybe we'll get an explanation of whatever happened to Ainsley in the faux world of "West Wing." In real life, of course, Procter left her part-time gig on "West Wing" for a full-time job on "CSI: Miami."

SPEAKING OF "FRIENDS": In an episode of the NBC sitcom scheduled to air in April, several "Days of Our Lives" stars will join their fictional co-star, Joey (Matt LeBlanc) at a party for the cast.

"Days" regulars Matthew Ashford, Farah Fath, Kyle Lowder and Alexis Thorpe will appear as themselves.

What, exactly, they're doing in New York City won't be explained. "Days of Our Lives" is produced in Los Angeles, which has always made it pretty darn dumb to have a Manhattanite like Joey appear on the show. What, he commutes cross-country every day?