CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- "The Dead Zone" executive producer Michael Piller has shed some light on the "lost" episode of USA's original series. In a post to the series' official web site, Piller told readers:
And there is of course the mystery about "The Hunt for Osama" which many of you have written us about.
Well, first of all, it's now called "The Hunt," and I'll tell you why in a moment.
Second, when will it run? I don't know. USA decided that it might seem exploitative during the war in Iraq. Now that the war is winding down, will they change their minds? I just don't know. The truth is they've always been nervous about this one.
Some months ago, well-connected friends at the University of North Carolina and Duke told me that psychics like Johnny Smith had been in the employ of the CIA doing "remote viewing" - using second sight to gather intelligence in foreign countries. (I'm not making this up - there's plenty of documented evidence online. Check for yourself.) But what was new and what I found impossible to ignore was information brought to my attention suggesting that the American government was actually using psychics to track down Osama Bin Laden.
My old newsman juices started flowing. Here was an untold story about the war - why shouldn't we tell it on The Dead Zone? I approached it as docudrama (I used to run the docudrama accuracy unit at CBS when Cassutt and I worked together). I partnered up with Joe McMoneagle, a psychic who has worked for the CIA in the past (and may or may not still be working for them - Joe's one of those guys who "neither confirms or denies" a whole lot of things.) Joe helped me put together a story that is obviously fictional (since Johnny isn't real), but it is based on information we believe to be accurate. We took no liberties with the facts as they were presented to us.
USA was nervous when they read the story: Johnny Smith chasing Osama? Wasn't that treading into sensitive areas? I argued it was a war story, and a real one, and no different from seeing Humphrey Bogart chase Rommel across the Sahara during World War II, or movies that featured Hitler as a character. (In our story, Osama is never on screen.) I also pointed out that shows like The Agency, 24, and JAG were doing stories about the war on terrorism almost every week.
OK, they said, let's do it.
But when they screened the episode, it made them nervous again. They asked that all mentions of Osama Bin Laden by name be excised. That was actually not a serious problem, since he was only mentioned twice. Thus, the title also changed. Then the war with Iraq broke out, and they just decided this wasn't the time to run it.
It's a very unique episode that avoids adding fake stuff for the sake of pumping up the drama - one of the things I learned running the docudrama unit was that the truth was usually dramatic enough. So this is a lean, no-nonsense look at this incredible story of unusual soldiers in the war on terrorism.
I can say that there are many people here who think it is one of the great episodes of the series. We recreated a Pakistani village in Vancouver and staged a huge battle with a U.S. strike force - with Johnny's vision taking him into the middle of the fight.
If it is scheduled by USA, you'll hear about it here on this site. If not, I'll let you know when it will be out on DVD.
Because of the unusual circumstances, I'm going to break the embargo and post Mike Taylor's remarkable teleplay. I doubt anyone will mind letting you see what we had in mind.
In addition, Piller went on to confirm a new batch of second season episodes is in store for this summer and Karl Schaefer ("Strange Luck," "Eerie, Indiana") has joined the series as a new head writer and co-executive producer to meet the demands of going back into production so quickly. Mike Cassutt ("The Twilight Zone," "Farscape") has also joined the writing staff as a creative consultant.
For Piller's complete post, click here.