“When Reporters were Heroes” is the tagline for this re-release of the once-lost and forgotten anthology series Deadline, reportedly found in a New Jersey basement and now packaged up for mass consumption as a nostalgic curiosity.
The tagline is clearly meant to evoke our contemporary political discourse, in which a wealthy political class has pursued a full-court press against an independent press as a way of consolidating influence over the public. The idea is to promote Deadline as a series about heroic reporters who did their duty, damn the cost, in addition to other stories “ripped from the headlines” from 1959 to 1961. More or less accurate. Most of the 39 episodes deal with reporters confronting criminals or criminal acts in some way, sometimes suffering the ultimate price for their heroism. As with any anthology from the era, some episodes are pretty interesting while some are downright boring.
Notable guest stars include Peter Falk and Diane Ladd, among other notable names from the time period.
Unlike comparable serials from the era that stood the test of time, Deadline is mostly the kind of syndicated program that belongs in its time. Its basic assumptions — that reporters are inherently a force for good — are established by playing up archetypes that remain embedded in much of American fiction. Despite the fact that most reporters and journalists no longer make respectable money for their complex and important work, our mass-market stories routinely venerate them and attempt to harken back to golden era of American culture during the late 20th-century — movies like The Post, for instance, and, of course, older classics.
As we watch the entire industry kind of crash and burn in the fact of increasingly autocratic regimes around the world, shows like Deadline come off as a nice whiff of a pleasant aroma from a time period we remember from our fiction. But in being more-or-less standard “reporter” stories, it doesn’t feel like a particularly unique or memorable take on the genre … or a reminder of what we’re losing.
Special features include a trailer, episode synopses, trivia and an interview with journalism professor Joe Alicastro.