The Bill Clinton Impeachment Is TV’s New Obsession

‘The Breach’ will dramatize Slick Willie’s last days in the White House.
By  · Published on September 15th, 2017

‘The Breach’ will dramatize Slick Willie’s last days in the White House.

The word “impeachment” has been thrown around a lot this year. TV network History is looking to explore the only time in recent history (so far) that a president has actually been impeached with a new six-episode drama, titled The Breach. The show will be based on “The Breach: Inside the Impeachment and Trial of William Jefferson Clinton,” an exhaustive account of Bill Clinton’s impeachment from Peter Baker, the current chief White House correspondent for the New York Times and former reporter on the Clinton administration for the Washington Post.

First announcements of the book being optioned by History came in March when Deadline reported on the network’s intention of adapting it for the first installment of their presidential anthology series, The Commanders.

Upon release in 2000, Baker’s book was commended in critics’ columns for its exacting detail – it “documents in bemusing detail what folks were eating and drinking during momentous meetings,” for example — so show writers R.J. Cutler and David K. Israel presumably shouldn’t have to invent too many scene-setting particulars if they don’t feel like it.

The Breach is being billed as a “political thriller,” so the more scheming and scandal in the show’s source material, the better (for audiences, at least). We’re in luck, here: as a highly connected reporter, Baker was privy to the ins-and-outs of the White House and the Capitol during the height of the scandal from a legion of anonymous, well-placed sources. As such, his book is full of “many scenes and conversations he could not have heard,” providing another layer of detail to the show that will undoubtedly imbue it with an exclusive, insider feel. If Baker knew everything going on in the White House at the time, then The Breach writers have all they need to ensure the show always feels like it’s in the thick of it.

For Cutler, who is also directing The Breach, politics has long been a subject of great interest. His first foray into filmmaking was producing the Oscar-nominated The War Room, a documentary following a then stainless Clinton and his team of strategists (including George Stephanopoulos) as he sought election to the White House in 1992. Later projects included producing A Perfect Candidate, a more overtly cynical shadowing of a political campaign than The War Room, and directing The World According to Dick Cheney, a portrait of the “Darth Vader” of Bush-era politics.

Cutler is promoting The Breach as a multi-themed show with to-the-minute pertinence: according to a statement given to Deadline, it will explore the “entrenched divide” between Democrats and Republicans, the snowballing effect of rolling news on scandals, and how the Internet rose to its current political prominence.

While we’re not likely to forget its ultimate ending anytime soon, The Breach will also tell the political “origin story” of Hillary Clinton (a tale also told elsewhere, albeit without the benefit of full hindsight).

As for the Lewinsky scandal, The Breach is opting to skirt the stains, if you’ll mind the pun, and adopt a focus on the political machinations that made up the impeachment process. Baker’s book charts Clinton’s admission of guilt up to his acquittal by the Senate, so the show will likely adopt this tight temporal frame too.

If you’d prefer a show more heavily geared towards the sex scandal itself, the fourth season of American Crime Story is set to explore the events preceding The Breach (although there will presumably be some overlap between the two). A favorite casting of Ryan Murphy’s, Sarah Paulson, is rumored to play Linda Tripp in his anthology series, while a similar feature production from Amazon, Linda and Monica, is as yet uncast.

Whether all these returns to this point in history are because of a retrospective interest in Hillary’s political beginnings, or whether it’s because a TV exec wants to remind us where the bar for impeachment was set in 1998, The Breach is an exciting addition to the growing lineup of upcoming political throwbacks.

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Farah Cheded is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects. Outside of FSR, she can be found having epiphanies about Martin Scorsese movies here @AttractionF and reviewing Columbo episodes here.