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EVOCATEUR: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie

The documentary EVOCATEUR: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie will premiere tonight, Thursday, Aug. 13 at 9:00pm Eastern on CNN/U.S.  The riveting story traces the populist rise and rollercoaster career of the shock host who upended the previously polite and predictable talk show format forever. Before there was Glenn Beck or Geraldo Rivera or Rush Limbaugh, there was Morton Downey, Jr., who ignited the dawn of ‘mad-as-hell and not going to take it anymore’ television with conservative, provocative talk that made him a late night TV folk hero during the late 1980s. The film first premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Television innovator Bob Pittman found himself looking for a new challenge after launching the revolutionary, format-busting cable phenomenon, the MTV network. Pittman backed the enigmatic, bombastic Downey for a talk show that viewers found uniquely candid, oftentimes frustrating, ultimately addictive television. Archival highlights included in the film feature legendary Downey show segments with defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, attorney/activist Gloria Allred, and Rev. Al Sharpton, in excruciating, extended deconstruction of the infamous, controversial Tawana Brawley case. In a rare exclusive interview, Steven Pagones, the white district attorney among those accused of raping Brawley, discusses how the infamy associated with that case – and amplified by the on-air debates between Downey and Sharpton – irrevocably altered his life.

Deconstructing Downey’s rise to fame are contemporary interviews with Downey friend and conservative icon Pat Buchanan, broadcaster Larry King, former talk show hosts Richard Bey and Sally Jessy Raphael, syndicated columnist Stanley Crouch, comedian Chris Elliott, and the team behind the talk show. They explore Downey’s appeal, as well as the personal demons that fueled his on-camera persona and behind-the-scenes battles with production executives and sponsors that ultimately led to Downey’s career immolation.

Along the way, the filmmakers reveal new insights into a persistent mystery about an incident that effectively ended Downey’s television career: did Downey actually stage a brutal attack on himself, allegedly by skinheads, in a misguided attempt to regain some of his notoriety?

The film will encore on CNN on Aug. 20 at 11:00pm, and on Saturday, Aug. 22, at 8:00pm and 10:00pm. All times Eastern.

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