Power, privilege, greed and corruption. The college admissions scandal has all the ingredients for a juicy movie script, and now it is going to get one.
Entangled in the lives of the rich and famous, the college scam is getting the Hollywood treatment with a TV movie this Fall. Lifetime is bringing the “Operation Varsity Blues” inspired film to the small screen.
It seems a no-brainer for the cable network also responsible for such celebrity-stirred dramatizations as Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal, The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story and, ironically, The Unauthorized Full House Story, to dig into this salacious tale, too.
And while Lifetime did not specify names when making the film announcement earlier this week, it’s quite obvious that the film is inspired by the drama.
While real-life Aunt Becky, 54-year-old actress Lori Loughlin, would actually be the perfect fit for the role, no casting decisions have been made as of yet, and it’s highly unlikely she will be asked to participate.
For those in need of a refresher, a total of 51 people, including high profile business executives, sports coaches and celebrities, were indicted in March for their alleged involvement in a huge college admissions scandal. Among those were Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who allegedly paid up to US$500,000 for their two daughters’ acceptance to the University of Southern California as crew team recruits. Neither actually participate in crew.
The other highly publicized figure was 56-year-old actress Felicity Huffman, who pleaded guilty to accusations that she paid $15,000 to boost her daughter’s SAT scores. Of the accused, Huffman was one of 14 parents who pleaded guilty. She is to be sentenced in September, while both Loughlin and her husband have pleaded not guilty and are now awaiting trial.
Executive produced by Gail Katz and Howard Braunstein, and directed by Adam Salky, the Lifetime film inspired by the scheming elite is described as follows:
“College Admissions Scandal will follow two wealthy mothers who share an obsession with getting their teenagers into the best possible college. When charismatic college admissions consultant Rick Singer offers a side door into the prestigious institutions of their dreams, they willingly partake with visions of coveted acceptance letters in their heads. But when Singer cooperates with the FBI and pleads guilty, the mothers who risked everything for their kids must face the consequences of their crimes and the loss of trust and respect from their families.”
No doubt the film will be a huge ratings success. Remember Hulu’s Fyre Fraud and the Netflix original Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened — the duelling documentaries that were released back in January? People sat back, cringed and watched — admittedly myself included.
Maybe it’s because we love to watch a train wreck, but we can likely expect producers and network executives to cash in big from this series of unfortunate events, too.
WATCH BELOW: Man who took tests for students pleads guilty in college admissions scam
Yet I think watching this film may conjure up more feelings of rage than passive entertainment. Because for many of us, this story feels very personal. The majority of us work hard, incredibly hard, to earn our positions in society — starting with our education — that which does not come with the luxury of private tutors, test programs, legacy admissions, donations and the like.
After we put down the popcorn and sink back to the reality of it all, I am curious, though sadly not confident, to see if we are actually going to see any real change when it comes to college admissions and who makes the cut. Will fairness prevail or will things simply fall back to their old ways with the subtle, more veiled approaches of entry for the elite?
Loughlin apparently believes she will “be exonerated” from the charges, according to numerous celebrity publications. And though she was fired from her projects with the Hallmark Channel and also lost her role in Fuller House, she still believes that after this ordeal is over, her life will return to normal. For her, that is a pretty charmed and privileged normal. Her reputation may be stained, but it is unlikely she will ever go starving.
Huffman has handled the scandal quite differently than Loughlin from the on-set, expressing deep remorse, a noted public apology and guilty plea, and I expect her new normal will be a much less tainted one in terms of her reputation and subsequently her overall comeback stronger.
Huffman’s co-stars, Angela Bassett and Patricia Arquette, from her new Netflix film Otherhood, which premieres Aug. 2, have also publicly shown support for her, revealing they believe she feels terrible about her wrongful actions and is ready to do whatever it takes to make things right in her case.
Ironically, Huffman’s character in Otherhood portrays a mother who believes that her own actions can make anything possible for her child.
Art often imitates life. This time there just happens to be a lot more stardust wrapped around the scheming behaviour, which makes the appeal that much greater.
Lifetime isn’t the only network interested in Operation Varsity Blues. Annapurna TV is also working on a miniseries version of the events. According to Variety, the network picked up the rights to Accepted, an upcoming book from Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz focused on the scandal. The People v. OJ Simpson writer D.V. DeVincentis will be penning an adaptation of the book for television. And there will likely be other on-screen adaptations of the scandal.
Scheduled for sentencing in September, the fate of Huffman will soon be revealed.
But when it comes to Operation Varsity Blues, I’m more interested in the fate of the everyday people — those hard-working, over-achieving and well-deserving individuals — and whether they will continue to get shoved aside by those boasting big bank accounts to pay their way through the education and legal system or will actually see some marked change — maybe this time life imitating art.