The Watchman: Epix’s ‘Paper’ Trail to Panama, ‘Adam Ruins’ the Gun Debate

Senior content producer Michael Malone’s weekly look at the programming scene
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The Panama Papers, a documentary about hundreds of journalists around the globe working in secret to break the story of the data leak involving the dodgy Panamanian law firm, airs on Epix Nov. 26. Alex Winter directs the story of law firm Mossack Fonseca having its secrets leaked in 2015, with oodles of prominent figures, including Vladimir Putin and Lionel Messi, exposed for their questionable investments.

'The Panama Papers' on Epix

'The Panama Papers' on Epix

It’s a two-pronged tale, according to Winter: the story of income inequality around the globe, and the journalists working incognito to maximize the impact of their work. “I knew there was a great human story to tell,” he said, “which is what makes documentaries worth making.”

A whistle-blower spilled the Panama Papers to an investigative reporter at a German newspaper, who in turn shared the trove of leaks with a vast web of journalists. Winter noted the “incredible care taken by the journalists” to not reveal the identity of their John Doe. The reporters, he added, are the heroes in this story.

Same goes for executive producer Laura Poitras, whose documentary work includes the Edward Snowden film Citizenfour. “I’m incredibly admiring of her work,” said Winter. “She’s been hugely influential on me.”

The rich folks tied up with Mossack Fonseca weren’t just inflating their bank accounts, said Winter. “It’s literally money taken out of your pocket,” he noted.

On Nov. 27, the new season of Adam Ruins Everything starts up on truTV. Adam Conover breaks down common misconceptions on the show. Topics include gun control, sleep and technology.

The show’s braintrust had thought they’d never take on a supercharged issue such as guns. “Our goal is to change minds,” Conover said. “There could not be an issue that’s harder to change minds about.”

The gun episode is the season premiere. Conover explains why an assault weapons ban will never work, and breaks down how the Second Amendment has been twisted to fit the NRA’s agenda. He also looks at how people of color have been victimized by gun policies from both the left and the right.

“It’s a stab at making a genuine and positive addition to the discussion,” said Conover.

The sleep episode is less controversial, but similarly eye opening. The mattress industry is full of scams, Conover argues, and school schedules seriously harm sleepy teens.

In this fake-news era, Adam Ruins Everything is timely. “People are searching for stability and for trusted sources,” he said. Adam offers that.

Does Conover ever fear he’ll run out of topics to break down? “Never, never, never, never,” he said. “Our topics are anything people can think more deeply about.”

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