By: Monica Duncan
Showtime is now airing a new series about the 2015 escape from the Dannemora Prison in New York. The show looks sensational. And you already know how I mean that. It looks like the flash of illicit sex and the bang of murderers threatening the public with their renewed freedom. We are supposed to watch until the escapees are killed or captured. (Stay tuned to find out which, if you don’t remember the real-life story from three years ago.)
I have seen firsthand the excitement that the filming of this series has brought to the small North Country city of Plattsburgh (the closest city to Dannemora itself) during my visits there. You see, Plattsburgh is my husband’s hometown. And it looks like Showtime is giving us exactly what they think the viewer wants. They are depicting the story by leading with the most sensationalized aspects of it. That is the point of a flash bang. It distracts.
So I am skeptical about what this series will tell and what it will miss, in part because I know that the Showtime folks did not interview one of the key individuals in the actual story, someone from the inside who is liberally depicted in the show. That person is my husband’s brother, Gene Palmer. Gene was the corrections officer charged with unknowingly passing saw blades in a chunk of hamburger meat through a flawed security system. What he thought was a routine delivery ended up including the very tools that would aid in the prison break of two established killers.
The script for “Escape at Dannemora” was largely derived from Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott’s 154-page report on the matter, and the series has been hawked to the public as a “based-on-a-true-story” drama. Writer Michael Tolkin said in an interview with slashfilm.com that the director, Ben Stiller, “encouraged us to write this as accurate as possible and truthfully as possible.” The people behind this show may have had an agenda in portraying the show as truthful because they wanted it to be taken seriously.