THIRST aired on NBC Television
Starring Adam Arkin, Joely Fisher and Giancarlo Esposito


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The town of San Paulo, California is in the midst of one of its worst heat waves. To make matters worse, water filtration engineer Bob Miller (Adam Arkin) has the daunting task of working with the city's antiquated, 50 year-old water system.

At home, he finds comfort in his wife Susan (Joely Fisher), a nurse at the local hospital, and their two small children, Bobby Jr. and Amelia.

When several senior citizens suffer from what appears to be food poisoning, they are taken to Susan's hospital for testing. The symptoms are slightly similar to an incident of Cryptosporidiarn strawberry contamination eight years earlier, when she had treated some of those patients. However, this time it seems different. Actually, it's much worse. Other area hospitals begin to report a growing number of cases of the mysterious illness.

Bob has a hunch that proves to be alarmingly true. The city's water supply is contaminated. Bob fights local health authorities for the right to test the water supply. With the help of Dr. David Carver (Giancarlo Esposito), Bob concludes from lab tests that the water faucets in every home, school and office building are tainted with a deadly new strain of an old germ called Cryptosporidiam C. Once ingested, the virus deprives the body of fluids, ultimately killing people from thirst. In order to rid itself of the parasite, the body must be flushed with clean water but ironically, there is no clean water because of the parasite.

The hospitals are suddenly full to capacity. Townspeople are hostile, answers are insufficient and, to
top it off, the heat wave has not relented. One source of the problem is the self-serving Mayor who has diverted funding earmarked for the new filtration system to another project. Although reluctant to cut off the existing water supply, he eventually complies. With the growing number of infections and deaths, it is a race against time to pinpoint the source of the epidemic. When Bobby, Jr. shows signs of the illness, Bob's crusade grows stronger than ever to find the solution that will save his community and, People in droves try to leave town, but the city is quarantined and roads have been barricaded by the National Guard to confine the epidemic. Gridlock leads to chaos and riots in the streets. With no water, no answers and no hope ... can anyone escape the THIRST?

This thriller, a two hour NBC world premiere movie, stars Emmy Award nominee Adam Arkin (Dr. Aaron Shutt in "Chicago Hope")and Golden Globe nominee Joely Fisher ("Ellen"). Giancarlo Esposito ("Do the Right Thing") also stars.

Thirst is produced by Citadel Entertainment, LLC, a division of Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc., in association with The Kaufman Company. Bill Norton directs and Paul A. Kaufman is executive producer. Alliance Atlantis will distribute worldwide except in the United States.


DAILY VARIETY - Here's an investment tip: buy into bottled water companies today. Their stock is bound to soar and their sales are poised to skyrocket in the wake of this taut vidpic thriller about what happens to a town ravaged by a microscopic (and deadly) parasite contaminating its water supply. What makes the story particularly compelling is that it's not entirely fictional. It could happen here. It's already happened elsewhere. That's why we should all think twice before again visiting the gym water cooler.

Thank you, NBC, for helping spread the parasite paranoia around.

Though the execution borders on the overheated, a la "Outbreak," "Thirst" lays a frightful scenario that feels too convincing. John Mandel's teleplay drives home the point that we're all only a waterborne microbe away from medical and social Armageddon, and Bill Norton's unsubtle direction is marked by ominous lingering shots on brown gunky water that are designed to chill the spine. We have met the enemy, and it is the kitchen tap.

Only on TV can a water filtration engineer become a hero. That's the profession of Adam Arkin's character Bob Miller, a small leap from his Dr. Aaron Shutt character on "Chicago Hope." Miller, a model hubby (to wife Susan, played by Joely Fisher) and daddy (Jimmy Galeota) is the guy who gets the bright idea to test the water supply after people start failing ill with what appears to be food poisoning in their comfy little suburb of San Paulo.

Turns out that the town reservoir is failing to filter out deadly Cryptosporidia bacteria, beasties that burrow into your intestine, cause severe fever and, in extreme cases, death from thirst and dehydration. It's a real problem: 400,000 residents of Milwaukee got sick and six died due to the presence of Cryptosporidia in the water supply. It is also said to have killed 39 people in Las Vegas in 1994.

The announcement of the infestation (by a strain that is immune even to boiling) sets off panic buying, a town quarantine, overrun hospitals and, finally, rioting, it doesn't help that there's a record summertime heat wave.

Too much of "Thirst" is driven by backroom political theatrics you know, the vein-popping-in- the-neck power trips and melodramatic pronouncements like, "Get that stuff out of my water!" But Arkin gives his usual solid performance, he has effective chemistry with Fisher and Giancarlo Esposito supplies sharp support as a doctor pulling out all the stops to find an answer.

The subject matter alone, however, is sufficient to maintain interest. All scribe Mandel had to do was not screw up the premise and make it too preposterous, and he doesn't. The result is, instead, wholly unsettling. Old warning: when in Mexico, don't drink the water. New warning: When in America...

Tech credits are first rate.

GANNETT NEWS - Maybe we've spent too much time worrying about asteroids and dinosaurs and other large and distant objects. Instead, we could worry about tiny droplets. We could consider the possibility of an outbreak linked to the water system. This is going to happen in a major city, unless we do something," says Giancarlo Esposito, who costars in "Thirst," at 9 tonight on NBC.

It already has happened on a smaller scale NBC says. We didn't even discover cryptosporidium. until 1976 and didn't link it to human waterborne disease until 1987. Since then, NBC says, this has been seen as the cause of crises in: Milwaukee, where 400,000 people were sick and six died in spring 1993. Las Vegas., where 39 people died in 1994.

New York City has reported more than 400 cases of cryptosporidiosis since '94. Southern California's massive Metropolitan Water District has launched a 200 million prevention effort. Now NBC tries to turn Thirst" has Adanm Arkin and Joely Fisher as a husband-wife duo a water filtration engineer and a nurse trying to prevent a disaster. Esposito is the doctor they work with.

This is high-pressure acting, done by people who have spent their lives in the business. Arkin is the son of comedy actor Alan Arkin. He first showed up in a short directed by his dad, playing a little kid who turns into an animal. Fisher is the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Connie Stevens. After years of comedy and music, she turns serious in "Thirst."

Then there's Esposito, whose roots are farflung. His mother (a black opera singer) met his father in Italy. Giancarlo grew up in Europe and the United States, with one constant: "I was always looked at as someone who seemed a little different." That can be uncomfortable for a kid and great for an actor. Many of the best actors are perpetual outsiders, viewing life from outside the core, "I was telling that to ('Homicide' producer) Tom Fontana," Esposito says. "You can't tell a writer anything; it all ends up there." Fontana says it all happened peacefully enough. "I've known (Esposito) many years and we've worked together once or twice," Fontana says. "I called up ... We had a couple of conversations about what kind of thing he might want to play."

Esposito's real-life story blended neatly into part of the "Homicide" setup: The show had always said that Al Giardelloo (played by Yaphet Kotto) is part-Italian. That was a neatly off-center notion, Esposito grants. "He is so African-looking, you would not think of him as Italian. It was brilliant." Now Esposito can play Giardello's long-estranged son. The result threw together two strong actors.

In "Homicide," he confronts massive Yaphet Kotto and solves murders. In "Thirst," he confronts tiny cryptosporidium and (maybe) saves a city.

MILWAUKEE JOURNAL - Killer Crypto has leading role in TV movie

Ironic, isn't it?

The latest strain of Cryptosporidium, which will infect most of the country Sunday night, won't touch Milwaukee. That's because "Cryptosporidium C," a more virulent and, fortunately, fictional strain of The Thing That Ate Milwaukee in 1993, is the villain of a new TV movie, 'Thirst." And the disaster drama, which will be broadcast on virtually every other NBC affiliate at 8 p.m. Sunday, will not be carried by Milwaukee's Channel 4.

The reason has nothing to do with squeamishness and everything to do with business. About twice a year, the station preempts a network movie to run its own programming, for which it receives all commercial revenue, rather than having to share the pie with NBC.

In this case, the decision to air "Incident in a Small Town," a 1994 TV movie with Walter Matthau, was made before channel 4 programmers knew what the network movie would be, according to spokeswoman Mary Alice Tierney.

So, if you live in the Milwaukee area, you'll have to wait for rerun season to see "Thirst." Why would anyone want to make a disaster flick about Crypto in the first place?

'Beast' (about a killer squid) and 'Virus' (about a lethal microbe) did very well for NBC, so I was looking for something along those lines," writer and producer Paul Kaufman said in a phone interview from his Los Angeles office.

Searching for his killer, Kaufman read hundreds of media reports on influenza, deadly outbreaks of the Ebola virus in Africa, even the potential for germ warfare. "I wanted something that would hit close to home," he recalls. And what could be closer than the kitchen sink? Once he chose his tiny villain, Kaufman consulted with several parasitologists, including one starstruck scientist who kept trying to get a part in the movie.

In the interest of making Crypto more beastly, the writer invented an evil new strain that, unlike the Milwaukee kind, kills its hosts quickly and can't be destroyed by boiling. San Paulo, the fictional California town where "Thirst" is set, also has the hard luck to be visited by Crypto C during a prolonged heat wave, making a liter of Evian more valuable than a magnum of champagne.

Though Milwaukee's Crypto epidemic was found to have contributed to the deaths of about 100 people, most sufferers got off more lightly. Kaufman decided, however, that stomach cramps and frequent trips to the bathroom were not the stuff of high drama. He also ran into unexpected trouble with a technical term. "Flocculation," the process by which the parasite is made to cluster so it can be wiped out appeared seven or eight times in the original script.

"But every time somebody had to say it, they started laughing, so we took out most of the references," he says, Did Kaufman's professional immersion in Cryptosporidium change his own drinking habits? "Not really," he says. "I grew up in Los Angeles, so I was pretty much raised on bottled water anyway." Besides, he adds, he didn't need much convincing that microbes can be malevolent.

"I'm the kind of person," Kaufman admits, "who washes their hands in the men's room and then won't touch the doorknob. I use a paper towel."

Those of you who saw NBC "Thirst" on Sunday, October 25, should contact your cogressman, your congresswoman and your representative and demand answers on the Y2K problem because its no longer a joke! "Thirst," a made-for-TV movie, depicted a city with a population of 300,000 being stricken with a strain of crypto sporidium that resisted all means of eradication. As a result, water supplies to the city were cut off and social disorder erupted.

The movie demonstates part of what happens in cities when crisis appears. Many elements were depicted accurately. These include: * Reluctance of the officials in charge (the mayor) to admit the problem exists out of fear of causing "panic."
* The delay of the acknowledgement of the problem by officials causing further sickness and death.
* Tendency of the officials in charge to find a scapegoat (Mr.Miller, the water plant engineer).
* Panic by the citizens in an effort to save their own lives and protect their families. * The nearimmediate stripping of shelves at grocery stores to quarantine the city.
* Implementation of martial law and highway blockades in order to quarantine the city.

Some of these elements are already appearing in the Y2K discussion and others will likely manifest later in 1999. For example, some government officials in 1998 are denying that government services will be disrupted at all.

The president's appointed Y2K czar, John Koskinenn, said, "Well, I think ultimately the risk to the American public is not going to be from federal systems." This, despite the tremendous evidence now available that demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that many critical government systems will simply not be ready for the new millennium.

Among these:
* A recent Gartner Group research report that continues to give federal agencies very low grades on Y2K compliance efforts and says healthcare, education, agricultured, construction, food processing, governments are lagging way behind in compliance efforts. Many of these will simply not finish critical systems by 2000.
* A GAO study that concluded: 'The public faces a high risk that critical services provided by the government and the private sector could be severely disrupted by the year 2000 computing crisis".
* A house panel report issued in September that discovered more than one third of the most important (government) systems won't be fixed in time.
* Testimony by the director of the Civil Agencies Information Systems who said the impact of Year 2000 failures could be widespread, costy and potentially disruptive to vital government operations worldwide.

ENR - Scarier than Godzilla
One Sunday night a few weeks back, we stumbled upon a made-for-TV movie. Rather than a "Disease-of-the-Week" special or a "Torn-from- the-Headlines" legal potboiler, it was a horror flick. What made us sit up and take notice was that the menace came not from outer space or prehistoric times. It came from the faucet. Its name was cryptosporidiurn.

The plot of '"Thirst" consisted of the appearance of a mutated strain of crypto in a lake that feeds a regional water system. The treatment plant engineer, played by Adam Arkin, had been campaigning for a new plant to replace the existing facility over the resistance, or downright indifference, of the public and the politicians. Suddenly, people began to get sick and die. The town water system was shut down at the height of a heat wave and alternative water supplies were limited by a drought. It was up to the engineer to discover the source of the problem and save the town.

First, we are somewhat amazed, that a movie like Thirst, with a civil engineer as the hero, could get made at all. Second, we are surprised at how realistic the movie was from, an engineering standpoint after chlorine and microfiltration fail, the engineer saved the day using ozonation. Finally, it is startling how a system failure in something we all take for granted our water supply can lead to such horrifying results and such a scary film.

We are not in the business of reviewing movies. But we do believe that infrastructure in this country is taken for granted by the general public. That is what makes the events portrayed in the movie, and those played out in real life in places like Milwaukee, where 400,000 people were infected and 104 died from a similar cryptosporidium outbreak (ENR 6/2/97), so scary.

If it takes a TV movie to scare the public into thinking about infrastructure, we need more of the same. After all, the idea of illness and death coming silently out of our kitchen faucets is even scarier than Godzilla.


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