THE DOCU-SERIES “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath”
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. on A&E
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Remini — co-star of “King of Queens” — was one of the most visible Scientologists in the country until her break with the Clearwater, Florida-based church. That development yielded a tell-all book, now this eight-part series, in which she interviews other ex-members, including former Scientology executive Amy Scobee. In a statement relating to the series, Remini says, “It is my hope that we shed light on information that makes the world aware of what is really going on and encourages others to speak up so the abuses can be ended forever.” Among those abuses which Scobee recounts is an alleged practice known as “disconnection,” in which family members or friends (who remain Scientologists) of excommunicated members are told to sever contact with them.
MY SAY In 2009, the St. Petersburg Times published a devastating investigation of the Church of Scientology by reporters Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin, headlined “The Truth Rundown.” This would lead to future coverage of the church, notably Janet Reitman’s 2011 book, “Inside Scientology,” followed two years later by Lawrence Wright’s bestseller, “Going Clear.” Last year, Remini published her own insider account, “Troublemaker” — featured in a major ABC News hour, reported by Dan Harris — while Scobee has also published a book. Then there was Alex Gibney’s explosive 2015 HBO film, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” based on Wright’s book.
All of which is to say, “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” has been scooped, even by Remini herself. This isn’t to discount this series, or Remini’s professed desire to give former members of the church a “voice.” (Only the first hour was made available for review.) It’s simply to state the obvious — almost nothing here feels fresh or unexpected. That includes the church’s response to the series, posted in excerpts on-screen: “[Remini’s] transgressions were so egregious she was expelled.”
Tuesday’s hour opens with an overview of Remini’s break with Scientology, followed by a visit to Scobee and her bedridden mother. But what follows is a little less interview than part of a personal crusade. When Scobee tells Remini that she was raped at age 14 by a church official, Remini says, “[It] makes me want to hire someone to break his [expletive] legs.” Maybe it’s the way she says it or her old Brooklyn neighborhood is doing the talking, but in that one instant her new series at least comes alive and finally offers a glimpse of something new or at least someone new. The message: Remini’s on a mission and best get out of her way — or suffer the consequences. Considering the enemy she has engaged, that could eventually make this series notable, or explosive.
BOTTOM LINE Nothing much new here (based on the first hour), but Remini appears resolute, tough-talking and potentially formidable.