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'Season 1' of the Jan. 6 hearings made for a brilliant production

It its first batch of hearings, the Jan. 6 committee used a variety of production tools and tricks to tell a compelling story of Team Trump's lawlessness.


The House Jan. 6 committee wrapped up its first batch of public hearings during a prime-time presentation on Thursday. They're scheduled to resume in September.

And one thing’s for sure: Season 1 of the hearings was a feat of brilliant production. 

Before the hearings began, I remember reading reports about the committee hiring James Goldston, a former president of ABC News, to help produce them. And that's led me to watch the hearings with a keen eye for production tools and tricks.

Here’s how The New York Times explained the committee’s goal: 

The plan is to present the case in six tight, thematic episodes that will unfold in prime time and during the day, running 90 to 150 minutes. The idea is to make them as compelling as the marathon Watergate hearings — some of which stretched for hours — but tailored for the streaming era and a media world fueled by viral moments.

The committee has undoubtedly succeeded on these fronts. Even Fox News hosts have acknowledged the compelling ways in which the committee laid out its evidence.

Ultimately, it’s tough to tell what aspects of the hearings to attribute to Goldston. Regardless, the committee’s presentation of the evidence they’ve acquired over the past year has had the look of a high-quality film production. And Goldston’s hiring just emphasizes the committee’s awareness that it must inform — and to some degree, entertain — the public. 

The casting, for example, has been stellar. The committee’s use of Trump White House staffers and other Republican figures to rebut the former president’s lies about fraud in the 2020 election has helped diffuse claims of political bias. And including testimony from reputable, nonpartisan voices — like Capitol police officers and Georgia election workers — pulled back the curtain on what targets of Trump World's post-election ire endured.

On top of that, the committee used slick production techniques and tricks to give the hearings a cinematic feel. 

The first hearing included a compilation of time-stamped footage showing the sequence of events that led from Trump’s fascist speech at the Ellipse to the violent siege of the Capitol. The final product was a detailed, documentary-style breakdown of how the chaos unfolded on Jan. 6

We’ve also seen the committee use some pretty phenomenal 3D mockups to show the locations of relevant people and places on Jan. 6. (This White House mockup even has Fox News playing in the background.)

To help vary the voices seen and heard during the hearings, the committee has used some of its own investigators, like attorney Marcus Childress, to narrate crucial moments on-camera. 

And Thursday was a prime example of the committee’s command over the tone of these hearings, and its ability to use that command to great effect. They even evoked some laughter in the room. 

Some videos presented by the committee on Thursday have gone viral, including a clip showing far-right Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, hightailing it way from the pro-Trump mob after helping to rile it up outside the Capitol, and another that shows Trump struggling to read a speech denouncing the riot.

The committee isn't just obtaining information and sharing it haphazardly. They’re building a story, with a cast of compelling characters and all the trappings needed to make sure it resonates.