Special series starting today: The best TV show on Scientology you never got to see
In 2016, the A&E Network was preparing to take on the Church of Scientology in a big way.
What few people knew, however, was that the network was in a bit of a quandary.
That summer, it had paid for two separate series that had been filmed and edited by different production companies and were both ready to air, each of them exposing Scientology in different ways.
A&E decided to air the series that featured King of Queens actress Leah Remini and former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, and it was a decision that paid off immediately. Scientology and the Aftermath was a huge hit right from its first episode, the biggest A&E premiere in more than two years.
The show would go on to have three full seasons, and won two Emmy awards, including one for its final, 2-hour special about the Danny Masterson case.
Scientology watching would never be the same. Leah Remini’s show deserved every accolade it received, and it permanently changed the way Scientology is perceived and covered by the press.
The other show, however, was a different story. In the past we have discussed the fate of the series that was fully filmed and ready to air in 2016. We have posted stories here about the experiences of some of the people who would have been featured in it, such as Derek Bloch and Carol Nyburg. When we wrote those stories, five years ago, they still hoped that A&E might sell the series to another network so that it might have a chance to air.
Those hopes have dimmed. But we are still intrigued about the series, produced by Sirens Media, because it would have taken a very different approach than Aftermath. Sirens producers wanted a more active show, and tried to set up situations where the people like Derek and Carol who had been cut off from family members by Scientology might get a chance to see their loved ones in emotional, action-packed scenes. (And full disclosure: Early in the project we worked briefly for the producers as a consultant helping them find subjects for a couple of the episodes. We were not involved in any of the planning or filming of episodes.)
We have also been curious about how the show would be presented and packaged, and what it might have meant for its star.
So we decided it might be interesting to take another look at the Sirens series by talking to some of those participants in our new podcast format. Starting today, we’re posting our conversation with one of the people we were most looking forward to seeing onscreen: Phil Jones.
Phil and Willie Jones are well known to the Bunker community, and in part because of the billboards they put up in Los Angeles and Florida trying to convince their Sea Org children to give them a call. Phil previously talked to us about how this was part of the Sirens production. And now, we got a chance to talk to him in more detail about his entire involvement in the show.
We are producing this special series as a thank-you to our paid subscribers, who have been so generous to help us out with our new Substack experiment. If you’re not a paid subscriber, we still have other podcast episodes that you can listen to for free. All of the podcast episodes can be found here.
Scientology’s response to amended complaint coming August 23
We have the new briefing deadlines for both sides in the labor trafficking lawsuit that was filed against Scientology in Tampa. Now that an amended complaint has been filed, Scientology will file new motions to dismiss, and then the plaintiffs will get a chance to respond.
We’re talking about the lawsuit filed on April 28 by three residents of Australia who are former Scientology Sea Org workers, Valeska Paris and Gawain and Laura Baxter. The suit alleges that they were forced to join Scientology’s Sea Org as children, and then were abused and neglected as they worked into adulthood aboard Scientology’s cruise ship the Freewinds. Valeska also alleges that she was abused sexually by Sea Org co-workers, and was punished for speaking up about it.
Scientology ignored Valeska’s sexual abuse allegations, and the things the plaintiffs said happened to them as children, and on July 12 they filed motions to compel arbitration, saying that Valeska and the Baxters had signed contracts as adults that obliged them not to sue Scientology, but instead to take their complaints to Scientology’s internal “religious arbitration.”
Responses to those motions were due on August 2, but instead Valeska and the Baxters filed an amended complaint that added more allegations of abuse, essentially starting the lawsuit over again. That made Scientology’s motions moot, so they’re filing another set of them to compel arbitration, and also to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds.
Now, Judge Thomas Barber has signed off on giving both sides a little more time. Scientology’s new motions will be due August 23, and then the plaintiffs will file their responses to those motions by September 6.
As always, we’ll get you those new documents as soon as they are available.
Thank you for reading today’s story here at Substack. For the full picture of what’s happening today in the world of Scientology, please join the conversation at tonyortega.org, where we’ve been reporting daily on David Miscavige’s cabal since 2012. There you’ll find additional stories, and our popular regular daily features:
Source Code: Actual things founder L. Ron Hubbard said on this date in history
Avast, Ye Mateys: Snapshots from Scientology’s years at sea
Overheard in the Freezone: Indie Hubbardism, one thought at a time
Past is Prologue: From this week in history at alt.religion.scientology
Random Howdy: Your daily dose of the Captain
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Now available: Bonus for our supporters
Episode 7 of the Underground Bunker podcast has been sent out to paid subscribers, and it’s a conversation with Geoff Levin about Scientology’s celebrities and which ones are most likely to defect. Meanwhile, we’ve made episodes 1 through 6 available to everyone, with Pete Griffiths on running a mission, Sunny Pereira dishing secrets of Scientology’s Hollywood Celebrity Centre, Bruce Hines on the crazy life in the Sea Org, Jeffrey Augustine on recent Scientology court cases, Claire Headley exposing Tom Cruise, and Marc Headley on what it must be like for David Miscavige living in Clearwater, Florida. Go here to get the episodes!
It was the deepest disappointment to the contributors that this series was never aired. They had retraumatised themselves in a bid to reconnect with their loved ones only to have the rug ripped out from beneath them. It must have felt a little like opening yourself up and laying your deepest traumas out to a therapist, only to have them abandon you mid-therapy for a new job in a new city, leaving freshly opened wounds and profoundly unresolved heartache.
Their stories deserved - and deserve - to be aired. Tony has done a remarkable job writing about these people - many of whom are loved and treasured by the Bunker community, so their pain is our pain. Tony has kept their stories alive. Now it's time for a new Network to take another look at this series so their stories can be shared on a national scale.
The podcast alone is worth the subscription.