2010: Who Says Politics on TV Can't Be Fun?
I have to admit it, I am a news junkie. I read news online; I watch 24-hour cable news; I talk news events with my friends and family.
Entertainment TV may be my vocation, but news -- especially politics -- is definitely my avocation.
Occasionally politics and entertainment TV intersect. Sometimes it's successful ("Spin City," "The West Wing"); other times, not so much ("Hail to the Chief," "Commander in Chief").
But politics in 2010 was so full of high drama and low comedy that it's hard to believe a screenwriter could have cooked up anything more compelling than the real thing. It's a rough year in scripted TV when C-SPAN provides the bulk of the watercooler chat.
I'll happily let the political reporters run down the top news stories of the past year. Instead, I'll let my imagination run wild and come up with a few entirely implausible and highly improbable ways that TV and politics could join hands.
Let the silliness commence ...
"Scott Brown's Massachusetts": OK, he won't be stalking caribou or watching mama grizzlies, but the handsome junior senator (and former Cosmo centerfold) could lead a tour of the wild beauties of his home state. Imagine the gorgeous scenery and heart-stopping adventure as he hunts antiques in the Berkshires, goes backstage at Tanglewood, hits the slopes at Butternut, watches whales off Cape Cod, or calls up fellow Bay State politico Rep. Barney Frank for a brisk hike along Boston's Freedom Trail. Then, a long day done, Brown shoots a few hoops with his daughters and then takes the pickup truck out to get some North Shore steamers and Chipwiches.
"The Tea (and Coffee) House of Representatives": With so many late-night votes, D.C.'s hard-working legislators need a way to keep their eyes open while casting their ballots (and perhaps even while reading the bills, which could actually happen in 2011). This comedy series follows three recent college grads who can't find jobs during the economic downturn and decide instead to create employment by opening up a brewed-beverage truck specifically to service the the caffeine-deprived on Capitol Hill. Between navigating endless regulatory red tape and competing congressional egos (such as the exact pecking order for the always-limited supply of chocolate-cherry croissants), these spirited entrepreneurs fuel the engine of big government in their own small way.
"Out (of Office) Placement": With so many House and Senate members (including some long-termers) exiting Capitol Hill in early January, either through retirement or having lost their elections, the threat of depression and despair looms for this newest class of displaced persons. In this heart-tugging reality series, a philanthropic lobbyist decides to launch an Internet start-up specifically designed to help these political animals transition back to life in the outside world. Among the services offered: lessons on driving, picking up dry-cleaning and grocery shopping; how to apply for a job without giving a stump speech; and surviving face-to-face encounters with disappointed or downright cranky former constituents.
"Freshman Orientation": In this fact-inspired comedy-drama, newly elected representative Edward "Skid" Skidmore begins his transition from small-town tire-store owner to member of Congress. Following him to Washington are his wife Molly, a dedicated scrapbooker, Colonial-history buff and Dolley Madison (above, at left) impersonator; and his two children, avid bow-hunting teen son Edward Jr. (a k a "Teddy"), and 10-year-old aspiring cupcake baker Abigail (a k a "Sugarplum"). In their first week, Molly dons her full regalia for a White House reception and frightens Bo the First Dog; Teddy develops a crush on avid hunter and political columnist S.E. Cupp (right); and Sugarplum inadvertently runs afoul of the FDA in her quest to provide each representative with a customized cupcake.
"C-SPAN Confessions": Each week, citizens bravely step forward to admit that they do, indeed, watch C-SPAN coverage of House and Senate proceedings on a daily basis. They then face a round of trivia questions on the Founding Documents, followed by a selection of physical challenges, including a filibuster marathon, a last-minute vote-call sprint and a set of deep-knee bends while holding a copy of the 2,409-page healthcare bill. Viewers cast votes for their favorite, and at the end of the first season, the winner gets a campaign war chest to run for Congress -- which only makes sense, since any of these folks has probably seen more of what goes on in Congress than many people elected to serve there.