Idea for sitcom: A bombastic reality-show star becomes president, then shakes down a Ukrainian TV comedian-turned-president to dig up dirt on his chief rival for re-election. Like it?
Me neither. But you can’t take your eyes off it, can you? "The Impeachment Show!" It’s got everything — a brave whistleblower hero (or villain, depending on your point of view), a charismatic con artist president whose former “You’re fired!” catchphrase is now coming back to haunt him, and his bonkers, Joker-type lawyer who used to be mayor of Gotham — I mean New York City. What a plot!
For many, news and entertainment have become virtually indistinguishable. To them, it’s all one big reality show. Whom are you rooting for?
President Donald Trump is the ultimate result of our celebrity media culture. The media can’t resist covering him 24/7, because his relentless pursuit of money, conflict and ratings matches their own.
In television’s infancy, the bright red line between TV news and entertainment was strictly enforced. By the 1970s and ’80s, that line had become blurrier, and today it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart. When cable news came on the scene, all hell broke loose.
Fox News, founded by right-wing Australian-born mogul Rupert Murdoch, has long known that inflating conflict and creating heroes and villains increases eyeballs on its programs. Lately, many Fox talking heads have enjoyed tossing Trump’s rivals on the barbie, from “Crooked Hillary” Clinton to “Sleepy Joe” Biden to “Crazy Bernie” Sanders. Yet somehow, “Don the Con” Trump has failed to pass the lips of the “fair and balanced” Fox funsters, let alone “Traitor Trump.” Go figure.
Meanwhile, Fox, MSNBC, CNN and other media outlets right, left and center are all buckled up for this TV impeachment series ratings extravaganza, which is only beginning. Tons of conflict, good guys, bad guys, a smoking gun and insults galore. Hey, it’s all fun and games from the safety of your couch.
But while you scarf down popcorn, you might consider this possible ending: What if the bad guy wins? In that case, I’ve got a strong feeling you’ll enjoy next year’s blockbuster TV sequel even less (spoiler alert):
"Whatever Happened to Our Democracy?"
Follow playwright Mike Vogel at @mikewrite7.