Pretend Candidates Fake the Nation

Pretend presidential candidates will have to woo viewers to remain on the latest reality TV show.

Salt Lake City Weekly | July 22, 2004
Fake the Nation

Showtime’s American Candidate mocks the vote, reality-style.


This is the story of 10 candidates who find out what happens when they stop being political and start getting real … or is it stop being real and start getting political?

It’s the dumbest idea for a reality show in at least a week and, since we’ve proven ourselves to be suckers for ever-newer and dumber reality shows, we’re going to have to pay to see it: American Candidate (Showtime; debuts Sunday, Aug. 1), a new series featuring six men and four women of various ages and political backgrounds being coached then eliminated in weekly challenges testing their presidential knowledge and campaign smarts, leading up to a Final Two showdown. Viewers will vote by phone or online for their fave; the winner will receive $200,000 and the opportunity to address “the nation” (i.e. Showtime subscribers) as “the president” from a fabricated Oval Office set.

A little American Idol, a little Last Comic Standing, all less consequential than the Miller vs. Budweiser “President of Beers” campaign (vote for change, vote Pabst).

The pretend candidates: Keith Boykin (38, New York, author and political activist), Bruce Friedrich (34, Virginia, vegan and PETA employee), Chrissy Gephardt (31, Washington D.C, lesbian and PR consultant), Park Gillespie (38, North Carolina, middle-school teacher), Malia Lazu (26, Massachusetts, political agitator), (51, Utah, author and former sheriff), Joyce Riley (55, Kansas, talk-radio host), James Strock (47, California, lawyer), Bob Vanech (35, California, business CEO) and Lisa Witter (31, Washington, PR firm V.P.).

Since most of Showtime’s publicity flaks were too busy hobnobbing with useless daily TV hacks at the Television Critics Association’s July press tour in Los Angeles (wherein cash-bloated local daily newspapers fly out TV writers so they can report back breaking news flashes like “Summer programming is hard” and “Reality shows are here to stay”) to answer any phone calls or e-mails last week, no previews of American Candidate were made available to The Only TV Column That Matters™. Fortunately, because wild speculation is one of the bedrock values of this alt TV hack, not a problem.

Let’s say, in the premiere episode, the 10 candidates move into a swank Hollywood Hills mansion—because, if reality TV has taught us anything, it’s that there’s apparently a 90-percent vacancy rate for swank Hollywood Hills mansions. Right away, Bruce is all up in Bob’s grill: “Hey, Mr. Corporate Fascist, how many animals did you oppress today?” Bob: “Step off, Dr. Doolittle—don’t you have a Hot Dog On a Stick to go firebomb?”

AC host Montel Williams (shockingly, Ryan Seacrest was unavailable) steps in: “Hold on fellas, save it for the debates.” Joyce, adjusting aluminum-foil hat: “I agree, there are far too many other important issues to be discussed—like how aliens are controlling us through our dental fillings.” Kevin: “As the token gay black man of the show, I must say … Who is this crazy old white lady?” Malia: “True that—Aunt May is straight trippin.’”

Meanwhile, the other candidates tour the house and discover the hot tub. Park, stripping down to a Speedo: “Oh man, we are going to score so much tail in this ‘campaign’—beer me!” Lisa, tossing can of MGD (yes, Miller won that other race): “Aren’t you at all concerned with serving the fake constituents of the fake nation one of us will be fake presiding over … Jesus, what am I doing here?” Chrissy, hand on Lisa’s ass: “I feel your pain—and a Vicky’s Secret thong, if I’m not mistaken. Bold choice.”

Back in the kitchen, James gets emotional: “Boring characters are usually the first kicked off reality shows, and there’s never been a more boring reality-show character than me—I’m like the guy in the red uniform on Star Trek! I’m so screwed!” Richard, in the confessional booth: “Sure, I could have been governor of Utah, but if I win this, I can tell my platform to literally thousands of viewers right before another showing of Married People, Single Sex. Too bad Showtime is parental-blocked completely out of my hometown of Provo, though …”

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