Listen, the country survived the presidencies of Nixon, Reagan even the pantless antics of Bill Clinton. Im not worried that a barely literate frat boy like George W. Bush is going to do irreparable damage to the United States of America when he takes office days from now. Im worried that hell do irreparable damage to American TV.
Think about it: The guy hasnt even been sworn in, and hes already pulled the rug out from under the strongest, snap-crackle-poppingest market in modern times. By simply being a goomer and grumbling a couple of surly scripted remarks, hes got in-vestors dumping stock and shaking in their Guccis. Imagine what he could do to Must-See Thursday.
If you question for a second the fact that the medium reflects the sensibility and character of the Chief Executive these days, bear in mind it was the Clinton years which brought us Spring Break With Jerry Springer on Mtv, complete with strip-poker matches and streaking. Bill can also take credit for prime-time nudity on network shows like NYPD Blue, nearly total relaxation of traditional standards and practice codes, The Cindy Margolis Show and Richard Hatch.
As legacies go, that might not sound like much, but it beats the hell out of round-the-clock Hee-Haw. Dont laugh. Its not all that preposterous a thought. I have it on good authority the President Elects first choice for Attorney General was Walker, Texas Ranger.
But seriously. The next four years are unlikely to be golden, enlightened or Camelotesque. Thirty-six days of post-election broadcast chaos may be only the beginning of Dubyas impact on American television. From where I sit, the new leader of the free world looks a whole lot like Dan Quayle in cowboy boots. My sense is, when we turn on our TVs come 2004, well be damn lucky if what we find is no weirder than the following:
THE NEW BEVERLY HILLBILLIES
In this update, the Clampetts strike oil but make the decision to stay in the South and start a dynasty. With soft money from Mr. Drysdale, Jed successfully runs for President and Jethro later follows him into the White House after a series of dubious recounts supervised impartially by Miss Hathaway.
Feeling that the stars of daytime courtroom shows like Judges Mills, Lane, Mathis, Joe Brown and Judy have been unfairly hamstrung, the new President grants the TV personalities the authority to impose the death penalty. Sonia Bloomberg of Encino becomes the first person in American history executed for not repaying a bitter ex-roommate for her share of the rent.
Will and Jack perish in a tragic truck-dragging mix-up while passing through the Bible Belt, and their bereaved friend gradually evolves into a plucky Mary Richards for the new millennium.
Rights to behind-the-scenes beltway coverage and commentary are turned over to The Nashville Network.
OIL WELLS THAT END WELL
As a courtesy to friends with ties to energy concerns and big industry, the new administration sees to it that movies like The China Syndrome, Silkwood, A Civil Action and Erin Brockovich are broadcast on TV, but only after they are given revised, business-friendly endings.
The phenomenally popular comedy remains on the air, but Courteney Cox Arquette is mysteriously replaced by out-of-work Florida toady Katherine Harris.
By order of the White House, the long-running saga of an influencial, alcohol-soaked Texas clan airs non-stop on Nick at Nite.
THE WESTERN WING
Bush pulls strings to have the name of the popular White House drama changed and its star, Martin Sheen, replaced by John Schneider from The Dukes of Hazzard.
SHERMAN AND MR. PEABODY
The History Channel goes all-cartoon and deals with only those events and subjects which can be explained using the combination of a boy, his bespectacled dog and a Wayback Machine.
Hey, it could happen. Who knows what mutant new monster medium might be bred from this unholy mating of The Grand Old Party and The Grand Ol Opry? If those 36 days taught us anything, however, its that the future is not ours to see and it doesnt pay to say too much too soon. So Ill say no more for now. Benefit of the doubt. Not another word.
If on Inauguration Day you should happen to hear the theme from Bonanza instead of Hail to the Chief, though, dont say I didnt warn you.