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Fantasy TV
I have a confession to make. I never watched The Apprentice. It’s a shame, really, because someday the show will be taught in history courses. And to think I had a chance to witness first hand a new style of governing as it was being created.

As I understand the nature of the show, it shared many of the same elements that are common to other so-called reality TV programs: backbiting, plotting, rampant personal animus, and the slavish currying of favor with some all-powerful, capricious person who can decide the contestants’ fate at will.

These shows, I am told, are wildly popular, though no one has told me why. There seems to be an unquenchable appetite these days for unpleasantness. I don’t have to actually watch shows with names like Survivor, Big Brother, Fear Factor, or Hell’s Kitchen to know that the participants will be treating each other badly. The entertainment, apparently, is found in the ugliness of the human soul laid bare.

Though we might be tempted to see the internal strife in the current White House as an extension of The Apprentice, I think the show title that best captures its essence is Naked and Afraid. No one seems to be enjoying himself at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, including the all-powerful, capricious person in charge. He, like everyone there, is being stripped naked before our eyes, and they all have good reason to be afraid as the multiple investigations continue to swirl around them. Worse yet for Drump, the promise of absolute power has proven to be illusory. Fear and loathing might make for good ratings, but they don’t seem to be much use in governance. This sort of reality TV, it is clear, is not getting the job done in the world of actual reality.

Which leads me to a question. Does this failure mean that we have to abandon the governing model of reality TV game shows? What if there is another, similar form that might succeed in real reality where fear and loathing do not? Instead of the win-at-all-costs style of American bloodsport TV, how about a show in which the contestants are all nice? And even though they are competing against one another, what if the players wished each other well and were genuinely concerned with each others’ welfare? And so, here is my proposal: why not follow the lead of the English producers who have given us The Great British Baking Show?

Everyone on that show is sweet as can be. Even though it is a reality show, the brand of entertainment it provides has more of an adorably goofy flavor — not the bitter taste of human misery. The tone of this gentile “competition” is set by its host, the ever-chipper Mary Berry. Ms. Berry clearly relishes her role as the “doyenne of baking” — as well as the opportunity to consume large quantities of high-end baked goods (even though, miraculously, she has managed to to remain rail thin into her late 70s). Unlike her merciless American counterparts, she has nothing but kind words and camaraderie to offer her contestants.

The whole enterprise takes place, not in a soulless skyscraper or an impersonal sound studio, but under a large, graceful tent somewhere in the English countryside. I could live happily in a country that existed in a meadow inside a big tent. It would be no more real than Celebrity Apprentice or Naked and Afraid, but at least I would remain fully clothed (which I prefer) and have free access to all the scones, fougasse, and dampfnudel I could eat.

Our Constitution, of course, prohibits Mary Berry from being elected President. Sadly, we will never know what life could be like under her gentle hosting. We can assume, though, that we wouldn’t all be engulfed by dread upon waking each morning. We would more likely awaken wrapped in a light, fluffy nougat or perhaps a puff pastry. Though that might prove to be inconvenient, at least it would be a predicament we could cope with — as long as we limited ourselves to a small salad for dinner that night.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee