Cable channel FX to run 'American Candidate' competition.
September 20, 2002 7:50 PM   Subscribe

Cable channel FX to run 'American Candidate' competition. You heard me right, folks. Picture 'American Idol', but this time the winner gets to run for president. (Presumably via a whole lot of cash from FX.) Man, I can hear the Europeans mocking us already!
posted by tweebiscuit (38 comments total)
Could the candidates really be much worse than what we usually get?
posted by jonmc at 8:06 PM on September 20, 2002

good point jonmc, and how long will it be before this becomes a viable way for candidates to garner press coverage?
i can see it now; "this candidate brought to you by SomeHideousProduct®"
posted by dolface at 8:13 PM on September 20, 2002

Murdoch is brilliant. Let the marking guys find someone with all the right traits, rig it so they win. With the current mindless following of anything TV they can't help but win. Changes name of country to Fox USA.
posted by mss at 8:18 PM on September 20, 2002

meanwhile, in my hometown of Richmond VA, there will be a congressional race debate Sunday between the incumbent Eric Cantor, and 'Cooter' from the Dukes of Hazzard. Be careful what you wish for...
posted by machaus at 8:20 PM on September 20, 2002

smirk        european
posted by andrew cooke at 8:22 PM on September 20, 2002

Will we be able to vote for President with convenient 1-800 numbers?
posted by waxpancake at 8:31 PM on September 20, 2002

I am *so* going to run for FX President. Yes I am. :)
posted by dejah420 at 8:48 PM on September 20, 2002

If I was old enough, I'd so be there.

XQUZYPHYR: Detrimental to society? Little hyperbolic don't you think?
posted by owillis at 8:57 PM on September 20, 2002

This is an idea that is not only horrendous, but detrimental to society.

You should've stuck with whimsical. This country elects failed B movie actors, wrestlers, sitcom stars, and the unsuccessful children of politicians. Even if this actually produced a credible candidate, which seems unlikely, it can't possibly be any worse than a system that elects people like Katherine Harris and James Traficant. The show even has a chance to serve as a civics lesson, like a real-life version of The Candidate.
posted by rcade at 9:05 PM on September 20, 2002

I'm with XQUZwhozewhutzit on this one. Well, when I think about it, our elections are pretty much like a game show already, just look at our last one. I guess it can't get much worse.
posted by spungfoo at 9:06 PM on September 20, 2002

...HBO had this idea about a year ago, called Candidate 2012. And they supposedly already cast it, too. I haven't heard anything about it recently, so the project might be dead.
posted by ncurley at 9:33 PM on September 20, 2002

I sent in an email -- what the heck!

I mean really what are the chances of the "Fair And Balanced" network chosing me, a divorced, 9 yrs clean and sober, lefty lesbian from the south!?!
posted by bas67 at 9:44 PM on September 20, 2002

Who in their right mind would create or even participate in a game show where the winner gets marked for death? I'm serious here. If this goes through and it even remotely looks like some people are taking it seriously, the winner is going to die.

You might ask the same thing about real Presidential candidates, but this is even worse. "Brought to you by the creator of The New Millennium Minstrel Show." I can almost admire this idea, if I could really believe the creators are that cynical. If this was created by someone who wants people to die, well; that's pretty daring. Another part of me feels like they actually think this is okay, and people will smile when they watch it. Both parts think the winner will be shot in the head by a borderline personality militia member.
posted by son_of_minya at 10:04 PM on September 20, 2002

This country elects failed B movie actors, wrestlers, sitcom stars, and the unsuccessful children of politicians.

Fx is on my B channels.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:09 PM on September 20, 2002

Fx is on my B channels.

I'm not sure anyone other than Dallas residents (or ex-residents) are going to understand that one thom...but I for one do not miss the archaic cable system there.
posted by pitchblende at 10:57 PM on September 20, 2002

Just when you thought American politics couldn't get more tawdry. I have to agree with XQUZYPHYR, though, just because our system is already messed up, that's no excuse for making it even more so. With any luck, no one will watch it. Reality TV seems to have jumped the shark, so maybe this won't be as detrimental to the system as we think.
posted by ncc2893 at 12:02 AM on September 21, 2002

God Bless America. Mediasaturated capitalist democracy may be a lurching, stumbling trainwreck of a way to run a country ("Yes, but it's our lurching, stumbling trainwreck, and we love it!"), but it's always good for a laugh.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:22 AM on September 21, 2002

In my country the prime-minister candidates are selected by the less than five percent of the population that are part of a political party. This percentage is becoming smaller and smaller every year - and it seems more and more detached from the rest of us that are either not interested or can not find an appropriate party to join. I think this problem will eventually lead to some kind of fundamental change to our political system.

Do you have the same problem in the USA? I have no real understanding of how presidential candidates are selected.
posted by FidelDonson at 12:28 AM on September 21, 2002

I actually think this is not a terrible idea. The idea of having 100 canditates to choose from, assuming that they are all more or less qualified, is a huge step up from the usual system of two candidates with enormous war chests and debates that lock out minor party candidates.

It's too bad the way this is coming about is a reality-tv-gameshow. Would be nice if it were actually part of our democratic system.
posted by 4easypayments at 12:38 AM on September 21, 2002

4easypayments: I agree, in that it would probably increase our chances of having a decent candidate for whom to vote, if it were actually set up and paid for by our government. It's not clear from the link by what criteria the 100 candidates are chosen, but it seems that this will probably turn into some kind of shiny teeth contest.
posted by sklero at 1:04 AM on September 21, 2002

Unsurprisingly, Drudge didn't tell the whole story. According to the Post, Fx isn't actually going to pay for the campaign. If the winner actually wants to run they'll have to find their own financing.
The winner decides whether to actually run for president that fall.

Should he or she decide to go ahead, the producers will follow the candidate à la "The War Room," and telecast the campaign trail in a weekly series right up until election night.

But, Cutler emphasized, "we won't be running them for office; we won't require them to run for office. We certainly hope they will choose to run."

And how will this made-for-TV candidate finance her campaign? Let us not forget that in the last presidential election, George W. Bush spend about $186 million and Al Gore not much less than that.

"They're going to have to figure that out," Cutler said.

"We're certainly not going to provide them. This show is going to function squarely within whatever finance regulations there are. That's why we are being very careful not to say our goal is to run anybody for office. . . . We know that a television show or a cable channel or a media organization cannot run anyone for office."
Of course, that could change...

As to the merits, I find it pretty appalling. On the other hand, if people pay more attention to politics because of it, that could be a net good.
posted by Medley at 4:41 AM on September 21, 2002

In a country where minority voices are continually drained out by those sponsored by big-business, it would be nice to have a candidate actually chosen not because they have connections in the party. Putting new people and new ideas on a pedastal cannot be so bad of an idea in a system so horrendously corrupt.
posted by dogmatic at 5:59 AM on September 21, 2002

American politics is not already "like" a popularity game; it is a popularity game. It is not already "like" a television show; it is a television show. American Candidate would be "detrimental to society" if politics was not already a shallow, televised popularity game. I say, bring it on. Hopefully it will make us ask the following question: What the hell? And hopefully we will start desiring a more "authentic" form of politics that radically differs from the television format.
posted by jacknose at 7:05 AM on September 21, 2002

Strangely i think this is a GREAT idea. The main reason that we don't know of more quality candidates is because they never get the TV coverage they deserve. It is of course impossible to support a candidate that you've never heard of.

Hell, the fact that they'll have to have basic knowledge (ie: pass quizzes) may mean we don't end up with a president who uses words like "strategery". I have to agree that i doubt the show will be run in a legitimate and quality way, but if it is it'll be the biggest change to american politics for a couple hundred years. I know i'll be watching.
posted by NGnerd at 7:35 AM on September 21, 2002

he he he, and hopefully the quizes will also stop people who say "we don't" instead of "we won't", D'oh!
posted by NGnerd at 7:36 AM on September 21, 2002

Hell, the fact that they'll have to have basic knowledge (ie: pass quizzes) may mean we don't end up with a president who uses words like "strategery".

IIRC, wasn't that something made up by Saturday Night Live and not something Bush had actually said?
posted by gyc at 10:14 AM on September 21, 2002

NGnerd, that "strategery" crack was a cheap shot. Good thing I didn't fall for it. You know what they say in Tennessee (or is it Texas?), fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again.
posted by hari at 10:23 AM on September 21, 2002

If they have to sign contracts similar to American Idol, then we're all doomed.
posted by destro at 12:07 PM on September 21, 2002

It will depend on whether the "candidates" are shallow attention seekers or have serious thoughtful contributions to make. I know people thought Perot was a crackpot, and maybe he was a little nutty, but his outsider's perspective of running the government like a business made sense to alot of people who started wanting fiscal responsibility and an end to the deficit. Maybe one of these outsiders can bring something similar to the table.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:12 PM on September 21, 2002

Fx is on my B channels.

Although pitchblende contends thomcatspike's assessment of FX is an in-joke in the big D, but FX is a B network.

FX gets an average audience of about half a million viewers - with its MASH and 90120 re-runs. There are some outliers -- The Shield and FX's sports programming -- where a few million people tune in.

By running the show on FX, Fox mitigates its risks. If the show becomes a hit by B network standards, it wins. If it becomes the next "American Idol", Fox can move it over to its broadcast network. Fox's Candidate wouldn't need all the money Bush and the TBD demo would need. The Fox Candidate would have zillions of dollars of free publicity.

I can just imagine the Democrats and Republicans response to having the Fox Candidate in the debates.
posted by birdherder at 1:38 PM on September 21, 2002

I have a great idea for choosing the president; it'll revolutionize electoral politics and bring a new sense of fairness and democracy to this great land of ours. The president should be selected, from among all qualified (older than 35, born in the USA, no felonies) citizens, by lottery. Anyone has a chance of being president, and the selection is completely random. If you're picked, there's no getting out of it--you have to be president for at least four years. After one term, if the president wants another term, there's an election, and the people can choose to either keep the incumbent or have a new random president. As I see it, this would be democracy at it's purest and most fair. It might not lead to the selection of the "most qualified" candidates, but we're not getting the "most qualified" people running for president now, are we?
posted by mr_roboto at 2:02 PM on September 21, 2002

Hey, Boston has a B trunk, too; plays hob with the VCR...
posted by agaffin at 2:30 PM on September 21, 2002

hari, that was quite possibly one of the funniest (and saddest) things i've ever seen. Bonus points to anyone who can find the video (i've only seen it on the daily show)). Maybe we can get all the bushisms together and make a big blooper reel.
posted by NGnerd at 2:38 PM on September 21, 2002

hilarious, wether heard or seen. Of course the right heard something a little different. My apologies for the side back to the thread in progress...
posted by NGnerd at 2:53 PM on September 21, 2002

Do you have the same problem in the USA? I have no real understanding of how presidential candidates are selected.

As you might have have already guessed, neither do most americans :) Seriously though...

The United States suffers from a "two-party" system. Basically, two parties just about completely dominate the electoral system and government of the country. This means that, when it comes to selecting candidates for office, the most likely persons to be chosen are those who have worked their way into a good spot in their party, and who the party leaders think actually stand a chance of winning the contest. These few receive the majority of support from the influential members of their party during the Primary Elections. The Primary Elections leave us with one candidate from each of the two major political parties who receives the majority of support from his or her own political party, and whatever other support they can garner.

Since the two major parties essentially control every institution of government, and have powerful members in almost all areas of industry, it is fairly easy for them to keep most other competition away from nationally televised debates, and to exclude third, fourth, and fifth parties from any kind of meaningful dialog on political issues.

This keeps things nice and predictable. It also allows Americans to treat elections and politics in general as a sort of competition between teams...where the voters vote for their team, rather than for the candidate, for fear that the other team might win.

It sounds like your country suffers from the opposite problem...where the number of viable political parties is so large, and the electoral system setup in such a way as to facilitate the selection of the Prime Minister by a very small percentage of the electorate. Everyone votes for their own party candidates because they actually agree with most of their party's ideals, but the real power in selecting who governs is in the hands of the party leaders who choose which coalition of parties to gang up with, and how much individual power they can garner from that alliance...the formulation of the alliance determining who the Prime Minister will be...

Sounds like your system is almost as bad as ours.
posted by ruggles at 1:59 AM on September 22, 2002

oh and to actually post on topic...

I think anything that can be done to "stir up" the political system in the USA is a good thing...what FX is planning may seem reprehensible, but if it disturbs the status quo of the two major parties at all, I'm for it.
posted by ruggles at 2:03 AM on September 22, 2002

i can see it now; "this candidate brought to you by SomeHideousProduct®"

Hooray! That way we might know who paid for the campaign!
posted by stinglessbee at 12:14 PM on September 22, 2002

In all honesty, how is this any different from the way our elections are currently run? The candidates are already funded by major corporations, they just won't admit it. I guess the only real difference will be we already know where the money's coming from as opposed to corporate soft money being passed under the radar.
posted by Lusy P Hur at 2:48 PM on September 22, 2002

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