“I just didn’t know if anybody would show up.” -Joe Flaherty
Last night, CNN aired the pilot episode of the 2016 Democratic Presidential Debate. The only risky behavior in this two-hour dramedy was airing the pilot as a bottleneck episode. It was set in a single space— a stage that looked like all the dressings had been made overseas. Though static, the setting did allow us to explore the loose intricacies of five characters in search of The Oval Office.
Four white dudes and one white woman on a network using ethnics as diversity pulls compete in an amazing race to win the Presidency–it’s just like every other show on TV, but what made this particular political pilot stand out were the characters and their relationships. I mean, why watch a baby pouring celebratory booze into a ball player’s mouth when you can watch Five Broken Candidates! What’s that? You had no idea dem ‘bates were on? Cable and Internet access were down? Say what about a Cubs game?
The Frenemies: “Hillary Clinton” and “Bernie Sanders”
More like Hill-Ornery Keep-On-Keepin-On and Berknee-Socks-with-Sandals! Oh, boy! The writers realllllly fleshed out this love/hate dynamic in the two hours they had to pull it off. Talk about coming from two different worlds! Hillary’s just a gal with a dream, having pulled herself up by her Park Ridgeian, girl-next-door bootstraps. After years of big uh-ohs, orating her way through cover-ups and crashing Chinese political meetings with her pal, Barack, she’s finally gained the power to super PAC a punch to her naysayers! One of those naysayers? The confident and rebellious Ber-nay Sanders, who would pull himself up by his bootstraps, too, if he wasn’t about to doze off in the middle of a Putin prompt.
Yes, Hill and Nie-Nie are like peanut butter and crunchy peanut butter. They seem to basically agree on everything. Climate change! How email scandals should be handled! But heeeeyyyy…. who put these nuts in my 5 Step Plan to Bring Down Corporate America sandwich?! Berrrnieeee!!!
The Hot Goss
“Martin O’Malley” is brilliantly played by Will Forte, though one could argue he’s doing a diluted “Tim Calhoun.” Anything Hillary and Bernie can do, Martin can do better! He wants so desperately to prove that he single-handedly brought down the NRA, but, like, also wants to hang out with Bernie and Hil…but, like, not at the same time, ‘cause then, like, he can’t sh*t talk with one about the other without the risk of losing both of them! What’s a braggart blunderbuss to do?!
The Quirky New Guy
Good to see The Little Mermaid‘s poor unfortunate souls are still getting work. Even if it is playing “Lincoln Chafee,” a puppy that excitedly pees on himself if you pay him any attention. And he does a fine job of it. The writers really showcased his adoration for the camera, the podium, little dust particles around him…hope there’s a flashback episode where we see his first day in the Senate as a big boy casting a big boy vote.
The Peripheral Dude
While this show often felt like Two Dems and a Platform Space, honorable mention goes to future cutting room floor character, Jim Webb, who had a remarkable obsession with China and who’s most proud of a dead enemy soldier he implicitly off’d in ‘Nam. (Another flashback episode, maybe?)
Plot A: All the male characters are asked to subtly mansplain why Hillary shouldn’t get the job.
Plot B: O’Malley tries to get center space as he navigates Hil & Bern’s enem-ship.
Plot C: Tracking Jim Webb’s sanity as he repeatedly mutters to himself, “just ten more minutes ‘til Andersen lets Jimbo jump-rope again…”
The episode ended with Hillary Clinton telling the world that her dead mom was a huge Chumbawamba fan. Overall, it was a bland dramedy spin-off of the first 2016 Republican Debate. Pilots are usually rough, though. It’ll be interesting to see how these characters’ relationships develop. What new secrets will be uncovered? Will we ever hear the guy on the far left of the screen talk? Will there ever be a Democratic/Republican crossover sweeps stunt?!
Atra Asdou is a writer/performer based in Chicago. She recently performed through The Second City Training Center’s Severn Darden Graduate Program in the show “No Selfie Control.”