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New Reality Show to Create American Presidential Candidate In "Idol" Fashionby Susan Schechter & David Bloomberg -- 09/21/2002
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According to September 20's edition of Variety, the FX network is working on a new reality show aiming to select a "people's candidate" for U.S. president from thousands of hopefuls. Variety states the project hopes to yield a candidate for the 2004 presidential election by discovering "untapped political talent" in the same vein as the hit series American Idol discovered new musical talent. Unlike Idol, the candidate must be at least 35, which is the youngest age an American citizen can be to run for President.
The show's production team will consist of R.J. Cutler, who produced the War Room documentary for the Clinton campaign. Jay Roach, the director of the Austin Powers movies, and Tom Lassally, the producer of Totally Hidden Video, are also onboard. "It's like a cross between The War Room and American Idol", said Cutler to Variety. "We will be making available to every American who is qualified, by virtue of the Constitution, the opportunity to run for president. We're trying to see if there's a young Abe Lincoln out there, somebody whose vision could turn on the public in an exciting way," he added.
Their idea is to shoot 13 episodes at a variety of American landmarks. The producers will ask any interested presidential hopefuls to fill out a questionnaire, make a videotape, and find 50 community members to act as sponsors. A panel of experts will whittle down the expected thousands of applicants to 100 applicants for the start of the series. While this sounds an awful lot like Idol, there is no word yet as to whether there will be a snide British judge involved.
As the candidates compete in debates and challenges, they will be reduced and cut by a point system that factors in competition results, live audience response, and telephone/Internet voting, according to Variety. The final choice for presidential candidate will be made during a live show at Washington DC's National Mall around July 4, 2004.
Unlike Idol, there is no contractual obligation for the winner to follow through and actually run for president. But if the winner does decide to do so, the show will follow him or her through election day (presuming the ratings are still there, one surmises). Winning on the show would be just the beginning. Getting elected is hard - take it from me as someone who has worked on various presidential campaigns. If a candidate wants to be on the ballot rather than just a write-in candidate, a presidential hopeful would have to petition for thousands of signatures state by state. Most states have made it very difficult for anybody but a Republican or Democrat to get onto the ballot - that's one thing they can agree on, keeping themselves safe.
In Illinois, for example, when a Libertarian candidate actually got more than 5% of the vote for the University of Illinois Board, a very minor office, and therefore would be allowed on the next ballot without having to undergo extreme measures, the governor quickly acted to change that Board from an elected one to an appointed one. Can't have those third party candidates messing up the works! So, what does this mean for the winner of this show? That winning is only the first part in a major uphill battle. Unless he or she plans to join a major party - whose members probably won't be terribly thrilled to have a candidate like this running for President -- odds are stacked quite high against him or her.
Of course, even if the winner does manage to get on the ballot, there are the voting machines in Florida to contend with. Then again, those machines may give him or her the best shot at winning!
Susan can be reached at email@example.com.
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