HOLLYWOOD – Look out, Snooki! Here come Newt and Mitt! Watch your back, Simon Cowell! The “TX-Factor” is right behind you!
While television network executives grapple with the generally weak ratings for their new fall lineup – a mostly tepid rehash of formulaic reality shows, sitcoms and police procedurals – the season’s one breakout hit has caught the TV industry completely by surprise with its unique and unprecedented combination of unscripted reality, riotous comedy, blood-thirsty horror and nail-biting suspense.
“They’re running…AND SO SHOULD YOU!” is the promotional catchphrase for what has quickly become the must-see show of the fall 2011 season. Officially entitled “The Republican Presidential Debates” but now more commonly referred to as just “RPD” by its growing legion of rabid fans, the show has already made household names of its plucked-from-near-obscurity stars: Mitt, Rick P., Michele, Newt, Ron, Herman, Jon, Rick S. and Gary.
Offering a compelling mix of reality and fantasy, comedy and tragedy, verbal pratfalls, jaw-dropping misstatements and heated trash-talking – not only about the President of the United States but also about each other – “RFD” is now the number one subject of office water cooler talk on the day following each episode.
“We haven’t talked about a show this much at work ever since Lost ended,” said Lori Enders, an office manager for a medical equipment wholesaler. “And, just as we used to be obsessed with whether Ben, the leader of The Others, was good or evil, now we’re asking the same question about Mitt. I mean, on the one hand, yes, he does look like one of those rich, handsome villains on ‘Colombo’, but then again, whenever he’s standing next to Rick P., it makes me think, well, at least Mitt doesn’t look like a serial killer.”
“I loved it when Rick P. told Mitt that he must not have a heart if he was against letting the children of illegal aliens pay lower in-state university tuition fees,” said self-proclaimed “RFD fanatic” Chris O’Dell. “It’s like, wow, when a guy who has overseen the execution of 234 prisoners says you have no heart, then you’ve really got to be one cold motherf**ker, right?”
“My favorite is Michele,” said LeeAnne Henderson, a high school student. “She’s so pretty, and I was so sorry for her when she explained that the reason she’s mentally retarded is because some woman in the audience injected her with some government anti-STD vaccine. I’m sure as heck not going to get a vaccination like that and risk giving cancer to one of my many boyfriends when we’re having unprotected sex. Now, every time Michele speaks, I’m always yelling at the screen, ‘You go, girl! Show ‘em what a mentally disabled person can do!’”
But, all fans agree that the real stars of “RPD” are the members of its studio audiences, who succeed in transforming the show from a mere political debate into something more closely resembling a gladiatorial blood-fest at the Roman Coliseum.
“When the audience cheered for letting that hypothetical uninsured 30-year-old sick man die, or when they booed that gay soldier in Iraq who’s putting his life on the line for us, I was like, whoa, this is the most terrifying show in the history of television!” said Earl Patterson, an unemployed auto mechanic. “Really. Those people make the flesh-eating zombies on ‘The Walking Dead’ or the ravenous vampires on ‘True Blood’ look like a bunch of pussies.”
“They also make me realize how much I miss ‘The Jerry Springer Show’,” Patterson noted.
Finally, “RPD” has broken even more new ground by airing each of its episodes on a different television network. So far, the show’s ratings beneficiaries have been Fox, CNN and NBC. But there’s no doubt that the other networks, enviously observing the success of “RPD”, will be hurrying to produce their own knock-off versions of the show.
Fox itself is already rumored to be in development of its own exclusive series, which builds on the existing “RPD” format with exciting additions such as the live execution of a convicted felon and a competition in which audience members submit their most virulent epithets for President Obama in order to vie for the chance to disconnect a terminally ill patient’s Medicaid-funded life support.
Meanwhile, the best news for viewers is that the 2012 U.S. presidential election is still more than a year away. So, stay tuned!