Two years ago Thursday night, Donald Trump could be seen “firing” Lorenzo Lamas on “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Last Friday, he took the oath of office as president of the United States.
This transformation raises several questions: Who knew the people who watch reality shows also vote? How does Lamas feel about being the last victim of pretend Trump power?
And, more important, what are the chances of another reality show producing a future president?
Let’s celebrate this exciting new era in American democracy by examining the possibilities:
“Real Housewives of (Wherever)”: It was once thought that the kind of oversharing and misbehaving these ladies of various cities are encouraged to indulge in would be a disqualifying factor for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Those were simpler times. Still, I like to close my eyes real tight and imagine a future in which such antics will be disqualifying once again. Presidential chances: None.
“The Voice”: So many choices here. There’s host Carson Daly, a Dapper Dan sort just thrilled that he has a prime-time gig, that he isn’t only the latest of network late-night hosts. There are all those musical coach/judges: Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine and, this year, Alicia Keys and Miley Cyrus. The smart money would be on the elegant and multitalented Keys or Stefani becoming the first female president, but they are both so very blue state. So let’s ignore the smart money — that seems to be the trend — and realize that if anybody comes out of this one, it’s likely to be Cyrus. She gets good ol’ boys via her dad, millennials via her tats, and she has just enough crazy in her to appeal to Americans who, after Trump, want to stick it to the establishment even more. Presidential chances: Not half bad.
“Survivor”: This is produced by Mark Burnett, as was the original “Apprentice” that turned Trump from a New York media figure into a national media figure. The host there, the sort of Trump-like constant through the run of the series, has been Jeff Probst. Probst is an American and of the constitutionally required age, yet despite being in the public eye for so many years, he seems to lack messianic tendencies. Sad. As for the contestants, they are all kind of a blur to me, one set of abs indistinguishable from the next. Presidential chances: Low.
“American Idol”: This is a decent crucible for the presidency. The judges have to listen to a lot of really bad (musical) ideas and sort them out from the people with genuine talent. Then they have to deliver news, good and bad, in a way that keeps people liking them. And the show has already trained hordes of young Americans to vote, albeit by cellphone. I don’t see any of the judges as a viable candidate, however. Simon Cowell and Keith Urban wouldn’t be able to beat the birther issue. Steven Tyler is too old, Paula Abdul and Jennifer Lopez too nice. But when we look at the contestants, we start getting somewhere. Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson (she shared the inauguration stage with President Obama in 2013)? Good choices. But I kind of like Clay Aiken in this one. He’s already run for U.S. Congress and says he might do it again, and a Democratic gay dad from a red state — and one who can sing at his own inauguration — might be just the uniter America needs. Presidential chances: Medium strong.
“The Amazing Race”: What this country’s problems demand is a president who can get from St. Paul to Saskatoon with only a bus token, one hiking shoe and a length of jump-rope. Accomplish that and the budget deficit, the wealth gap, and the crumbling infrastructure seem like easy fixes. Somewhere amid this series’ years of globe-trotting challenges, there exists a potential can-do commander in chief. The problem is that “Amazing Race” has its people work in pairs, and the U.S. presidency remains stubbornly committed to individualism. Presidential chances: So-so.
“The New Celebrity Apprentice”: Watching Arnold Schwarzenegger host this gathering of has-beens as they feign interest in business tasks, it seems absurd to consider that a president might arise from such a morass of ego and thwarted ambition. Isn’t it pretty to think so? Presidential chances: Lightning doesn’t strike twice.
“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”: If our president has to emerge from a made-for-television competition, many of us would like it to be from a show testing intelligence and knowledge — such as “Millionaire” or the still-running “Jeopardy.” It seems, alas, that those of us who feel that way have made residency choices that dilute our potential power in the Electoral College, which, it turns out, means we are not nearly as smart as we think we are. Presidential chances: Slim, none.
“Keeping Up with the Kardashians”: Well, duh. Now that I think about it, this is almost a foregone conclusion. Khloe will have already been nominated for secretary of education while we all prepare, a dozen or so years from now, to watch the swearing in of President Kim Kardashian as first gentleman Kanye West stands by her side. Presidential chances: Inevitable.