The day I came up with the idea for my novel, Fail to the Chief, I was running on the treadmill, and the TV was on a 24-hour news channel. I realized election coverage is a lot like a reality show—candidates are followed 24/7, commentators yell questions at them, and just when you think you know who’s going to win, someone throws a wrench into things and everything changes.
So if it’s pretty much just a reality show anyway, why not go all the way and let people vote from their couches, like we do for other reality shows? I read years ago that more people voted for American Idol than voted for president in the last election. Wouldn’t voter turnout be better if people didn’t have to drive to the polls and stand in line?
Of course, the idea of online voting isn’t new, and usually the answer to that is, “But, hackers!” But the idea of making the election an actual reality show where people could vote without leaving the couch? That interested me. (Measures to prevent hacking are addressed in the book.)
What would this reality show look like? I immediately pictured the shows I watched, but with candidates for contestants. You’d have your typical reality show host, the obligatory well-tanned guy in a tuxedo introducing the contestants, giving them a shoulder to cry their totally fake tears on, and basically expressing no opinion whatsoever, because that’s what reality show hosts do, right?
Now, enter the contestants. This was around December of 2015, so the 2016 presidential race was just heating up, and there were tons of real candidates on both sides of the aisle for inspiration. I imagined various characters competing on this reality show to elect a president. What could happen on a reality show that couldn’t happen in real life? What would we learn about the candidates if we really followed them around with cameras 24/7?
I had been writing satire about politicians for my local Gridiron Show since 2012, and in December of 2015 there was no shortage of colorful characters in the presidential race, all ripe for satirizing.
Then there are the challenges you see on reality shows. I remembered things I’d always wanted to see in a presidential debate: A boxing match between candidates, a debate where the contenders were hooked up to polygraph machines, candidates being forced to work at real jobs like us regular people, a debate where the candidates had to play a drinking game instead of the audience choosing to do so. Who wouldn’t want to watch a debate where the candidates had to take a drink every time someone said something trite, overused, or eyeroll-inducing? None of those things are going to happen in real life, but I was able to make them happen in my book.
W. T. Fallon believes if you can’t say something nice, you should say something funny and totally true. She has few marketable skills, but is highly talented in the areas of sarcasm, satire, and snark. For the past several years, she has written for the local Gridiron Show, and this year she started a blog called Sharable Sarcasm. The 2016 election provided so many opportunities for humor that she decided to write her first novel, a political satire called Fail to the Chief, which will be released in September. She was recently published on The Satirist, and will start writing for Humor Outcasts in September of 2016. Find her:
About Fail to the Chief:
After years of emceeing insipid singing competitions, TV personality Bryan Seafoam can’t wait to host “American President,” the world’s first reality show to elect a president of the United States. Finally, an opportunity to be a real journalist, digging up dirt and playing hardball with the top ten candidates.
But it doesn’t take long for the contestants to start slinging mud at Bryan – literally, when billionaire candidate Ronald Chump is challenged to dig his proposed moat along the Mexican-American border himself. Forced to work in a fast food restaurant, an anti-minimum-wage-hike candidate learns his coworkers are struggling to survive with multiple jobs and claims to have solved the unemployment problem in his state-leaving Bryan to duck ketchup bombs from customers. To make matters worse, Bryan’s producer pressures him to be nicer to the candidates, and his former crush, now an experienced political correspondent, shows up-and shows him up at every turn.
When a cheating scandal rocks the show, Bryan begins to suspect it’s just the tip of a very underhanded iceberg. Will trying to expose a plot to wreck the most hysterical, er, historic election in history cost Bryan his career-and his personal life?
I would totally watch this show, would you? LOL
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