Monday, August 18, 2008

How To Improve On Reality -- Make It TV Instead!

My suggested headline was “My Pitch For Maricopa County’s Hottest New Realty TV Show” but the editor thought more direct was more better. Plus I got a block quote of the first sentence of the fifth ‘graf (“Becoming a full-time TV star….”) and almost all of my extra capital letters made it past the copy editors, so I have no complaints.

East Valley Tribune, Aug. 17, 2008

Last week I met Dan Saban, the Democrat running for Maricopa County Sheriff, and in addition to contributing to his campaign, I gave him my simple proposal for improving public safety, increasing respect for law and justice, and making Joe Arpaio filthy rich: Get Joe Arpaio his own reality TV show, and let somebody else do the boring, prosaic work of being Maricopa County Sheriff.

Joe gets to do everything he does now, only more so, but in a much more congenial (and suitable) format. He can play “America’s Toughest Sheriff” to the hilt, but nobody can criticize him anymore for being a publicity-crazed, stunt-oriented buffoon.

Joe still will get plenty, if not more, media coverage; as a reality-TV star, he wouldn’t face any troublesome equal-time obligations or news blackouts during election campaigns. Just look at how much newsprint and pixels the so-called news media devote to American Idol, especially compared to local politics. Joe’s a far bigger a celebrity than Jordin Sparks. Some articles about him might appear in a different section of the paper, but reporters will spell his name correctly. He’ll become even more famous, and his political endorsement probably will be worth more than today.

Moving to TV opens up “cross-platform possibilities,” as the showbiz types say. Joe likes to plaster his name on Sheriff’s Office property ranging from pink boxers to tanks, but all he gets now is publicity. However, merchandise spin-offs from The Joe Show could raise beaucoup bucks and still help advertise The Arpaio Brand. And for his deputies, there are all sorts of possibilities, like stock options, spinoff shows, and merchandizing subsidiaries -- all on top of the fact that being a deputy sheriff doesn’t really impress babes like being a top producer for a hit reality TV series.

Becoming a full-time TV star gets rid of numerous headaches and technicalities -- like the Bill of Rights -- currently interfering with Joe Being Joe. Imagine how much simpler illegal immigrant sweeps will be once they’re staged for TV. Not that they aren’t staged for TV now, but going legit means that the “illegals” will have signed waivers and agreed to appear, so no more worries about their rights or treatment.

Local police and public officials, instead of carping about costs and the harm to public safety, will be happy to hang around and provide security in hopes of getting screen time. Reality TV has proved that Americans will do almost anything, no matter how humiliating, to appear on television, so we’ll have no shortage of “prisoners” to live in Tent City for months, hoping to survive to appear next week. The guards’ work becomes much, much easier; in a real jail, you have to work to keep inmates inside, but on reality TV, they’ll compete to stick around.

Joe’s people can audition the demonstrators at the sweeps, so that anybody too “regular” gets removed from the set, leaving only the suitably-crazed and foreign-looking for the reaction shots -- while making sure that there are lots of demonstrators, because the only thing worse than having lots of media-friendly protestors at a Joe Arpaio Production is not having any.

It’s a good move for the local media, too. Today, they must pretend they’re covering the news when they’re appearing as extras at an Arpaio media extravaganza. Moving to the private sector frees them from this pretence, and they should get paid as extras. It should improve the coverage, as theater critics would have more important things to say about Joe’s performance art than do our alleged political reporters.

Meanwhile, we’d have a sheriff who understands that the job is largely administrative, who will dismantle the cult of personality and ridiculous investigative army serving the greater glory of Joe. The sheriff would a low-key, competent administrator who will manage his budget and avoid pointless high-profile feuds (and investigations) with political enemies.

Joe becomes an even bigger, far richer, television personality and silences his critics, who can just change the channel. Talk about a win-win-win. How about it, Joe?

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