Politics: Mary Tyler Moore show predicts U.S. election winner
In a contest that would pit Ted Baxter against Sue Ann Nivens, it’s a case of the narcissistic clown versus the scheming cougar who knows how to use a knife
By The Ex-Press.com
(Updated 4:44 pm. Nov. 8, 2016) We all know that ever since Richard Nixon and Jack Kennedy went tete-a-tete on the tube before 100 million viewers back in 1960, politics has been a television sport. Candidates have been forced to find a telegenic face to show the public, a personality that we’d welcome on our sofa, and a few good lines that define their character in a memorable way.
In essence, they become TV characters. Every campaign becomes a sit-com or a serial drama, a mini-series or a soap. The 2016 Presidential campaign was definitely an ensemble piece. At times, it felt more cable than network, but if you overlook the gratuitous vulgarity and a potentially tragic ending, the Clinton vs. Trump contest was all sit-com: Each character had their shtik, and they stuck to it every single time they hit the stage.
Election 2016 has delivered one absurd line after another, shock endings and two bickering leads who created screen tension with their temperaments alone. As a sit-com, it would have ranked as a classic had we been relaxed enough to laugh. Indeed, if we look at Election 2016, it was the Mary Tyler Moore show of campaigns — a long-running, joke-filled newsroom-based comedy.
Donald J. Trump became the whining clown who needed to see his mug on TV nightly, making him the Ted Baxter. Hillary, meanwhile, just kept smiling on her set as the soufflé of her campaign started to collapse before her eyes. Like the ambitious Sue Ann Nivens, she just kept on smiling, waving a dust rag with a forced grin while she plotted her way to Lou’s office — the power hub of the entire show, and the stand-in for the Oval Office, complete with a large-eared and well-respected inhabitant.
The Mary Tyler Moore show ran for seven years (1970-77) and is credited with breaking the glass ceiling for female characters: Mary was a single professional who wasn’t obsessed with finding prince charming. Three large demographics (Boomers, Matures and Gen-Xers) watched the show in its prime, which means we’ve been subtly influenced by the narrative patterns and character expectations etched in our pre-Internet wetware.
As a result, this sit-com-based cognitive map could help us predict the outcome of today’s balloting. So imagine if Ted Baxter and Sue Ann Nivens were competing to seduce Lou Grant and Sue Ann wins. But if we’re following the script of the final episode, an interloper intervenes. A new corporate boss starts firing everyone left and right for poor ratings, but the guy who was seen as the station’s biggest liability is given a new contract. It was an upset – in every sense of the word. Only time will tell just how much TV has permeated our reality, but if the MTM prophecy holds, it’s a Trump surprise ending.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE CAST:
Hillary Clinton = Sue Ann Nivens
Sure, she’s a little bossy. And her desire for Lou is obvious. But she can handle the heat, because as the Happy Homemaker, she’s queen of the kitchen. And nobody gets in Sue Ann’s way: She not only knows where all the bodies are buried, she’s growing an herb garden over them. She’s scary in a way, but that’s what makes it fun. She’s a powerful woman who knows what she wants, and she knows how to get it. She’s made of steel and asbestos, and she’s been around. Sue Ann managed to conquer Lou Grant after a night of drinking… but it was Ted who survived in the final show.
Donald J. Trump = Ted Baxter
He’s a narcissistic clown who believes everything is about him. All the time. When Ted Baxter doesn’t win, he cries. When he doesn’t understand, he gets angry. When he’s not invited to a party, he resorts to name-calling. And as much as he’d like to be just like Lou, he knows he doesn’t have the same depth of experience — but he lies to himself about it because he lives in his own false reality, where everyone loves the sound of his own voice as much as he does. Ted was on the chopping block, but when a new corporate boss takes over, he fires the entire WJM staff — and keeps Ted.
Barack Obama (The Presidency) = Lou Grant
He’s the boss with big ears and an athlete’s body. A confident alpha male who everyone wants to emulate, Lou Grant is generally seen as the smartest and toughest guy in the room. He and Mary have a special relationship, and if he ever left office, she’d go along with him — leaving Ted and Sue Ann to scramble for the scraps of public sympathy.
Michelle Obama = Mary Tyler Moore
She’s the one everyone likes. Mary has the best smile, has the most friends and even though she finds Sue Ann a little conniving and periodically condescending, she’d have Sue Ann’s back because Mary is nothing if not an articulate feminist who understands a just cause when she sees it.
Melania Trump = Georgette
She does what Ted tells her to do. And she does it with a certain sweetness because she sees Ted as a little boy, not an obnoxious idiot who makes everyone around him miserable because of his own insecurities.
Rachel Maddow = Rhoda Morgenstern
Either you love her or you hate her. Right? Rachel Maddow and Rhoda Morgenstern are the intellectual comic relief. They even have the same initials. And when it comes right down to it, didn’t we want Rhoda to be the cool lesbian?
Anderson Cooper = Murray Slaughter
He’s got the dry lines and the observational sense of humour. He’s got the silver hair and the New York thing. Murray believes in news, even if he can’t really deliver it: His messenger, Ted Baxter, is too shallow to ask the hard questions.
Kellyanne Conway = Phyllis Lindstrom
Batshit crazy? Maybe. But she’s great comic relief, especially when she talks about her boss. In the show, it was her husband Lars, a cranky and cheap dermatologist who constantly told her what to do without actually being around. It translates: Trump is obsessed with skin, barks orders and wants to tell us all what to do. Kellyanne is a woman of her generation. She stands by her man. But there’s a wrinkle in the corner of her eye that says: “I know he’s insane. But he puts the roof over my head… And even if he comes out a loser, I’ll survive.” Phyllis had her own spinoff for two seasons, but without a clown to give her comic dimension, she just came off as a cranky.
So if we were to follow the footsteps of the show, Ted wins. Everyone else is chucked out the door. Fortunately, the 2016 campaign isn’t a TV show. Yet. The free world will have a new leader come tomorrow, but there’s no doubt we’re gonna miss the crazy cast of characters who had us glued to the tube for every episode.
THE EX-PRESS, November 8, 2016