Bob Franken

Politics, Cars, Golf and TV Game Shows

Either television’s star is rising again or this is the final nova, exploding into the Internet black hole. It doesn’t matter. Forget prime time. Stay glued to your sets for the Daytime Olympics. Or at least set your DVR.

The television spectacular began last Friday, as we cringed while watching that golf automaton mechanically recite the contrite words and phrases his advisers had programmed into him. It was eerily amazing to see how human he almost seemed to be.

On Tuesday, we can observe Toyota’s dynastic leader and the members of his court while they do the same kind of thing as they try and prove that their conduct has not been INhuman. In this instance the charges are that what Whooziz did to a few dozen groupies, Toyota did to millions of customers.

In between the ritual apologies worthy of Brenda Lee, we can be entertained by the chorus of sound bites, delivered by opportunistic members of the Congressional committees, with their twaddles flapping in full outrage.

They will probably drown out any real truth, such as explanations about newly revealed documents. There are memos that seem to illustrate how the company’s government relations people could thwart meaningful regulatory action that might have prevented so many deaths in their careening out-of-control cars.

There probably will not be much discussion, either, about how the company’s lobbyists were able to keep things under control with their influence-peddling and well-placed campaign contributions, if, for no other reason, than the fact that Toyota has significantly ratcheted up its lobbying operation in recent days.

Even if little is accomplished, this is worth watching. It offers a good chance to witness how government works. Or doesn’t.

An even better one will be the extravaganza where President Obama invites the Republicans to the White House for a beer Thursday. Actually, it’s Blair House across the street, the guest mansion, and there won’t be any beer this time. Chances are, though, this will be every bit as meaningful as that gimmick last summer.

Even though we’re already sick-and-tired of hearing how the President is finally living up to his campaign promise and inviting C-Span into the health care deliberations, he’s finally living up to his campaign promise and inviting C-Span into the health care deliberations. TV doesn’t get any better than this.

Those who find political intrigue entertaining will love this situation comedy. Actually, it’s also a game show, tightly scripted like most of them. Each wary contestant will read off of carefully prepared talking points about why the others’ health care reform plans are either political obstructionism or godless communism, and nothing will be accomplished. But it will be great shtick, and isn’t that what’s important here?

Perhaps, after the lights have faded, all the performers, the whole sorry lot, can retire to some sort of rehab. Or maybe WE should, where we can learn how to do a better job of choosing those we believe in and discerning what little is real and what’s made-for-television.

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