Project Wonderful

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Absolutely Not.

I know everything about campaigns. Well...I like to believe that I do. It hurts me, literally pains me, to hear anyone try to tell me how campaigns are run, especially if I think they don't know what they're talking about or worse, if I think they don't know that I do. I recognize this is mostly a "me" problem and one I need to work on. I held my kept my hand down in class when EMILY's List was described as a bi-partisan organization. When a classmate declare that field organizers don't get health insurance because she had worked on a campaign for two weeks, I held my tongue. And I pep-talk myself through Campaign Management class because, my Professor (typical cocky political consultant that he is) actually does know more than me and, well, I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for a class called "Campaign Management." Worst of all, I need to remind myself that just because someone's experience is different from mine (ahem, OFA), doesn't mean it's invalid. But this, this I will not abide.

Battleground, is a Hulu original sitcom about people on the "front lines" of a campaign. Long have I waited for a television show that romanticizes what I do, to field questions about my job much the way my laywer friends do when I watch an episode of Law and Order, but this one gets it (almost) all wrong. Maybe I was so disappointed because there was so much potential to help fill he gaping hole left in my heart, but mostly it was just painful. To keep you from experiencing similar pain, here's the rundown.

My first impression about ten seconds into the pilot is "why are all these people so good looking?" Forget Campaign Goggles, which by the way, is a real phenomenon, it's TV so in general people will be more attractive, but the staff is dressed up like it's a business office. Why are so many people wearing suits? Okay, it's election why doesn't anyone look disheveled?

The real breaking point for me comes when a volunteer, Ben, shows up and is immediately ridiculed by the candidate's adult stepson and made to stand in the parking lot of the campaign office to reserve his parking space. Next, our volunteer encounters the campaign manager, Tak, who is visibly annoyed by him. In fact he only allows Ben, who has moved to capital just to help out with the race, to participate in the campaign when he reveals that he is "Julie Werner's brother" a name that we are lead to believe has some nostalgic significance for Tak. A volunteer comes into the office and is openly mocked and almost rejected? If I were the Field Director on the race, fire would be shooting out my ears at this point. Of course, I WOULDN'T be the Field Director because they have no discernible field program, or finance director or staff beyond five people even though the series claims that they are running a competitive if underdog campaign one month out. So obviously Ben is not making phone calls. He is following around the campaign manager, who, wouldn't ya know it, adopts Ben's strategic suggestion of tricking the other side into believing that their candidate won't show up for a he did in a fight in middle school. I'll forgive this kind of plot point of West Wing, because you know, it's West Wing, but not of you sir.

Battleground left me wanting to run a serious GOTV campaign,literally, GET OUT OF MY TV.


  1. Kiddo, You know I love you right? But I think you're probably wrong on this front.

    Speaking not just as a person who knows significantly more about campaigns than you do, but as a guy who had this VERY IDEA for a show, and has been writing the spec pilot for 2 years in prep to a Jan 1 move to LA--I'm excited.

    Think about it this way: It's on HULU, it's the first show (of many I might add that were picked up this Pilot Season, so there will be more including a West Wing Style drama from a West Wing writer) so there is going to be a curve.

    The people are pretty cause it's TV. So too are their suits there for TV.

    But the reason the VOL is ridiculed is because you need an A story to identify with the main character-he needs an episode arc a structure. At the end of the day there still has to be a story that introduces us to our hero and gives him a small hurdle to overcome.

    The mistake they made was making the story and struggle about the VOl and not Tak (I don't make that mistake) but I mean you need to be honest with yourself. VOLS can suck, they are, after all people, and people can suck.

    I bet if I thought long and hard enou...nope just thought of two or three times you bitched at me about some VOLS. You just don't like seeing how you really feel projected and exaggerated for comedic effect.

    But I forgive you. And I still love you. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a Vol warming up and cleaning off my car, so I gotta go take care of that.

    Your's in awesomeness--

    oh ps-tonight when I get home from my volunteer recruitment meeting I'm going to watch this show, and I reserve the right to change my mind, but I don't think I will--and the average viewer seems to be on my side with this one:,69281/

  2. Knows more about campaigns than me,ha! Maybe I wasn't clear, it is definitely a good idea for a show. And of course some volunteers, organizers, managers destve ridicule. My point was more that the way they went about it was unrealistic, the characters are unsympathetic and it's just bad television as well as riddled with inaccuracies... I readily admit that that part annoys me for reasons that are more my problem than theirs. I was just disappointed because if it had been good it would have made me SO HAPPY. I have no doubt you, or a trained monkey, but especially you, could write a better one. Watch it tonight and then let me know.

  3. You need to re-watch it. They had some telling not showing issues. They started too high (we should be watching these characters evolve, it's clear they are going to leap a vol up to consultant lickity split) and a solid majority of the campaign stuff was bogus-y...

    But both from a Managerial stand point (IE someone who's run a state-wide campaign) and a psudeo aspiring TV writer I gotta say they kinda nailed the balance. It's a Pilot--ignore what you know to be true about the work and ask yourself if you can love the characters. They can get deeper into the day to day and what campaigns look like as they build an audience but they have to expect that only a small portion of the audience is aware of what goes on ... so they have to use a big event (a debate) and a thing everyone knows (a gaffe) and roll em together as a way to introduce us to the characters.

    Tak would wear a suit--so would the kid. And man did they love that kid. THEY LOVED HIM! They hated their "Blethan MacDoogle" but we ALL hate our "Blethan MacDoogle" because "Blethan MacDoogle" is literally the WORST.

    Honestly all my notes are from a writer's stand-point. The future shots were lame, give me real-time talking heads or no talking heads. (I wont be using them). Start small and build your team from the very first moment. They should be running for state senate not Senator...and show me more wisconsin ... but honestly for a pilot on an internet system that provides me instant watch tv from studio's and networks branching was really good.

    I'll be watching all season. I suggest you do the same.

    1. Nope. Don't like it. Don't relate to it, characters seems totally 1 dimensional. I'm sure you can do a better job.