A colleague of mine asks a question today.
Here is what is happening, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Reid Epstein. Next week, the Democratic National Committee’s Resolutions Committee will meet in Atlanta, and among the resolutions it will consider is one offered by former Tennessee state Sen. William S. Owen, which will “admonish” a television show called “Designated Survivor.”
“DESIGNATED SURVIVOR”: AN EXPLAINER
“Designated Survivor” is an ABC drama starring Kiefer Sutherland (”Flatliners”) as Housing and Urban Development secretary Tom Kirkman, who becomes president after he ― as the “designated survivor” ― avoids being killed in a cleansing fire that claims the lives of everyone in attendance at a State of the Union address. Political intrigue ensues as he faces crises and questions about the legitimacy of his presidency. It would probably work better as a comedy, to be honest.
I’d like to think that the showrunners work the phrase “designated survivor” into every episode, like so:
Kirkman: [facing down chair of the House Budget Committee] You think I’m kidding? I am the designated survivor!
Kirkman: [collapsed weeping at grave of Secretary of Commerce] It should have been you, Janice. You should have been ... the designated survivor!
Kirkman: [energetically to gathered crowd of Lansing auto workers] Today, we are all designated! To! Survive!
(I have not watched this show.)
So, why would anyone want to condemn a teevee show, other than for a setup that probably can’t sustain itself after more than a couple of seasons? As it turns out, it’s an elaborate joke targeting FBI Director James Comey. With all that’s going on in Washington right now, is it a good idea to antagonize the intelligence community, though?
Hmm. Let’s walk through the tortured setup and punchline, if only to recall that committee resolutions are perhaps too formal and stodgy to do anything fun.
Resolution to admonish the ABC TV show “Designated Survivor” and to defend FBI Director James Comey
Oops, someone is telegraphing their punch!
WHEREAS, the ABC TV show “Designated Survivor” portrays a fictional FBI Director as being blackmailed into confessing a crime he did not commit; and
WHEREAS, the portrayal of this situation is unbelievable and could result in the undermining of faith in the FBI; and
This little ironic juke is why you don’t preview the punchline. It only lessens the impact.
WHEREAS, the current director of the FBI is James Comey; and
Solid burn incoming!
WHEREAS, Director Comey demonstrated in the recent 2016 election that he does not need to be blackmailed to engage in illegal partisan actions; and
There it is.
WHEREAS, Director Comey’s infamous, partisan and illegal letters resulted in the election of the man some refer to as “not my president;”
There is a theory in comedy about repetition which holds that when you repeat something over and over again, it is startlingly funny at first, becomes very tiresome and unfunny after further iterations, and then returns to being very funny once again if you’re willing to stick it out through that tiresome valley and demonstrate an absurdist level of persistence and commitment to the joke.
With that in mind, are all these “whereases” working for you?
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that all US citizens are encouraged to have the same respect for the FBI as Director Comey demonstrated with his illegal actions.
And that’s the joke.
Much like the DNC’s outreach to middle-class voters, it feels a little forced, man.
Jason Linkins edits “Eat the Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.