Friday, September 4, 2009

Vice President Ted Matthews

It's been a rough week for blogs, but a productive week as far as future projects go. With a new television project being developed and a screenplay being courted, we aren't doing half bad - and this all means good things for Vice-Precedence.

I've decided to make this, my next brief blog, about one of my favorite VPs ever - a fake one. In 1996's underrated "My Fellow Americans," starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner, John Heard (Emmy nominated for a guest spot on "The Sopranos," but most famously Kevin's dad in "Home Alone") played Vice President Ted Matthews. The film was filled with obvious references to and amalgams of existing Presidents and VPs. James Garner's former president Matt Douglas was a promiscuous liberal, while Jack Lemmon's penny-pinching former president Russell P. Kramer was a legacy-obsessed conservative. Both easy stereotypes to write, but, then again, so is Vice President Ted Matthews. At first.

He comes off as Dan Quayle was presented in the media - the perfect idiot. He resonated with audiences immediately. Though they were already four years into the Clinton Administration, Al Gore was never as polarizing or universally hilarious as Dan Quayle, so he was the obvious model for Matthews.

Since the movie is now thirteen years old, I feel a "spoiler alert" is something of a misnomer. But spoiler alert.

Besides just being a great comedy, the film is simultanesouly a political thriller - the director walked a similar line in a film that could've ended up complete garbage - the new Get Smart - but again accomplished mixing genres seamlessly. There is very real danger, some very real murders - and an unexpected twist that is just as much farce as anything else. The mastermind of the plan that almost kills the two protagonists, it turns out, is the Vice President himself. Having put in place a plan to oust the president, he succesfully ascends, in a move Aaron Burr would've applauded. Naturally, the Hollywood ending shows him being caught and thrown in jail - something we've never seen happen to a VP or President because, well, "If the president does it, it's not illegal." He never said anything about the VP in that case. Maybe because Agnew's deeds had already been proven quite illegal, even if he hadn't personally rigged any elections.

The movie's portrayal of the Veep is pretty fascinating, posing an interesting question. How would such a situation - the VP ousting the president through such a scheme - play out in real life? The comedic question, of course, is what if Dan Quayle turned out to be a tactical genius but a practical idiot. I suppose I'm thankful such a thing has never actually happened, but I have to admit - the idea of Joe Biden getting sneaky behind Obama's back is so intriguing it makes my brain leak. We need a new Burr to mix stuff up.

Jason C. Klamm

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