The intense fear and loathing that permeates news coverage of President Donald Trump is being multiplied on television dramas. Impeachment scenarios and 25th Amendment removal strategies are rolling around in the brains of scriptwriters.
Barbara Hall, the creator of the pro-Hillary Clinton CBS show "Madam Secretary," claimed "We just take things that are already in the atmosphere, and if we find them interesting in terms of a civics lesson, we show you what it would look like. We're not campaigning for it. We're not politicizing it, really. We're just saying, 'Here's what the process looks like.'"
Agenda? What agenda? It's a civics lesson.
So CBS debuted a show called "Madam Secretary" with a heroic white female secretary of state in 2014, and it wasn't intended to promote the presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton. It was merely showing "what the process looks like" when there's a noble, intelligent female president in waiting.
In January, "Madam Secretary" had an episode where the president sounds too recklessly war-mongering about going after Russia with "force and ferocity" ("fire and fury," anyone?), so our Madam Secretary and the White House chief of staff plot to remove him via the 25th Amendment.
Can anyone imagine this plot twist if President Clinton were in office? We'd suggest there would be other topics for hot scripts, maybe a plot or two about the sexist "deep state" and crypto-fascist Congress that can't abide a brilliant female chief executive.
CBS is also pushing an even less fictional scenario in its streaming program "The Good Fight," a sequel to another Hillary-inspired drama, "The Good Wife." This show has real-life liberal horror Donald Trump at its center. The liberal lawyer main character, Diane Lockhart, has her firm competing with others in getting a piece of the Democratic Party's impeachment business after the midterm elections.
"It's become this wet dream. We wanted to satirize that while (being realistic) about how Democrats, in our imaginations, are preparing to prosecute it," said the show's creator, Robert King. "With something very controversial in the news, it's always fun to drive toward it, not run away from it." Later this season, King and his wife and co-creator, Michelle, are promising an episode that exploits the tabloidish DNC-funded Trump-Russia dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele.
The Kings do put some wretched liberal excess in their plot. A character played by Audra McDonald makes it plain she doesn't care whether the allegations that remove Trump are true or false, as long as they work.
CBS is also employing a 25th Amendment plot over on the CBS-owned cable channel Showtime, in "Homeland." Here their paranoid female president Elizabeth Keane is fighting with her vice president, who begs her not to create a crisis by firing cabinet members who would vote to remove her.
On ABC, the show "Designated Survivor" has its noble HUD Secretary-turned-president Tom Kirkman facing a 25th Amendment process after his wife was killed in a car accident and he turned to a therapist, whose tapes discussing the president's mental state have been leaked to the press. Kirkman is no Trump. He's more of a Mr. Smith-goes-to-Washington character. But impeachment is impeachment.
In The Washington Post, TV writer Scott Tobias unloaded an unintentionally funny line that these writers are "working at a time when television has embraced open partisanship, rejecting the firm political neutrality of the past." Because in the Bush years, ABC's female-president drama "Commander-in-Chief" or NBC's heroic Democrat in "The West Wing" were firmly neutral?
Is Hollywood just indulging itself with a liberal fantasy? Or is it preparing the public to accept impeachment and/or removal of the president as a desirable reality? If our times are so extremely partisan and desperate, why should we imagine this is all just a fictional exercise?
Word to the wise: Hollywood is having a bigger impact than most realize.