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The Independent Culture
More than 100 people, so far, have registered their intention to run for President of the United States at the next election. And why not? The requirements aren't stringent (you have to be 35 and have been born in the USA) and some of the candidates seem to feel they have a lot to offer - Samuel C Costley, for example, notes on his registration papers that he possesses a Gold Visa card and is a member of a frequent-flyer programme. Michael Moore, an eager proponent of participatory democracy, added another candidate to the list for his mischievous series TV Nation (BBC2). Louis Bruno, whose qualifications include several convictions for armed robbery and whose poster is adorned with a police two-shot, was running under the slogan "His record speaks for itself".

This is the sort of thing Moore loves to do - dropping grit into machines to see what happens next. So he supplied presidential hopeful Bruno with a flatbed trailer, some bunting and a one-man band, and sent him off to New Hampshire to press the flesh. The candidate's method was simple - find out what the voters want and promise it to them. If they were against abortion, so was he; if they were pro-choice, he was your man too. The campaign was going well until Burgergate, a fracas at a drive-in fast- food joint which ended with both the candidate and his campaign manager hurling obscenities and burgers at the unfortunate cashier. The incident didn't stop Bruno from formally announcing his candidacy ("Vote Bruno - He won't rat you out") on the same day as Bob Dole - indeed in the same town square as Bob Dole, a proximity that allowed you to compare the two candidates speeches. The funniest line ("We need a President who will say 'Yes'. 'Yes' to the people of America,") belonged to Bob Dole.

Not all of Moore's conceits work out quite as well. Crackers, the Corporate Crime Chicken, who operates out of a large camper-van and pursues white- collar criminals into their expensive lobbies (he never gets further than the lobby), ended up making the cause look ridiculous rather than the culprits. In any case, nothing that Moore can invent will ever match the true stories he digs up. The programme opened with a report on a "Mom- and-Pop business for the Nineties", Crime Scene Clean Up of Baltimore, who enter with mops and buckets as the forensic scientists are leaving. "I unzipped the body bag and a rat popped up out of the chest cavity," the founder recalled, during a jolly barbecue at which his employees recalled memorable call-outs.

Business is going so well that the husband-and-wife founders are thinking of franchising the operation - they dream that their distinctive red truck, loaded with disinfectants and odour suppressants, will one day be as familiar a sight as McDonald's golden arches. The bizarre combination of suburban enterprise and decomposing body parts was presented in a perky, upbeat manner (Moore is very good at parodying the manners of American television). It was as if David Lynch had directed an episode of I Love Lucy.

Not as stomach-turning, though, as the report on Sam Phelps-Roper, a high-school student from Topeka, who applied for extra academic credits for his extra-curricular social work. His community service consists of picketing gay funerals with signs reading "Thank God for Aids" and "Fag Sin", an activity in which he is greatly encouraged by his Baptist-preacher grandfather. This devout fellow was shown later with some of his grandchildren, protecting them from sexual perversity; "You know what homosexuality is?" He asked a row of giggling three-year-olds. "Having sex up the rump!" He chuckled benignly. Sam, incidentally, not only got his credits (the school was too nervous to refuse) but also received a commendation from the town's mayor.

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