Bush Reality TV: Fishing With George!

Wednesday, Aug. 4

It doesn’t get any better than this.

On Friday, Aug. 6, for an

entire hour, you can watch President George W. Bush sit in a boat on a pond in

Crawford, Tex., and fish for bass.

The Outdoor Life Network will

air a very special episode of Fishing with Roland Martin ,

featuring the award-winning professional bass fisherman. The Bush family

confidante (and official fishing pal of George père ) will be tossing out gossamer line with Dubya in hopes of

bringing in Billy the big-mouthed bass.

Does the President catch one?

“He caught a four-pound bass,

and that’s good for a pond that’s only four years old,” explained Mr. Martin by

phone from his headquarters in Naples, Fla. “He’s pretty astute about the

different patterns and the different

kinds of lures.”

He said Barney, Mr. Bush’s

dog, was there, too.

“Barney the dog was there, and

he was really interested in every fish we caught. He licked on ‘em and

what-all. That was fun. It was actually pretty good fishing for the fact that

we only had an hour and a half.”

Mr. Martin said there was so

much security around that they had a hard time finding a camera angle without

Secret Service people in it. Before Mr. Bush arrived, he said, he had asked a

security official whether he could pee in the woods.

“You can, Roland, if you don’t

mind being photographed,” he was told.

Mr. Martin also said that Mr.

Bush was an authentic red state kinda guy. “He dresses the part,” he said. “He

loves to wear around his Crawford ranch a pair of blue jeans and boots. He

built a lake that he’s quite proud of. There’s special structures that are good

for fish, and he’s placed special weeds in there that are beneficial to fish,

and he’s had a lot of help in balancing the pond with blue gills and bass. He’s

proud of the management. He’s done that. It was his deal.”

All right, so who’s a better

fisherman, Junior or Senior?

“I’ve been around George Sr.

more,” he said. “He’s awful good.”

A lot of reporters have been

asking Mr. Martin and his Florida-based business associate, Walt Reynolds,

about fishing with the Bushes. Mr. Reynolds told NYTV he had just about had it

with liberal snoops.

“We fish and we love to fish,

and George Bush fishes and that’s the end of it,” said Mr. Reynolds. “There’s

always some dirty little Democrat trying to be nasty out there.”

No “fishing for W.M.D.” jokes here, folks!

“He’s such a great guy, and

we enjoy working with him,” said Mr. Reynolds. “It’s a shame that some people

don’t see it that way.”

What about Mr. Kerry?

“I don’t think the man has

ever held a fishing rod in his hand,” he said.

Doesn’t kite-surfing count

for anything? Tonight, Outdoor Life has

a show called Killer Instinct , in which an intrepid host

faces down the world’s most dangerous animals. This episode, oddly enough, is

entitled “Bush Detective.” Hey, don’t look at us!

Thursday, Aug. 5

Tonight, VH1 airs I Love the 70’s again. You know, if

you rub your TV screen really hard, the actual title of this program is

revealed underneath: I Hate the 00’s .

Try it! [VH1, 19, 8 p.m.]

Friday, Aug. 6

Tonight,Barney just won’t stop licking Mr. Bush’s bass! [OLN, 122, 8 p.m.]

Saturday, Aug. 7

Forty-three-year-old Ronnie Simonsen may have the most wildly off-putting-and

yet surprisingly effective-reporting style in the TV-news business.

Last week, when Mr. Simonsen

sought an interview with director Rob Reiner at the Democratic National

Convention, he simply pointed at him in a hotel lobby and yelled out, “Hey,

Meathead!”

“I thought he would take

offense at being called Meathead,” recalled Arthur Bradford, the director of a

documentary that stars Mr. Simonsen. “But he had a funny look on his face,

like, ‘Yeah, I’m Meathead.'”

Mr. Simonsen convinced Mr.

Reiner to sing the All in the Family

theme song with him, on the spot, trading verses like Archie and Edith while a

film crew rolled tape. “They sang the song and they did a skit together,” said

Mr. Bradford. “Ronnie did an ad lib there: Instead of saying, ‘We could use a

man like Herbert Hoover again,’ they said ‘John Kerry.'”

Of course, Mr. Simonsen’s

method has its limits. When he scored a few moments with Vermont Governor

Howard Dean, Mr. Simonsen asked him to act out a scene from the 1970’s TV show Medical Center , prompting the governor

with his patented imitation of soap actor Chad Everett.

“He wanted Howard to do a

doctor’s skit, but Howard wasn’t too interested in it,” said Mr. Bradford. “I

think he was very cooperative, but also very reserved. We try to get people to

loosen up.”

For a guy with Down syndrome,

Mr. Simonsen was pretty quick on his feet. Ron Reagan Jr. notwithstanding, Mr.

Simonsen and the six-person squad of mentally disabled reporters called the How’s Your News? crew were probably the

strangest sight at the convention. And yet they managed to score more big

interviews than a lot of cable channels, grabbing face time with Hillary

Clinton, Howard Dean, Gen. Wesley Clark, Jerry Springer, Senator Barbara Boxer

and Ben Affleck.

The group was lead by Mr.

Bradford, a fiction writer, camp counselor for the disabled and part-time

documentary maker. With the help of South

Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, they produced a feature film

about the crew-Mr. Simonsen, Robert (Bobby) Bird, Sean Costello, Susan

Harrington and Larry Perry-who traveled across the country confronting startled

passers-by on the street, microphones in hand, asking them questions like, “Do

you like chicken?” Recently released on DVD, the film-a delicate balance of

sweet and hilarious-had some traction at film festivals and aired on Cinemax in

2002.

The same cast roamed the

floor of the Fleet Center in Boston, and now Mr. Bradford was negotiating with

executives at the NBC Universal–owned cable channel Trio to air the results in

October.

As of this writing, Mr.

Bradford was also negotiating with the Republican National Convention to allow

his crew in. He was quick to point out that the How’s Your News? crew was nonpartisan. They had, for instance,

interviewed both Fox News talker Bill O’Reilly and lefty funny man Al Franken.

Mr. Franken seemed to enjoy

his run-in with Mr. Simonsen, although he was a bit confused by Robert (Bobby)

Bird, a Mickey Rooney look-alike who can’t really enunciate words.

“The first guy was great. He and I actually improvised something

based on a premise,” recalled Mr. Franken. (They performed a Mary Tyler Moore

skit with Mr. Franken as Lou Grant and Mr. Simonsen as Mary, with Grant

ordering Mary back on the convention floor to help Ted.) “He was really smart

and talented. And the second guy just talked complete gibberish, because I

think he was more severely Down-syndromed than the other guy. I said, ‘Well,

O.K., I can’t understand what you’re saying, but go ahead.’ I treated him with

respect in terms of body language and tone and stuff like that. I think it’s

kind of neat.”

Mr. Franken said he’d been

ahead of the curve in trying to bring the mentally disabled to TV. “I actually

suggested in my first year at Saturday

Night Live that we have a Down-syndromed actor host our show,” he

said, referring to Chris Burke, star of Life

Goes On , the late 80’s ABC drama. “I pushed for that, and it never

happened.”

Mr. Bradford said Mr. O’Reilly was also “very nice” and “he took

us seriously.” Mr. O’Reilly, however, could not be reached for comment.

Jeremy Vest, a recent addition to the news crew who suffers from

Williams syndrome, interviewed Ben Affleck. “He dropped the F-word, which made

Jeremy giggle,” said Mr. Bradford. “I think Ben Affleck knows people with

disabilities, because he seemed very comfortable with the whole situation.”

Susan Harrington, who exhibits the least disability of the group,

interviewed CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer. “She was very good, that little woman,”

said Mr. Blitzer. “We had a cute little exchange. I shook hands with another

man who was very severely handicapped, and I could see they were doing a

documentary, and it was a lovely thing.”

Ms. Harrington, he said, “was asking me some good questions, and

she said, ‘When Kerry wins, what will be the policy on Iraq?'”

Mr. Blitzer tried to explain that Mr. Kerry might not win, so

saying “when” wasn’t exactly right. “She wouldn’t budge. She was determined,”

he said. “I tried to explain to her that he might not win and there was a lot

of time between now and November.

“The thought that went through my mind was: ‘This is the Democrat

convention, and you’ve got all sorts at the Democratic National Convention and

it’s good to talk to all sorts of people,'” he continued. “I answered her

questions as I would answer any journalist’s questions. If Ted Koppel came up

to me and said, ‘ When Kerry wins …’,

I would still say, ‘ If Kerry wins ….

‘”

Mr. Koppel wasn’t the only ABC News correspondent getting equal

treatment with How’s Your News? “It

was weird,” said Mr. Franken. “When Sam Donaldson came by, I thought he was one

of them.”

He waited a beat.

“I’m just joking,” he said,

laughing. “I like Sam a lot. I’m just giving him shit.”

Tonight, on Nightline , Mr. Koppel asks Senator Kerry to help him act out some scenes from Alice . [WABC, 7, 11:15 p.m.]

Sunday, Aug. 8

Pitch to Fox executives: The Simple Life 3 , Episode No. 1: “Baghdad or Bust.”

Paris and Nicole accessorize for a trip to Iraq, but run into

trouble with radical Islamic rubes, who alternate between cursing the

Western-corrupted pair and making out with them. Will Bush pull out of Iraq to

save America’s sweethearts? Audience votes by phone.

Tonight, the less-entertaining precursor: The

Simple Life 2: Road Trip . [FOX,

5, 9 p.m.]

Monday, Aug. 9

Tonight, Trio re-airs Outlaw Comic: The Censoring of Bill Hicks , which recounts how the late

comedian and bitter social critic was censored from CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman after telling a few jokes about

pro-lifers and fundamentalist Christians. The barred material is here, but not

the actual performance, which CBS has never released. [TRIO, 102, 10 p.m.]

Tuesday, AUG.10

Pitch to Fox executives: Hannity and Hilton .

Description: Blind Date meets BREAKING NEWS.

Episode No. 1: Sean Hannity meets Paris Hilton for a blind date

at Chi-Chi’s, but trouble ensues when they’re both kidnapped by Islamic

terrorists, who demand the U.S. pull out of Iraq or the love-struck couple will

suffer the consequences. Mr. Hannity, via grainy video: “Mr. Bush, I know what

I’ve been saying on TV, but listen …. “

Very short season, perfect for summer.

Later, Alan Colmes pleads with the terrorists to return that $5

Mr. Hannity owes him. [FNC, 46, 9 p.m.]