If you are frustrated with our current political system then don’t watch HBO’s new series K Street; it will only make you madder than you already are. The work of Stephen Soderbergh and George Clooney, this show documents the goings on of a lobbying firm in Washington located on K Street (K Street is to lobbyists what Sand Hill Road is to VCs). James Carville and Mary Matalin more or less play themselves, which is to say she plays a cautious, thoughtful political matron, while Carville plays sort of a cross between Beavis and Butthead, assuming that both Beavis and Butthead were money-obssessed political advisors with Southern accents.
In the first episode that I caught, Carville learns from Branford Marsalis about the RIAA’s plan to sue online filesharers, which disturbs Marsalis. Based on this passing conversation, Carville decides that there is money to be made “helping” the RIAA with their poor public image (as if the record industry can sue its customers but quell the public shock by hiring a PR firm). Doesn’t seem realistic, does it? Actually, as this article points out, the thing that makes K Street so compelling is the same thing that makes it so unnerving: it seems to accurately portray a key feature of our political scheme. Namely, many of the politicians are more or less frontmen (and, sadly, frontwomen too) for amoral lobbyists, who constantly maneuver to make money from various political situations, and are (unfortunately) quite good at doing it.
The truly amazing thing is that the show often features cameos by real politicians, like Orrin Hatch, Rick Santorum, and Howard Dean. The thing I can’t figure out is why a real politician would agree to go on this show. I guess they were lulled into the false assumption that the Entertainment Industry would never show things as they really are. Well, as my daughter used to say: “Ooopsie!“
Here is a well-written review from the Washington Post, in case you want more information about the show.
Update – 11/11/03: Looks like K-Street is too real for Matt Drudge, who is threatening to sue the show for using his name and website in the program.