Candidates should ditch the talk shows and go for prime time, says Bruce Fretts

By Bruce Fretts
Updated September 21, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Bush courts ”Oprah” fans — what’s next?

It seems like you can’t turn on the TV these days without seeing presidential wannabes. And I’m not just talking about on CNN, MSNBC, and C-SPAN. The other day, Republican nominee George W. Bush got all misty eyed on ”Oprah,” while Vice President Al Gore held the cue cards on ”The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” Even Democratic running mate Joe Lieberman is getting in on the action, joking with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s ”The Daily Show” and crooning ”My Way” on ”Late Night With Conan O’Brien” on the same night last week. (Strangely, despite his Ed McMahon-esque sucking up abilities, no one seems interested in booking Republican VP candidate Dick ”Big Time” Cheney for a spot on the couch).

Which raises the question: Why are these candidates limiting themselves to the chat circuit? The biggest audiences are in prime time, and while the upcoming debates will provide some exposure, guest shots on series could offer more. Consider the possibilities.

? George W. Bush could check into ”ER,” suddenly afflicted with the inability to pronounce multisyllabic words like ”subliminal.” (Did you hear him say ”kindy-garten” on ”Oprah?” I suppose he also likes to check out books from the ”li-berry.”)

? Al Gore could download himself onto the new cyber themed dramas ”Freakylinks” and ”Level 9,” explaining to those young webheads how he was the one who invented the Internet, dammit.

? Dick Cheney could court the elderly vote by consulting with crime solving doctor Dick Van Dyke on ”Diagnosis: Murder” about his mysterious history of heart attacks.

? Joe Lieberman, the entertainment critic manqué, could pop up on ”Friends,” explaining that the show is so dirty he thinks it should air in late night. Or he could play the rabbi at Chandler and Monica’s wedding.

? Republican turned Reform party candidate Pat Buchanan could snag some much needed publicity for his long shot bid by challenging ex Reform Party member Jesse ”The Body” Ventura to a steel cage match on ”WWF Smackdown!”

? Ralph Nader could play Martin Sheen’s new environmental adviser on ”The West Wing.” That’s the closest the Green Party contender will get to working in the Oval Office this year.

Got any more suggestions for politicians in prime time? Post them below.