Revolution and Last Resort Bring Tea Party Politics to TV

New fall shows tap into anti-Obama fervor to build paranoid conspiracies. That's what happens during Democratic presidencies.

The Republican Party is having a lousy week. When its presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, isn’t getting in trouble for saying something unwise, he’s spending his free time … getting in trouble for saying something unwise. The conventional wisdom is that the presidency is slipping away from the GOP. Where can good Republicans go to find some comfort?

Their television, that’s where.

Two of the most-anticipated shows of fall–Revolution on NBC and Last Resort on ABC–aren’t just rollicking good yarns about the post-apocalypse and near-apocalypse, respectively: They’re also endowed with pro-gun, anti-tyrant messages that should delight the NRA-loving Tea Party crowd.

Take Revolution, for example. It’s backed by J.J. Abrams, the same guy who originally gave us “Lost”–and true to form, the whole of the Planet Earth has become a deserted island of sorts: A mysterious incident causes every electrical device in the world to stop working. Fast-forward to 15 years later: America has been reduced to a land of agrarian cul-de-sacs, the country broken up into smaller republics governed by militias.

And, oh yeah, those militias keep their hands firmly on power by denying regular citizens the right to possess firearms.

When a young man is discovered carrying such a weapon, the militia’s chief henchman–played by Giancarlo Esposito–offers a stark warning: Carrying guns, he says, “is a hanging offense.” It’s not hard to see how the National Rifle Association, which warns its members that President Obama will no-fooling-really-this-time take their guns of re-elected, might see Esposito as a plausibly sci-fi version of the president. Tyrants are well-known for robbing citizens of their gun rights, after all! We’ll see where this goes.

Last Resort is a little more taut and a little less cheesy than Revolution–the pilot episode feels both plausible and terrifying. A nuclear sub–commanded by Andre Braugher–is given the order to fire nukes at Pakistan, but something about the order doesn’t seem quite right. (It doesn’t help that the unnamed president is facing impeachment hearings.) When Braugher requests confirmation of the order through official channels, his submarine is attacked instead. The boat and its crew take refuge on a Pacific island and, essentially, declare independence.

All the talk of refusing unlawful orders and, well, secession, brings to mind nothing less than the Oath Keepers, that group of military men and law enforcement officers who sprung to prominence about the same time as the Tea Party–when Obama became president, that is–warning darkly that “We will NOT obey any order to disarm the American people.” An order that would presumably come from our socialist tyrant president. When Braugher threatens to nuke Washington D.C.–and does so in the name of keeping both his ship and America safe–the moment feels a little too real.

The “rule of three” demands I offer up one more example of a paranoid conspiracy-minded anti-Obama fiction taking the airwaves this fall, so: Donald Trump’s show is coming back, too.

This is mildly surprising. A whole sector of conservative punditry is kept in business through constant complaints that Hollywood is under the sway of liberals who hate traditional values. And they’re not entirely wrong: The Republican National Convention had Clint Eastwood grumping at a chair; the Democratic National Convention had Eva Longoria and Scarlett Johansson giving speeches. Most of the glamor is on the left, and liberal messages tend to permeate our entertainment more often than conservative ideas.

But TV–like our politics–takes a darker, conspiracy-minded turn during Democratic presidencies. The hit show of the Clinton Era, after all, was The X-Files–a program that depicted murderous government conspiracies, and even the detonation of a federal building not long after the Oklahoma City Bombing. George W. Bush’s presidency, though, gave us 24, about a heroic government agent who was willing to torture terrorists, darn it, to save his country. Now? We have Obama. And television is once again flavoring is fictional scenarios with paranoia.

Then again: So what? Both shows are reasonably entertaining–and Last Resort looks like it could actually be the kind of great show that makes you scream with delight at the cliffhangers and reveals. At the end of the day, they’re both fiction. Let the Tea Party have a couple of TV shows: Democrats will probably be happy to have the presidency instead.