Obama's TV: sports, surprises
President Barack Obama can’t stand to be without his “Entourage.”
Call it a guilty pleasure, or maybe it just rings familiar to him. The HBO series about an aspiring actor features a fast-talking agent named Ari, based on the real-life brother of Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.
For less R-rated fare, he tunes into “Hannah Montana” or “SpongeBob SquarePants” in the White House with his daughters. Aides said he would have watched Monday night’s NCAA championship on TiVo on his way home from Iraq Tuesday night.
Jon Stewart’s smackdown of CNBC’s Jim Cramer? Obama was eager to see it. But when it comes to the real news, and not the fake kind, Obama takes a pass — rarely ever tuning into 24-hour cable chatter or replays of his own performances.
“We usually tell him how we think he did,” said longtime friend Valerie Jarrett.
In some ways, it’s a TV diet that doesn’t seem so different than many American men’s, featuring a heavy dose of sports, including that staple of the channel-surfing set, ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
But some of Obama’s choices definitely have an edgier bent — such as the HBO drama “The Wire.” His favorite character is Omar, a gay stickup artist who steals from drug pushers to give to the poor. (“That’s not an endorsement. He’s not my favorite person, but he’s a fascinating character,” Obama said last year.)
“When you hear he likes ‘Entourage,’ you have to go, ‘That figures,’” said Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University. “Anything Obama does is cool by definition. He’s the Internet president, he’s the BlackBerry president, and now, I suppose, he could be called the HBO president.”
And of course, with Obama, there is basketball — NBA and NCAA games and lots of ESPN.
“Sports, sports and more sports,” Jarrett said of Obama. “On the campaign trail, as soon as we would get on the bus, the first thing he would do is turn the channel to sports channels.”
And he’s got the ultimate man-cave — Air Force One. Strautmanis said he and Obama watched an NCAA basketball game on Air Force One last month as they traveled back from California on a late-night flight.
Seated in the office on the plane just hours after taping “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” Obama was focused on the game, analyzing the team’s every move.
“When he’s watching the game, he’s watching the game,” Strautmanis said. “We’re not talking about work or politics.” Obama’s diagnosis: The losing team should have played half-court defense.
But he steers away from the news — when you are one of the biggest stories in the world, with daily economic and national security briefings, maybe it’s sort of been there, done that.
Although almost all TVs in the West Wing are tuned to MSNBC, (surprise, surprise) aides say Obama hardly ever watches news programs, preferring to “read the news,” as one aide put it. And he never watches reruns of his own speeches or news conferences, aides say.
“Sometimes we’ll show him like a YouTube clip or something off a website itself, and he gets a kick out of that,” Gibbs said.
Sometimes he’ll even tune in to watch Gibbs’ briefings. Gibbs has a photograph of Obama watching his first briefing on a small television — not a flat screen — in the White House residence. (who cares?)
But forget the tube. Lately, it seems, the first family has taken advantage of one particular White House perk: the movie theater.
Recently the Obamas have seen both “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Wrestler,” Jarrett said. They can request movies from the Motion Picture Association of America.
So if you can judge a man by what he watches, what does Obama’s channel-surfing say about him?
It’s hard to resist the art-imitates-life aspect of “Entourage” — that Obama is drawn to a show about an upstart young actor chasing an improbable dream, surrounded by his closest friends from his hometown and a fast-talking, foul-mouthed guide to his new city. Sound familiar? (Yeah...does the foul-mouthed guide spew gaffes 24/7 also?)
Overall, Obama’s viewing preferences suggest a “cool, hip president who is in the know,” Zelizer said. “On the one hand, he’s this regular guy who likes basketball. On the other hand, he likes some of the sizzle that ‘Entourage’ captures.”
[snip] (I'll save you from the Obama lovefest ending)
Nice to know the man doesn't have more important things to do than watch television and movies, right!? :mad: