Super-Veep

A graduate of the l niversity of Minnesota, Dick Compton is a radio-television newsman in Columbus, Ohio.

Now that Batman and the Green Hornet have zapped and zizzed their way into the nation’s living rooms, the geniuses who brought them to television should next concentrate on filling a serious gap in TV programming. Grime fighters are becoming a surplus commodity; what we really need is a political hero.

I know what the pooh-bahs at the networks are going to say. “Tried it once. Didn’t work at all. Had a show called Slattery’s People, all about a young state legislator: handsome, patriotic, real friend of the oppressed and downtrodden. He didn’t attract enough viewers to make a quorum.”

True enough, Slattery’s People was not a notable success. But the point is the networks had the wrong approach. Slattery was a normal runof-the-mill hero, and people don’t go for them anymore. They want superheroes, the kind of guys who can do anything and who never lose. It gives viewers a sense of security. Now, what I have in mind is a show that will combine politics and a superhuman hero. I call it SuperVeep, and here’s how it shapes up.

By day, Harley Quidmore is the mild-mannered Vice President of the United States. As I see the character, Quidmore is the familiar stereotype of the Vice President, a nice, inoffensive guy, but sort of a nothing. He’s always late for appearances, fumbles with his glasses a lot, and the President never remembers his name. A good-natured bumbler, he’s the kind of Vice President who prompts people to pray for the continued good health of the President.

By night, however, it’s a different story. Then, when danger threatens the republic, docile Harley Quidmore becomes Super-Veep, defender of justice, protector of the people, and strong right arm of the President of the United States. Clad in shimmering white, with a red and blue mask to conceal his identity, he leaps into the night, ready to strike down the enemies of the flag, free enterprise, and good government.

The President knows about SuperVeep, of course, although he doesn’t for a moment suspect that the nation’s great champion is in reality Vice President Quidmore. When he wants to get hold of Super-Veep, he calls him on the ballotphone, a top-secret telephone in an anteroom off the President’s office.

At the other end of the line, in a similar anteroom, Quidmore answers. He takes the message, and alert to the danger, goes into action. Moving quickly, the mild-mannered Vice President steps into the SuperVeep voting booth. He pulls the lever, and the curtain closes. Moments later, a firm hand reverses the lever, the curtain opens, and SuperVeep emerges, resplendent in dazzling white tights. Then, a quick flight to the White House, a dramatic landing on the President’s desk, and America’s pre-eminent hero is ready for his next assignment.

The plot possibilities are endless. In Average City, U.S.A., the mayor and his henchmen, from the other party of course, are trying to take over an antipoverty program to provide jobs for a bunch of city hall hacks. Political considerations prevent the President from acting, but Super-Veep can. Fie zooms in, a few ka-powies send the mayor and his cronies scurrying, and the poverty program is saved from a fate worse than death.

Here’s another: On Capitol Hill, bilious old Senator Sourwine, an archreactionary, is blocking the President’s farsighted slum clearance program. Super-Veep zips in on him one night and hauls him off to see the worst slum in the nation, arriving just in time to save 3000 people from a burning tenement. The senator is so shaken by this and so awed by Super-Veep that he has a complete change of heart and comes back to lead the fight for the President’s program.

I could go on, but I’m sure the network men get the point. Washington would provide them with hundreds of ready-made plots, enough to keep the show on the air for years. All they need to do is dress them up a little, incorporate SuperVeep, add a few regular villains (like the Senate Minority Leader), and they’ve got a winner, particularly if they can get endorsements from people like Dick Nixon and Hubert Humphrey to use in the advance promotion.