The world's greatest deliberative body is trying its hand at reality TV.
Two senators – Republican Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Democrat Martin Heinrich (N.M.) – are starring next month in a one-episode show on the Discovery Channel called Rival Survival.
The senators were marooned for a week during Congress's August recess on the remote island of Eru, which a network press release helpfully notes is surrounded by "the largest shark sanctuary in the world." They were given a small selection of items from which they had to choose only three to help them survive:
Using only these limited resources and their wits, the pair must work together as they attempt to spear fish, build shelter and find enough water to survive for one week. There is no natural source for fresh water on Eru, and what lives in the ocean will be their major food source. This unusual pairing will leave behind the daily life of congressional staff, senate hearings and committee meetings to navigate the rigors of surviving on an isolated island with no contact with the outside world to call upon for help."
The metaphors to life inside the Beltway, of course, write themselves.
But what's most interesting about the show, which will air on Oct. 29, is that the Discovery Channel didn't have to beg the senators to do it – they pitched the network, a spokeswoman told The Wire.
Hailing from neighboring states in the southwest, both Flake and Heinrich are former members of the House now serving their first terms in the Senate. They also happen to be two of the most telegenic members of Congress, having both been featured prominently on The Hill's well-known 50 Most Beautiful list.
In a joint statement issued by the Discovery Channel, the senators predictably played up their idea for the show as a way to show their dysfunctional colleagues how to work together.
Both of us know just how frustrated people are with Washington right now. We can both attest that no one is more frustrated than those of us trying to get things done in this environment. We recognize how difficult it can be to cut through the partisanship. So we decided to do something completely out of the ordinary and frankly a little extreme to show the world and our colleagues that even if you have serious differences, if you want to survive you have to work together."
For now, the show is a one-off event for the Discovery Channel, but the network isn't ruling out future episodes for attention-starved lawmakers desperate for airtime.