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The Man in the Mansion: California Governors (2007)



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P.J. O'Rourke ...


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11 January 2007 (UK)  »

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A reasonably entertaining overview of politics in the state but still quite unmemorable and a little disappointing
17 February 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The 2003 recall elections for Governor of California saw an action hero elected to the office and a porn star come in eleventh with over 10,000 votes. With this in his mind, P.J. O'Rourke meets with porn star Mary Carey to discuss what the h£ll she was doing and what her goals were. After this he heads out to discover the history of politics in this golden of states – looking at where the idea of a recall came from and also the blurring of boundaries between showbiz and politics.

At the start of this documentary I wondered what the point of it all was going to be. O'Rourke spends about five minutes frantically trying to avoid being caught staring at Mary Carey's cleavage (not an easy task with her in a shirt that buttons just above her belly button) while asking her in all seriousness about her campaign. Now the point he was making was how different Californian politics is from other places but don't all Western countries have joke candidates in their elections? Giving her all this time up front (pardon the pun) just came across as an excuse to have breasts and porn clips in the first few minutes. If this had been on channel 5 with a crude title then I could understand this but on BBC4 this is more likely to have had viewers dropping out early on.

Which would have been a bit of a shame because mostly the film is an interesting look back at the history of the role of Governor of California. It is never that fascinating and it appears to lack focus at times but it does work as a potted history of the role down the ages. To its credit, although it starts and ends with it, the film doesn't focus on the recent recall and actually only spends about twenty of the sixty minutes on the subject. Of course the target audience is yet again a question to be asked because, like the focus on Carey at the start, you do have to wonder who you thought the makers were aiming for or if they were just hoping it had a little bit of everything for a wider audience. But how many viewers would be drawn in by a history of Californian politics? How many of those will give up at the start and how many of those left will be disappointed with the very superficial and fast move through the subject?

I don't want to come across overly critical of it because it has enough of a sweep to be interesting. However without any particularly strong point to make and with a lot to cover in a short time it does end up being quite unmemorable and a little disappointing as far as a documentary goes. Still worth a look as a reasonably entertaining overview of politics in the state but just don't expect it to do much beyond distracting you for an hour.

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