Since television broke away from its fall-centered schedule, the summer hit series have been a phenomenon. The summer's most talked about limited series is the work of a congressional committee. The hearings of the House's Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol have presented sleekly mounted, cleverly constructed narratives. Politics became a prestige cable drama with a cast of indelible characters after Hutchinson provided the late season twist.
James Goldston, a former ABC News president, was brought in to help the committee organize a lot of material into a presentation. Most of the techniques used in the hearings are from scripted fiction. The second episode ended with a clip of Eric Herschmann saying, "You're out of your mind!" without revealing who he said it to. To find out, you had to watch the next week. John Eastman was the main proponent of the idea that Mike Pence could overturn the election.
Among the hearings’ tragic moments come interludes of highly identifiable workplace intrigue that borders on comicrelief.
Even if they do appear in video clips, Trump and his loyalists are largely missing from the stage. The Trump wing of the GOP refused to take part in the hearings because they thought they were akangaroo court. The committee was able to craft a tight, suspenseful story after this move because they didn't have to worry about the usual shenanigans. The citizens see a sober group of grown-ups shaking their heads over the depths to which the Trump administration sunk, along with helpful graphics and shocking footage of crazy people screaming for Mike Pence.
The grandfatherly chair is Rep. Bennie Thompson, and the vice chair is Rep. Liz Cheney. Neither shows any anger publicly, just sadness, dismay, and a lot of concern. At a time when white women who seem scoldy get dismissed as Karen, it's hard for Cheney to thread this needle. I have seen a few men confess online to having developed sheepish crushes on her, but she pulls it off masterfully. Thompson and Cheney have described themselves as friends with the kind Thompson, reassuring Shay Moss not to be nervous about testifying and warmly greeting her mother, Lady Ruby. Thompson is the one who makes the committee's plea to potential witnesses. People would rather confess to him.
The hearings do not have a central star. They're full of compelling recurring and small roles. Shay Moss and Lady Ruby were the most moving of the ordinary citizens who worked on behalf of their communities. The speaker of the House in Arizona is a man of deep felt principles who suffered for his refusal to commit, at Trump's urging. His family was harassed at home as well. He illustrated the punishments the Trump cult inflicted on apostates when he heard his voice hitching from his diary. When the judge suddenly announced, with an eloquence that was clearly the product of passion, "I would have laid my body across the road before I", the testimony was redeemed.
There are moments in the hearings that border on comic relief. When Attorney General William Barr refused to endorse his baseless claims of election fraud and the relentless drubbing various lawyers in the government inflicted on Jeffrey Clark, there was Donald Trump. Clark, an attorney working for the Justice Department, was the only person in that department willing to support the president, and was almost appointed by Trump as his third attorney general. Clark, who protested that his experience litigating environmental lawsuits qualified him for the post, was told by Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general, that he should return to his office. Herschmann told Clark that the only thing he knew about environmental and election challenge law was that they both start with E.
The cleverness of the committee's approach was evident when the congressman asked the former acting Attorney General if Clark offered him a job as his deputy. There isn't an office worker in the nation who wouldn't be taken aback by Clark's indignation. It is difficult to imagine how Clark would have been perceived if he had talked.
Many of the hearings' most colorful characters are absent, leaving their co-workers free to sketch unflattering portraits of them. The result is official gossip about the two men. In the episode dedicated to how he was pressured by Trump to invalidate the election and threatened by the mob at Trump's instigation, Mike Pence got the kid-gloves treatment. The depiction of the vice president as a Christian who did his duty despite intense pressure from the president has been heroic.
The choice is revealing. Who is the main character in the hearings? It's obvious that Trump is the bad guy. Those who think that the spectacle is directed at the current attorney general are being short-sighted. This show's antihero is on the other side of the screen. The GOP is responsible.
Most of the witnesses who have testified have been conservative Republicans for their entire lives. If the religiosity of the episode is off-putting to secular liberals, that is because it is not meant for them. Religious conservatives are supposed to see themselves as targets of Trump. Law-and-order conservatives are shown rioting hoodlums but also officials who are willing to lose their jobs rather than comply with Trump's illegal demands. There are many arrows aimed at the heart of the values Republicans claim to hold.
A charged and convicted Trump would gratify every member of the Jan. 6 committee, along with a growing percentage of the American public. It's important to keep Trump off the ballot. Cheney hopes that the hearings will lead to redemption, that the GOP will see the error of its ways, and that she will return to her virtue. How many times does an anti-hero's story end happily? He often ends up in a grave that he dug for himself.