Janet Napolitano Will Not Be Our Next Reality Star

I’d been intrigued earlier in the year by the news that AMC was working on a reality show that would be set in the upper levels of the Department of Homeland Security, and feature Janet Napolitano as a key character. It struck me as a move that was basically insane for DHS, but that a partnership with AMC or a similar premium network probably offered the best chance at a show that was simultaneously substantive and entertaining. Now it seems that AMC’s decided not to move forward with an order of the show.

I’m not really surprised by this. As interesting as it would be to see what the decision-making process in a security-oriented agency actually looks like, as opposed to the fictional panics of 24 or even the more realistic inter-agency bickering of NCIS, there’s no way the show ever would have captured genuine candor by top officials. There’s no way we’re going to see Janet Napolitano getting stuck halfway up a mountain, Sarah Palin’s Alaska-style (even if past jaunty expressions while wielding a gun indicated she would be awesome if let off the chain), much less saying anything trenchant and genuinely interesting.

And there are two real-world political developments that made this already-improbable idea even less viable. First, as the immigration reform debate’s heated up again this summer, it would be hard to do the show without at least alluding to the administration’s review of pending deportation cases and thinking on larger structural changes to the administration system. And second, Rick Perry’s entrance into the race for the Republican presidential nomination, and ultimately the presidency, makes those issues particularly salient. If Obama’s going to have to run against a border state governor who served in the Air Force, that means his administration needs particular control over its messaging on immigration and security issues. And even if the department had script and final cut approval over the show, the simple fact of the show’s existence would have risked misinterpretation and censure. AMC may have made the decision to pull the plug on Inside DHS on its own, but if that’s the case, they made a good decision on the department’s behalf, and on behalf of the cause of entertainment.