City Desk

D.C. Statehood: The TV Series

"Today Mayor Vincent C. Gray and D.C. Office of Motion Picture and Television Development Director Crystal Palmer will participate in a series of meetings with cable network executives in New York to attract more cable production to the District. Mayor Gray and Director Palmer also hope to encourage network executives to develop programming for their network around the subject of 'D.C. Statehood.'"

-News release, D.C. Office of Motion Picture & Television Development, December 2

To: Leslie Moonves, Chairman, CBS

From: Vincent Gray, Mayor, Washington D.C.

Re: D.C. Statehood–the TV show

Sir:

Please consider the following relevant programming data assembled by my crack One City Division of Televisual Marketing Advice (only two of whose employees are children of my political allies):

  • Millions of Americans have spent 2011 watching televised reports of people taking to the street demanding justice as part of the "Arab Spring," and "Occupy  Wall Street," among other causes. Many of the participants in these movements come from the much-sought-after 18-35 year old demographic.
  • Films focusing Middle Eastern current events have flopped, and movements like Occupy Wall Street disturb key advertisers.
  • On the other hand, urban America is now associated with "edgy" music and fashion that appeal to key consumer demographics craved by your advertisers.
  • Demographic changes in urban areas mean that government mistreatment now affects the upscale consumers desired by television advertisers.
  • Thanks to initiatives like the District of Columbia's "Taxation without Representation" license plate program, 61 percent of people who purchased new tablet computers in 2011 tell consumer researchers that they are aware of the nation's capital's lack of local democracy.
  • 91 percent of potential buyers of deodorant, English muffins, and midrange Korean automobiles express overwhelming disapproval for Congress.

Clearly, he time is right for a show capitalizing on the "justice" zeitgeist. But you should set the show in a multicultural, edgy-yet-retail-friendly stateside locale. The focus should involve the ideologically neutral issue of basic democracy. And it should feature a foe all viewers can rally against: Congress. The D.C. Office of Motion Picture and Television Development presents.... Stateless.

PILOT SYNOPSIS: It is day 42 of a federal government shutdown. Because of Washington's unusual status in the federal budget, local trash goes uncollected, local police are on furlough, local streets are unplowed. Beverage-industry lobbyist Eric Carpenter (Will Smith) is not bothered. Though he enjoyed a brief go-go music career before law school, he's a long way from his roots in D.C.'s "hood." His children go to private school, he lives in gentrified Logan Circle, he drives an SUV over the potholes that are exclusively caused by Congressional mistreatment of the city.

But his world changes during the opening episode's freak ice storm. Cut to:  South Carolina Republican Rep. Tucker Beauregard (Bradley Cooper) drinking at an upscale Dupont Circle bar, mocking the "freaks and foreigners" who he says populate the city. Cut to: Beauregard enticing a young intern into his SUV. Cut to: Beauregard's car skidding onto a tidy 14th street sidewalk where Eric's wife and children have just exited a chic vintage-furniture boutique. Eric's family is killed instantly.

There are only two witnesses: One is street musician Telly (hip-hop artist Wale, in his first television role). Telly has been reduced to bucket-drumming for pocket-change because he was forbidden from accepting a National Endowment for the Arts grant when heartless federal bureaucrats limited the grants to residents of bona-fide states. The other is boutique proprietor Artie Solomon (Justin Timberlake). Artie is a Harvard Law graduate who lost his job as a hill staffer because Congress selfishly exempts itself from D.C. laws forbidding discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The presence of eyewitnesses appears to mean Beauregard will be easily convicted. But then, a Congressional committee forbids the local police force using testimony from people who do not live in one of the fifty states in any case involving members of Congress from one of those fifty states. Beauregard is effectively  off the hook. The episode ends with Eric, Telly, and Artie vowing to end D.C.'s colonial oppression...and to also get their man.

EPISODE 4: Through contacts from his old Congress Heights neighborhood (now much-improved, thanks to efforts by Washington's wise, deliberative mayor), Eric learns that a Beauregard aide is procuring medical marijuana from a newly legalized local dispensary. This is despite the fact that the Congressman has railed against the decriminalization of pot by "that liberal, un-American D.C. government." Masquerading as a law-abiding customer, Telly snoops about the store and learns that the marijuana is actually for the Congressman himself. The trio are about to expose the hypocrisy when federal agents (led by Jon Voight as uptight bureaucrat Davis Hamilton) raid the place as part of an executive branch effort to stamp out the marijuana that D.C. voters have voted to approve. Though Carpenter bundled money for Barack Obama in 2008, his appeals go unheeded, underlining the District's miserable condition.

EPISODE 7: Artie is set to marry his longtime partner, Gustavo (Mario Lopez), a Salvadoran immigrant entrepreneur who has taken advantage of many of the District government's helpful small-business initiatives. But on Capitol Hill, legislators are trying to undo Washington's legalization of gay marriage. With comic pacing, the episode shows Eric and Telly rushing to different locations around the city (one in each of Washington's eight diverse, vibrant wards) to gather supplies in order to ensure that their friend's festivities come off before the dastardly Congress unfairly undermines local law. At the wedding, Eric meets Artie's former law-school classmate Sarina (Kristen Stewart), now a top political organizer. Sarina has also known pain: Her brother, a heroin addict, died after being infected by a dirty syringe during a period when Congress banned the District from funding needle-exchange programs.  The pair dance long into the night, beginning a romantic arc.

EPISODE 13: In the season finale, tens of thousands of residents are preparing to march to the mall to demand freedom for Artie, who has been arrested on trumped-up charges that he had driven the SUV that killed Eric's family. (The charges, we later learn, were fabricated by the ambitious former local schools chief, played by Sandra Oh, who wants to please the Congressional leaders funding anti-union advocacy group). Sarina has organized the rally brilliantly. It opens with performances by local music legend Chuck Brown. The plan is that once the full crowd gathers, a giant video screen will display newly discovered footage from a Department of Homeland Security camera that captured video of the accident. But just as the tape rolls, the power dies. Cut to: Voight's character smirking as underlings wheel away a National Park Service generator. Cut to: DHS agents racing toward the stage to confiscate the tape. Cut to: Eric and Telly, running for their lives towards the bridge over the Anacostia. It's a cliffhanger.

As credits roll, we see Beauregard on the phone, ordering feds to redouble their efforts to track down the D.C. freedom-fighters. As the camera pulls back, we see that someone has scribbled graffiti over a nearby sign marking Pennsylvania Ave.

"D.C. Statehood Blvd.," it says.

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