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The Real White House

by Valerie Wright
Oct 27, 2012

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The president ducked sharply to avoid being smacked in the face by the microphone boom. The Oval Office was not designed for the president, his aides and advisers to do business alongside a camera crew, and space was tight. Today was especially tricky because four scenes had to be filmed before lunch, in between a national security update and the president's weekly chiropractic adjustment.

The aide, Seymour, rushed in, a drape of yellow silk fluttering from his hands. "Mr. President, I'm sorry but you need to change your tie — the viewers picked this one for you to wear today." The viewers had chosen Seymour three months earlier, and for the most part, he was working out OK.

Casting had been given strict parameters this time, after the intended three-episode story arc last season involving another aide, Becca, had to be cut to one-and-a-half episodes when Becca was caught trying to steal a Murano glass figurine the president had received as a gift from the Italian prime minister.

The viewers liked Becca, and getting rid of her so abruptly generated a minor backlash on Twitter, but when the president's chief of staff chewed out the Secret Service agents on the air for a good 15 minutes — about eight minutes of which had to be bleeped — the viewers settled down.

As the president tied the yellow tie, the show's assistant director scuttled over, her head wrapped in a helix of earphones and microphones, her hands clutching the daily schedule and three different colored pens. She looked like she had drunk too much coffee.

"Mr. President," she said, her words rattling like pebbles in a can, "the first scene is with you, Secretary Hoffman and his aide, and the chief, and we would like Seymour to sit in too. Could you make sure you ask Seymour something during the meeting? The viewers really want Seymour to take a more active role here."

The chief of staff entered the room and greeted the crew. The president knew the chief of staff was popular with the viewers, and he was a little envious. But if the viewers liked the chief of staff and wanted to see more of him, that could only help the president in the next election.

At that moment, Secretary Hoffman's figure appeared in the doorway. The effect on the room was startling. The network crew scurried around frantically, their headset antennas bouncing. One of them yelled, "Places!" which the president understood to mean he should sit behind the desk so he could get up to greet Secretary Hoffman.

As he walked to his chair, he tried to ignore the throng outside the curved bank of windows. The crowd could obviously tell that filming was about to start, because they started waving their signs with renewed vigor.

The president could not help but notice a girl holding a yellow handmade sign that read, "I'M 16 TODAY!! WISH ME HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. PRESIDENT!" The president pointed to her, mouthed the words, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY," and pointed to his yellow tie, thinking the connection between the color of his tie and her sign might be meaningful to her. The girl dropped her sign, jumped up and down and clapped.

The president turned, sat down behind his desk, and waited patiently for the director to call, "Action!"

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