Obama Coming to Netflix

Netflix no longer offers President Frank Underwood. They're lining up a replacement.

Netflix no longer offers President Frank Underwood. They’re lining up a replacement.

NYT (“Obama in Talks to Provide Shows for Netflix“):

Former President Barack Obama is in advanced negotiations with Netflix to produce a series of high-profile shows that will provide him a global platform after his departure from the White House, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Under terms of a proposed deal, which is not yet final, Netflix would pay Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, for exclusive content that would be available only on the streaming service, which has nearly 118 million subscribers around the world. The number of episodes and the formats for the shows have not been decided.

Mr. Obama does not intend to use his Netflix shows to directly respond to President Trump or conservative critics, according to people familiar with discussions about the programming. They said the Obamas had talked about producing shows that highlight inspirational stories.

But the Netflix deal, while not a direct answer to Fox News or Breitbart.com, would give Mr. Obama an unfiltered method of communication with the public similar to the audiences he already reaches through social media, with 101 million Twitter followers and 55 million people who have liked his Facebook page.

The Obamas are bright, engaging people with something to share. A Breitbart competitor would be beneath their dignity. So, what then?

In one possible show idea, Mr. Obama could moderate conversations on topics that dominated his presidency — health care, voting rights, immigration, foreign policy, climate change — and that have continued to divide a polarized American electorate during President Trump’s time in office.

Another program could feature Mrs. Obama on topics, like nutrition, that she championed in the White House. The former president and first lady could also lend their brand — and their endorsement — to documentaries or fictional programming on Netflix that align with their beliefs and values.

That sounds like really lousy television.

Barack Obama was really good in his appearance on Jerry Seinfeld’s show, now streaming on Netflix, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Ditto the debut episode of David Letterman’s new Netflix show “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” I don’t know how he’d fare as a show host but he’s certainly talented enough. But making what amounts to a series of preachy after-school specials would be a waste of that talent.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Meh. As much as I admire the Obamas, I won’t be signing up for Netflix streaming for this.




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  2. Ben Wolf says:

    A much better idea would be for him to play Speaker of the House and a protegé of Frank Underwood, elevated to President upon Underwood’s impeachment.




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  3. John Peabody says:

    He’s young, he’s talented…why, someday he might be President of the United States!




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  4. James Pearce says:

    This seems….below him.




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  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    I’ll withhold judgement until more details are announced. If this is a similar deal to Jon Stewart’s at HBO–make 4 or 5 programs on topics he’s interested in, at a pace he wants, with no deadlines or obligations–it could be very interesting.

    If he’s signing up to create regular content, it seems a waste of talent.




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  6. Joe says:

    I watched Obama’s interview with Letterman. In the current climate, it was breath of fresh air to see two grown men talk like grown men.

    I agree with @Neil Hudelson that a 4-5 program format would be better than continuous content, but it would be great – and a great novelty – to hear someone knowledgeable about the issues talk about the substance of the issues.




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  7. James Joyner says:

    @Joe:

    I agree with @Neil Hudelson that a 4-5 program format would be better than continuous content, but it would be great – and a great novelty – to hear someone knowledgeable about the issues talk about the substance of the issues.

    Yes…but. The caveat is that it’s next to impossible for former presidents—late alone those just out of office—to avoid coming off as “we should continue my policy,” “if only I had had another term,” or otherwise self-aggrandizing. Bill Clinton famously took on the role of Explainer in Chief in the 2012 campaign. He was great at it. He would have been awful at it in 2000 or 2004.




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  8. al-Ameda says:

    @James Pearce:

    This seems….below him.

    Remember when Michelle Obama said:
    “when they go low, we go high …”?
    Well, Trump is our president, and that very fact seems beneath us.

    Seriously, based on the description of the programming, why do you see this as beneath him?




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  9. Anonne says:

    We should reserve judgment until we see what it actually is. But even so, programming that features intelligent discussion on subjects, beyond the scant attention of news programs designed for short attention spans, would be refreshing.




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  10. James Pearce says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Seriously, based on the description of the programming, why do you see this as beneath him?

    For one, he used to be POTUS and now he wants to be, what, Anthony Bourdain?

    Fair or not, about half the potential audience for his show about “inspirational stories” is going to be turned off by his involvement, just as they would be if George W Bush started a “Painting with George” show on PBS.




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  11. al-Ameda says:

    @James Pearce:

    Fair or not, about half the potential audience for his show about “inspirational stories” is going to be turned off by his involvement, just as they would be if George W Bush started a “Painting with George” show on PBS.

    Well, I’m of the opinion that a Bourdain-like show and format would probably (potentially) have a lot more interesting content than a “Painting with Whomever” show.

    As for those looking for “inspirational stories”? I’m not looking for that specifically, if it happens to be ‘inspirational’ then fine. I’m looking for an honest discussion on whatever topics are on board. Hopefully of interest. We’ll see.




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  12. Kathy says:

    What Obama should do is get a policy research position at a university. My thinking is that a smart man who has served as president can find more realistic ways to achieve positive changes.




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  13. Joe says:

    @James Joyner:

    I agree that I wouldn’t want to watch Obama (or any recently-ex president) offer a competing vision of what the current president should be doing. That was one of the great attributes of the Lettermen interview. While you knew going in that neither was a fan of the current administration, the tenor of the conversation was anything but snarky comments about “recent changes.” I could easily put up with 4 or 5 episodes of that type of discussion.




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  14. Bandit says:

    Yawn – there won’t be a small screen small enough. They can cover his accomplishments in the first 15 seconds. Then they show the middle of a donut.




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  15. Bandit says:

    @Kathy: LOLZ – for 8 years his top priority was transgender bathrooms. A really odd fixation.




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  16. Tyrell says:

    They must be running seriously short on program ideas. Re-runs of “Star Trek” would be better.




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