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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

The Real "Jersey Shore": No "Situation" And Lots of Warren Harding

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       He doesn't have chiseled abs and a Jersey Shore accident.    In fact, he's been dead for 87 years.


       Warren Harding just got injected into one of the best shows on prime time television, HBO's "Boardwalk Empire".    He's no reality show star, but his reality makes for great cable television storytelling.

       In the most recent episode, the real-life Republican Presidential nominee-in-waiting meets the fictional Nucky Thompson (there WAS a guy named Nucky who called the shots in post-prohibition Atlantic City, New Jersey but his name has been changed).     HBO execs admit it's purely a plot device--a way to make the real life Commander in Chief a pawn in the fictional game Nucky plays--but much of the episode is based in reality.    Harding admittedly was one of the nation's worst presidents: surrounded by corrupt cohorts, unwilling to take a stand, detached from events that needed his attention and morally compromised.     History shows he had mistresses, one of whom appears in Sunday night's episode with Warren's baby in her arms.   Nan Britton was a real person, and the risk she posed to Harding's political rise was genuine.    It also makes for great television, the kind of reality show that leaves Snookie and the rest of the Jersey Shore cast in their own self-indulgent dust.

       There's a scene "Empire" that is eerily foreboding.    Nucky is alone with Harding's wife, telling her how exciting it must be to be the wife of a man whose star is in obvious ascension.     She dismisses such talk, describing it less-than-glamorous terms and telling Thompson, "A fortune teller told me he'll die in office."   

       Harding did, indeed, die in office before corruption charges could swallow his administration whole.   Questions lingered for years as to what took Harding out--stoke, heart attack, congestive heart failure, or perhaps something more sinister.   The chat never happened, but the drama certainly did.    

        That, folks, is some delicious reality television.

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