Well that was strange. And preachy, very preachy.
Barack Obama, sitting President of the USA, the guy with the most famous desk job in the world. He looks pretty fit for a fairly stressed out 54 year old but he seems to be worried that he’s not getting out enough. So he teams up with chipper Boy Scout adventurer Bear Grylls for a walk on the wild side up a glacier in Alaska.
Bear’s eyes light up as soon as he sees the helicopter (Chopper Force 1?) and from the off you can tell this is going to be a total bromance – “You look so fit. How do you keep so fit?” growled Bear, stating into Barack’s deep brown eyes. Barack is happy to be out of the office and out of his suit, but still wearing black and grey. How smart, how dull.
Turns out Barack has never been to Alsaka before to have a proper look round. He owns it and he’s never been – that’s how remote it is. And he’s got this destination in mind as an hour long advert for the Paris Climate Conference and all the great things he wants the UN to get together and do to benefit the environment. These talks took place earlier this month so if the programme makers wanted to influence the public opinion then they’re two weeks too late.
The most annoying aspect of the show was its PG rating for zero peril. Typically Bear gets to push his celebrity chum to breaking point (see Jonathan Ross, Miranda Hart, Stephen Fry). There’s tears, laughter, a moment of self-reflection and grateful thanks to Bear who has brought them on this journey of physical and spiritual growth. I don’t know what we were expecting with Barack but there should have been at least a zip wire out of the helicopter, or a treacherous cliff abseil, or at the very least breaking a fucking sweat. This wasn’t even a climb up a glacier. This was a gentle stroll and a nice chat.
But he’s the President, and that couldn’t be forgotten, not even for a moment. His security detail were off camera but around all the time (mainly to offer tech support for the First Smartphone) so of course he wasn’t going to be allowed to do anything even slightly dangerous or even remotely unexpected – no tears, nothing rude, no new depths of personality revealed. He’s simply not allowed. He has to live his life ‘on message’. Sure, he’s not running for office again but anything he does still reflects on the Democrats. (You can hear Hilary’s voice whispering in the Alaskan breeze “Don’t fuck this up for us Barack!”) Ex-Presidents – confusingly still addressed as President for the rest of their lives – turn up on tv quite regularly, but has any other sitting President done anything quite as silly on tv? Answers on a postcard please.
So the afternoon was rounded out with a stroll, a chat about the environment, mutual compliments about being totally hawt fitties and how great their kids were and bonding over eating bear-mangled fish and horrible looking s’mores (a classic American recipe designed put kids off chocolate and marshmallows for life).
The most interesting thing that was discussed was Bear’s proclivity for drinking piss. And that’s not even very interesting because he can’t stop talking about it, ever. Everyone knows that, everyone including the President it seems.
The sign off, when it finally came, was great advice on how to live your life “be useful, be kind”. How very lovely, and how very, very boring.