Barack and Michelle Obama have been keeping a low profile ever since the former left office, but that might soon change as they try their hands at a new trade: TV production. Yes, you read that correctly.
According to The New York Times, the former president is in advanced negotiations with the streaming giant to produce a collection of shows “that will provide him a global platform after his departure from the White House.” What those programs would be, how much content the Obamas will produce, and how much they would be paid remains up in the air, but ideas include a show in which Barack moderates conversations on hot topics from his presidency—think healthcare, voting rights, climate change—or some sort of health and nutrition show produced by Michelle, a callback to her focus as a first lady.
Whatever the couple ends up working on, the Times notes, the Obamas want to keep their prospective Netflix projects inspirational. Perhaps the most tantalizing idea is a little more hands-off: they could, per the Times, “lend their brand—and their endorsement—to documentaries or fictional programming on Netflix that align with their beliefs or values.” (This would perhaps be a smart move, considering the fact that neither Barack nor Michelle has worked in media production before.)
Some other ideas: a series in which Barack teaches people how to kite surf; a Great British Bake-Off-inspired series, hosted by Michelle, in which the challenge is to produce the healthiest, tastiest versions of rich, popular dishes; or, if there must be something political in the mix, perhaps the two could co-host a talk series about how the media and politics interact—and the recent spread of misinformation on social media. The Fourth Estate has long been a scapegoat for politicians, and it would be interesting to watch a program in which representatives from both sides analyze the breakdown of information and what can be done to heal it.
One thing the Obamas would not be doing with their Netflix deal? Responding to Donald Trump or conservative pundits. The Times reports that neither idea is on the potential agenda.
As the Times notes, this wouldn’t be the first time a former politician has pivoted to media. In 2004, Al Gore bought his own cable network, Current TV, and he also won an Academy Award for his 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth. (In 2013, Gore and his business partner Joel Hyatt sold Current TV to Al Jazeera, which converted the channel into Al Jazeera America, which shut down in 2016.) As the Obamas aim to make their own mark on the media landscape, Netflix unsurprisingly faced some competition for the deal: per the Times, executives from both Apple and Amazon have taken shots at courting the former president as well. Could the Obamas become TV’s next great auteurs?
As a former TV star sits in Obama’s old seat in the White House, there would be some synchronicity to the former president taking his own shot at a television empire. At this point, stranger things have definitely happened.
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Laura BradleyLaura Bradley is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com. She was formerly an editorial assistant at Slate and lives in Brooklyn.