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Governor’s Wife: Down on the bayou, reality TV is stranger than fiction

A lot of people hereabouts get their impressions of events in the glorious USA from watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, and they probably think: "What a strange and wonderful place." You've got the histrionics of the recent federal government shutdown and the high, gnarly drama of the Republican Party publicly tearing itself apart. Then, you've got the mayor of Newark, N.J., in rapture when he gets to perform the first same-sex wedding in the state. Wonderful stuff.

Brace yourselves, though. There's a new show this weekend to further illuminate the delightful madness of contemporary America, its politics and mores. And, possibly, it'll knock your socks off. Oh sure, you might be thinking that the latest plot twist on Homeland (Sunday, Super Channel, 9 p.m.) makes that series into an even more gripping saga of madness, betrayal and intrigue. But this new thing … my oh my.

The Governor's Wife (Sunday, A&E, 10 p.m.) is a reality show. At first you might be thinking,:"This ain't real." Perhaps, even with your knowledge of American politics, you're at a loss to place the main players on this show, and you suspect it's all been faked. It hasn't been.

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The official description only gets you so far: Edwin Edwards, now 86 years old and still dubbed the "king of Louisiana," shocked the state (and his family) when he married Trina Grimes Scott, a woman 50 years his junior. They became pen pals when Edwards was spending eight years in prison for bribery and extortion – charges stemming from his four-term tenure as governor of Louisiana – and married when Edwin was released in 2011. This colourful couple head a newly combined family.

Do they ever. Edwards' eldest daughter, Anna, is 63 years old and divorced four times. Daughter Victoria, of indeterminate age, is a former performer, sometimes described as "a hardened showgirl." Son Stephen spent five years in federal prison for his role in the same casino licence bid-rigging schemes that got his dad convicted. Trina, meanwhile, has two teenaged sons from a previous marriage.

Edwin Edwards is a legend in Louisiana politics. He's credited with being the first to observe: "The only way I can lose is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy." But voters did tire of him and he did lose, three times, in his various bids to reside in the governor's mansion. When he eventually faced serious racketeering charges, he took a cavalier attitude, claiming he'd done nothing wrong. Still very rich, post-prison, he's a bigwig in Louisiana society.

Trina's mission is, of course, to diminish the perception that she's a gold digger, and to deal with the fact that her stepdaughters are twice her age. Mind you, her main goal seems to be to deliver a new child to Edwin. There's a bit of back story there. Edwards had a vasectomy years ago, then had it reversed, and there's supposed to be frozen sperm somewhere. One way or another, Trina fulfills her mandate.

"The Edwards' unexpected dynamic redefines what it means to be a modern family," acording to A&E.Well, that's one way of putting it.

Based on what's available in advance, the series is more than that. It has intrigued political observers in the southern states. Despite the convictions on corruption charges, Edwards is still liked by a lot of people mainly because of his blunt political philosophy, once put as "serve the needy, not the greedy." It doesn't seem to matter that, to some people, he was the most greedy of all.

Others, especially female commentators, are enraged by what they see as the glorification of this woman, Trina, and the example she sets – marry a rich old dude and don't fret about education and career. Meanwhile, hereabouts, we just get to gawk at the weirdness and fun of it all.

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Also airing this weekend

Rise of the eSports Hero (Saturday, Global, 8 p.m. on Obsessions) is an eye-opener. We are taken into the world of pro players in the video game racket. As we're reminded often, "Once considered a form of mindless entertainment, gaming has evolved from basements and college dorms into legitimate careers causing a new subculture to explode – eSports." Now there are what the documentary, produced by Erica Landrock, calls "internationally recognized athletes" competing in lucrative tournaments. It's a strange world, like The Big Bang Theory on steroids. And these guys can make a lot of money.

Megastorm Aftermath (Sunday, CBC NN on Passionate Eye) is a PBS Nova doc that looks at the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, a year later. It asks these questions: "Was Sandy a freak combination of weather systems? Or are hurricanes increasing in intensity due to a changing climate? What can we do to prepare ourselves for the next Sandy, and what progress has been made toward making our urban infrastructure more resilient?"

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More


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