Zolitics, Hoping to Take Web Entertainment by Leaps and Zounds

Zolitics plans a fall launch with a four-program lineup.
Zolitics plans a fall launch with a four-program lineup.
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By Ruth McCann
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Anything with Z seems like there's some slight irreverence about it. So it was as simple as putting Z in front of politics!" explains Republican media consultant John Brabender.

Thus was Zolitics born -- a Web-based, politically themed entertainment network that debuts this fall. (What, you thought Tom DeLay on "Dancing With the Stars" was your only choice for reality poli-tainment?)

With a four-program lineup, Zolitics bills itself as a bipartisan potpourri of "original scripted content, current events with a twist, and reality based shows unlike you have ever seen before."

It's the place to see, for example, Rick Santorum squire Donna Brazile to a NASCAR race. He, of course, is the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, advocate of intelligent design and proponent of keeping marriage free from, among other things, "man on child, man on dog" unions. She's the veteran Democratic strategist-pundit who famously managed Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.

The NASCAR sojourn is what Santorum has expressed interest in doing for the debut episode of "My America," a show that will pair ideologically divergent bedfellows and allow each to show the other "their America." The show, Zolitics crowed in a press release this week, "just may also become America's favorite buddy story."

Wow. If not Zow.

The episode in question is slated for filming this fall, Santorum says, though neither specific dates nor specific NASCAR track-side seats have been booked. Santorum calls himself "a great fan of Donna's" and looks forward to milling around with the "red-blooded Americans out there" while watching cars go Zoom.

"Let's put it this way. When I go to a NASCAR race, I don't hear a lotta boos when I'm introduced," Santorum says. "I'll be curious to see where [Brazile] would like to take me, and whether I'll need protection."

Asked how she felt about the prospect of accompanying Santorum on a red-blooded play date, Brazile e-mailed a list of her conservative clients: "Currently, I work with George Will, Bill Bennett, Mary Matalin just to name a few. Besides, we're old pals."

Brabender, who ran Santorum's victorious House and Senate campaigns in the 1990s, birthed the Zolitics concept a year and a half ago with fellow Republican strategist Leslie Gromis Baker, who worked on John McCain's recent presidential campaign. Brabender and Baker have since brought ex-Bush strategist Sara Taylor and Democratic consultants Julian Mulvey and Tad Devine into their group of "creators."

Both Brabender and Devine say that online programming seems to be where it's at, though "major networks" have approached Zolitics with offers of old-fashioned screen time.

The first reality show that sprang to Brabender's mind is "Scoops," in which 12 finalists will be chosen, based on the merits of a two-minute video submission, to compete to be . . . a White House correspondent!

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