Move over, Snooki

Article excerpt

Byline: Michelle Cottle

The first lady's new frontier: reality TV.

This month, in a first for the Republic, Americans will have a chance to watch their first lady getting sweaty with a bunch of strangers in the East Room.

In a burst of synergy with the spring release of American Grown, her book about the White House garden, the food- and fitness-focused Michelle Obama is scheduled to appear on The Biggest Loser. In the first of two episodes, she welcomes the show's weight-loss gladiators to the White House for a group workout.

The show's get-fit theme fits brilliantly with MObama's much-ballyhooed "Let's Move" exercise campaign. This stop, however, is just the latest in a string of reality-TV stints for the first lady, who has done turns on Iron Chef, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and the self-improvement-themed Nate Berkus Show.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, news of these spots has sparked grumbling over Michelle's associating herself with--and opening up the people's house to--such a declasse, exploitative species of media. That is precisely the genius of this move.

What is the most common knock on President Obama? He's aloof, elitist, too exotic to relate to Real America. Well, nothing screams Real America more loudly than reality TV. The point of the genre is to let viewers gawk at the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of ordinary shmoes.

In this way the first lady's reality cameos are, politically speaking, superior to her chit-chats with the likes of Leno, Letterman, Oprah, and Barbara. For starters, Michelle's reality drop-ins can be more carefully controlled than your average interview. (No one still believes these shows are spontaneous, right? …