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Wearing another family's political shoes

Republicans and Democrats swap lives in 'Red and Blue.'

November 17, 2005|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

IN "Red and Blue," airing tonight on the Discovery Channel, a family from so-called red state America, the Cambres, tomato farmers from Clinton, La., trade places with a so-called blue state family, the Catteralls, educators who live in Topanga Canyon.

It's an idea redolent of the recent "30 Days," Morgan Spurlock's FX network series in which the "Super Size Me" filmmaker tried out other lives for 30 days, including life as a person of Muslim faith.

"30 Days" was stunt-ish, featuring Spurlock's brand of extreme documentary, which plays as better TV than "Red and Blue" does. Here the suggestion is that, by swapping lives for 10 days, a staunchly Democratic family and a firmly Republican one will reveal just what lies beneath the hard divisions that emerged on the electoral map after the 2004 presidential election.

"Red and Blue" deserves credit for choosing two families who seem abashed and real, and for the way the show guides the narrative through polarizing issues such as the war in Iraq, religion and gun control. For the first two-thirds of the show, stereotypes are confirmed for both parties, who are on a kind of cultural vacation. The Catteralls go to Clinton and shoot guns, eat frog legs and attend a Bible study, with 20-year-old Hannah Catterall sensing that the locals are kind on the surface but judgmental underneath.

The Cambres, meanwhile, soak up Topanga Canyon left-wingers and bathe in the anything-goes atmosphere on the Venice boardwalk. After an argument that hovers around the Bush administration and the Iraq war, Steve Cambre concludes that, "for the most part, liberals being proclaimed as being the most open-minded people and most tolerant ... they're totally opposite."

"Red and Blue" was shot last summer, before Hurricane Katrina; in a coda we see that the devastation ends up showing both families the way to common ground. In the interim, "Red and Blue" manages to illustrate the vastly different ways of life in distinct parts of the country, and there are some touching moments, such as when the Cambres visit Arlington West, the Iraq war memorial on Santa Monica Beach, or when Anita Cambre leaves a "God Bless" statue for the Catteralls, a memento she picked up at Venice Beach. "I'm hoping that she'll want to put it out, but I won't be offended if she doesn't."


'Red and Blue'

Where: Discovery Channel

When: 8 tonight

Rating: TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children)

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