the fifth risk

Earlier this year, we learned that former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama had struck a multi-year deal with Netflix to produce multiple TV shows and films for the streaming giant. Now we may have just learned that their first project will be a Trump-inspired civics lesson.

The Obamas’ first Netflix series will reportedly be an adaptation of Michael Lewis’ book The Fifth Risk, which takes a hard look at the chaotic transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.

Collider reports that the Obamas have optioned the rights to Lewis’ recently published book The Fifth Risk, which examines the chaos that overtook the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce during the transition into Donald Trump’s presidency. Lewis conducted interviews with several federal workers, who described Trump appointees who arrived uninformed and under-prepared for their new duties. The “willfull ignorance” of the new administration caused a widespread breakdown in the U.S. government from which the Trump administration has yet to recover.

Here is the synopsis for Michael Lewis’ The Fifth Risk:

“The election happened,” remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. “And then there was radio silence.” Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them.

Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. In Agriculture the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it’s not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do.Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gains without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing those costs. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is upside to ignorance, and downside to knowledge. Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview.If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system–those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.

Neither Netflix nor the Obamas confirmed that this project is in development, but Deadline confirmed Collider’s report, describing the potential The Fifth Risk series as a project “aimed to help people better understand the inner workings of the government.”

This wouldn’t be the first time that Lewis had one of his works adapted. John Lee Hancock’s adaptation of his book The Blind Side earned a Best Picture nod, as did Bennett Miller‘s subsequent adaptation of Moneyball. His Wall Street-centric book Flash Boys is also being adapted to a TV series at Netflix.

If The Fifth Risk ended up being the Obamas’ first project, it’s a ballsy and badass move from the former president and first lady. It’s simultaneously an education program, as the pair first promised when they signed the deal, and a low-key knock at President Obama’s successor. Hopefully this is the project that gets the first green light.

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