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Matt's American nightmare

It was on his way towards Iowa when Matt Frei finally decided to show us what a real argument sounds like.

It was with a girl -- a girl named Glenda.

And Glenda had ticked him off. Glenda ("she who must be obeyed") had wanted Matt to follow her instructions, but he was the one in the driver's seat. "Turn left on Highway 218", she requested. Matt shook his head.

"No darling, I'm not gonna turn left on Highway 218," he replied. Right before bringing up his wife.

But fear not, for what we witnessed in Matt's shiny new pickup truck was, it seems, a fairly innocent scuffle. After all, the internet tells me Matt is a married father of four.

The American Road Trip: Obama's Story clearly states that Glenda is, in fact, a piece of technology. A sat nav device, basically. But hey, I thought it was funny. A little light relief, perhaps, in a well-produced documentary that, although covering some serious mileage across America's Midwest, failed to present us with a story that we hadn't already been familiarised with.

You don't need to be a US citizen to realise that the American Dream is now but a living nightmare for millions of people who might have once believed that one man could fix everything.

The economy is screwed.

The country is trillions of dollars in debt. Some cities (Gary in Indiana, for example) are literally falling apart. Barack Obama failed at this and that. But did anyone really expect the guy to rebuild a country in four years? Well, yeah, it seems that way.

So, Matt Frei (Channel 4's amiable Washington correspondent), thought it best to hit the road, travelling from state to state in search of the ordinary people of America, i.e. "the people who will actually determine the future" of the country.

What did they think? Who might they vote for next month? What's the deal with Mormons and their underpants?

He'd ask a lot of questions -- but nothing could hide the fact that this was relatively safe material, somewhat lacking in a certain energy when it came to the all-important answers.

In Minneapolis, we met a married couple who, between them, work 100 hours a week. And yet, Mark and Connie live in a near- constant fear that the passing sheriff will stop at their door and try to take away their home (it has happened before).

Matt asked them about the American Dream. "The idea that if you are not born with wealth -- the idea that you're ever gonna attain wealth. . . you ain't gonna get it," said Mark, "I think that's why the lottery is so popular."

In Iowa, Matt met a gun store owner (Leo) who spoke with pride about the weapon strapped to his belt. While holding his baby boy in his arms.

Gun sales have increased, reckons Leo, because of Obama's anti-gun policies. "If he gets re-elected, it's gonna be bad for gun owners," he said.

Later on, Matt visited a Tea Party rally (Romney bad, Obama worse).

He then spoke to a man whose horrendous misfortunes when it came to his health would cost him more than $145,000 in medical bills (he had no health insurance).

If Obama's greatest achievement thus far has been health care reform, it's also been his most unpopular, said Matt (again, we already knew this).

The humour picked up again when Matt turned his attention to Mormons and their "sacred underpants" (Google it and you'll understand).

"It's hard to imagine the Leader of the Free World wearing sacred underpants," said Matt as a clip of a smiling Mitt Romney (himself a Mormon) flashed across the screen. Our valiant presenter then wrapped things up at September's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

Obama made his speech -- Matt wasn't impressed. But there's always a chance to dream. And that, it seems, is what is important: the dream. "For whoever wins in November, the challenge that awaits them is monumental," said Matt.

Let's hope he's planning a better follow-up for 2016.

the american road trip: obama's story HHHII