DAVID BIANCULLI

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Democratic National Convention Day 2: More Unity, But Also More PUMAs
August 27, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 
On Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton went a few minutes overtime, spilling out of prime time past the 11 p.m. ET hour and giving the poor broadcast networks even less time to assess her speech. But there and on cable, most reviews ranged from positive to raves.

"I don't know how Barack Obama could have asked for more," Bob Schieffer said on CBS. Over on CNN, David Gergen said, "I thought it was a class act," summarized her speech as "an authentic call for unity," and called it "perhaps her finest hour in politics."

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On MSNBC, former sports anchor Keith Olbermann amplified the predictable home-run metaphor, calling it a "grand slam, out of the ball park, across the street" smash, adding, "I don't know how it could have been better." But on Fox News Channel, Fred Barnes managed to dismiss Hillary Clinton's effort as "a very tame speech."

Whether or not Tuesday's speech helped to unify the divided factions in the Democratic party, the entire night certainly shone a harsh spotlight on the problems regarding TV coverage of national political conventions.

The commercial broadcast TV networks have decided these dog-and-pony shows are worth no more than an hour a night, even though the dogs and ponies chosen to be paraded at these events are illuminating in their own right. Last night, it was difficult to argue with the broadcast networks' assessment, since virtually nothing of real interest or import happened until the 10 p.m. ET hour, when Hillary Clinton was introduced by a video and by her daughter, Chelsea.

(NBC ignored the first part of the video to run ads instead, but otherwise, everything Hillary-related was run wall-to-wall by all broadcast and cable networks covering the convention.)

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What weakened the networks' argument against giving the convention more air time was the shoddy video guano they served up instead. These included an hour of enforced boredom on Big Brother on CBS. Two hours of card tricks and other nonsense on America's Got Talent on NBC.

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And on ABC, after an hour of Wipeout, another mind-numbing hour, this time of Wanna Bet?, a game show featuring Sherri Shepherd yelling at a young kid for guessing wrong and losing some of her prize money.

If the networks want to use qualitative value as a defense against covering conventions, they ought to at least be careful not to fill the hours with steaming piles of TV excrement.

And because the broadcast networks are showing up late, they're being pushed to the finish line without even getting a chance to stretch. Minutes after Hillary finished speaking, local news had grabbed back the air waves, leaving highly paid network pundits, reporters and anchors to scramble to cable, the Internet, or their hotel rooms. It's a bad system -- and tonight, when Bill Clinton's speech arguably is as newsworthy as Joe Biden's, it'll look even worse.

So far, PBS has looked polished, while MSNBC, for placing its anchor desk outside like some NFL pre-game show, often has looked and sounded absurd. The wind never stops, and I'm not talking about Olbermann and Chris Matthews. And last night, there was a loud series of train-whistle blasts that not even the MSNBC folks could talk over, or refrain from laughing at.

But one place, Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, was perfect. I absolutely adored John Oliver's report on the angry Hillary supporters who refused to back Barack Obama. He sought the help of a child psychologist, who said, "Sometimes children just aren't group-ready," and suggested therapeutic games and songs to help them along.

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Samantha Bee, singing to two of them while strumming a guitar, sang, "When I feel mad, I stomp my feet / When I get upset, I shake my fists in the air / And I feel better... And I stop acting like such a bitch." I laughed out loud at that one.

I was amazed, though, to recognize one of the faces among the six angry people Oliver had corralled for his part of the piece.

 

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One of the pro-Hillary, anti-Obama folks was the same abrasive woman whom Chris Matthews had interviewed on live TV the day before -- the one calling herself a PUMA, an acronym for Party Unity, My Ass.

Small world. And, when both a political convention and the media are in Denver, small city...

 

2 Comments

 

keidalgrim said:

What unifies the Democratic party *are* the divided factions. It always has been, yada, yada, yada. And while it was indeed a relief to not hear from Chris Matthews that something electric was crawling up his leg (no doubt Keith himself), this is the sort of fare most of us have come to expect from television, network and otherwise.

The effluvia wafting from the mouths of the left-leaning anchors was simultaneously stultifying and, well, charming -- though of little surprise. And therein lies the problem with dreadful television: no surprises.

I will admit to a mild astonishment that Hillary did sprinkle Barack's name here and there throughout what should have been her acceptance speech, but the most amusing part of the entire flat-lined diatribe was at the beginning where she admitted to being everything but a proud spouse of her husband, a former President of the United States.

Pearls.

You take them where you find them. And once in a while, when life has dropped yet another steaming pile of televised, liberalized (no wait, we're Progressives now) crap, you might get lucky and find that buried deep within all that stink is occasionally some TV worth watching.

Comment posted on August 27, 2008 1:49 PM


George De Stefano said:

A very amusing bit of right-wing bullsh*t, above.
"Left wing anchors?" Hilarious. I guess because the political center of gravity has shifted so far right that any TV talking head who isn't a neofascistic cretin a la Faux News seems "left wing."

Comment posted on August 31, 2008 6:41 PM

 
 
 
 
 
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