Thursday, October 30, 2008

TV is King

Say what you will about this Presidential election....the usual lack of meaningful definition and discussion of issues facing the nation, the extended softball interview questions masquerading as "Presidential debates" complete with the TV talking news heads with whom we are so comfortable (as opposed to the 'beat reporters' from health, finance, defense and foreign policy who could formulate real questions that might elicit actual answers) and let's not forget the enormous volumes of on-air, on line and in print advertising that never rises above the "my distinguished (but never named) opponent eats bugs." There's something comforting in how we shift the shape but never change the contents.

There were rumors of an appearance on Dancing With the Stars, (perhaps dipping Cloris Leachman was a bit too daunting after all) but instead last night, on CBS, Fox and NBC, Senator Obama offered us an opportunity to peer into his soul and heart. I haven't seen the totals for number of viewers, but something tells me it didn't approach American Idol (I am envisoning Simon Cowell presiding over the Senate even as I type this. Shiver.) I'm not a big fan of ABC's Pushing Daisies (for me, a shining example of 'too clever by half' but to each his own. And yes, I'm at least a third away from being that clever myself) but I almost succumbed to temptation last night. Not sure I would've gotten more (or less) from that place on the dial instead of where I was, "in case".

Yeah, I watched last night in much the way I used to tune into Evel Kneivel on Wide World of Sports and if you were following along on Fox, you're more appreciative of the sports remembrance than others elsewhere. Did I expect to learn anything new or different? Hand on my heart, not really. Of course, I'm bitter about how I've placed the bar of my expectations, based on previous election campaigns and how no one clears the new height. Did I find myself wondering for whom a thirty-minute infomercial was of value? Yeah and it made me nervous, especially since all I could think about was how I would've 'improved' the format and made it into 'must see TV'. And please don't misunderstand me-I know a thing a two or three about media message construction and as an act of persuasion, what I saw was top notch. I am less sure about the program as information. But I suspect we'll have to agree to disagree about that.

For starters, and maybe just me, Senator Obama needed a studio audience seated on those bleachers that the folks who cheer every sentence in Ron Popeil's Rotisserie TV spots use. Ideally, he should have hired that bug eyed woman whose permanent expression during Ron's infomercials shouts 'this is the most amazing thing I've ever heard/seen/smelled!' perhaps in a tag team with that guy who sells that medical book with the Thems in it, you know the one, "What 'they' Don't Want You to Know About" every aspect of health care. Come to think of it, that guy would have been a great Veep selection for some one's ticket. Heck, if we kept him in an undisclosed location, he'd have been a pearl beyond price, instead of the Price is Right.

As it was, we didn't even get a chance to see Billy Mays, enthusing beyond endurance about some aspect of "The Candidate's" Promise or Achievements. Of course, when you sell silly putty that seals leaks in garden hoses or wall hooks that can hoist a viewer by his own petard, just how much more enthusiasm can you muster or need? I wouldn't be surprised to see the Mays-ster show up in some one's next administration as Press Secretary. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, (Willis) unless brought to you by the fine folks in your town who bottle a beloved soft drink, and Billy's here to tell you all about it.

And just me? I think a live call-in, like one of the Shop at Home Network folks do for jewelry, would've helped the half hour reach out and touch us where we like to think we live. Besides, I've never had the chance to use 'tootie' in a national election and my fingers ached to touch tone telephone tag with viewers from across the nation. "When I look you in the eye/ Then it's everything I need. Let me look you in the eye, 'til the spell comes over me" Wake me when it's next Wednesday.
-bill kenny

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