They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
  -James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
  -Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Must See TV

So the debates are over. I am hoping that years from now people will talk about the debates being a critical part of the election of President Obama, that the comparison of the cool, even tempered Obama with the testy, twitchy McCain will be considered similar to the juxtaposition of John Kennedy with Richard Nixon. There is a long list of debate narratives that includes George H. W. Bush looking at his watch, Al Gore yakking about a "lockbox" and Ronald Reagan's "there you go again" that many people believe are critical parts of elections. The opinion that Nixon's 5:00 shadow next to Kennedy's youthful vibrancy cost the GOP the 1960 election is widely held.

Television is clearly an integral part of the current political scene. Many believe that Lincoln's homeliness and FDR's wheelchair would prevent either of them from succeeding in the TV age. But the debates and the endless advertising are only part of the deal. Regular programming on TV, far beyond the news shows, has also been a part of the process. In 1968, Richard Nixon did a cameo on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Laugh-In was a variety show that spent a great deal of time with endless cuts to clips of people telling jokes, doing mini-skits, reciting catch phrases, etc. "Sock it to me" was one of those catch phrases. The cut to Nixon saying "sock it to ME?" was hilarious and helped soften the humorless bastard's image. Bill Clinton went on the Arsenio Hall Show, donned shades and played sax.

Today they all want part of the action. Fred Thompson declared his candidacy on Leno. Hillary Clinton was on Letterman multiple times. They all seem to make it to Oprah, Ellen, etc. Additionally, Saturday Night Live has experienced an unprecedented revival, not only having guest spots but doing some spot-on impressions (Tina Fey's Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler's Hillary Clinton).

One of the biggest impacts, though, has been a cancellation. John McCain's non-appearance on Letterman has been the topic of Dave's monologue pretty much daily since it happened. It has gone beyond the running joke phase into clear criticism of McCain. McCain is scheduled to appear tonight. I am hoping that it will result in some probing questions. "Just what were you thinking when you suspended your campaign?" and so forth. Don't miss it.

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