Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Live Debate (TWW)

**Editor's Note: I apologize for just finishing this post now (12:15 pm). I have been working on it, but I've had internet issues at home and haven't been feeling too well. Thus a work-in-progress for those of you regular readers that have noticed.

There are few things I will criticize when it comes to The West Wing, but one of them has been in the past and even now the inability for the writers to include traditionally more conservative audiences. Realizing that not every viewer keeps watching for the historical references, the Latin lessons, and the crash course in American Government 101, I came to the conclusion last night that some viewers keep watching because they adamantly oppose the Democratic Party or they adamantly support it. For those of you who watched the Live debate on NBC last night you probably saw this comment coming...Ellen? I personally have nothing against Ellen Degeneres, but I know those more conservative viewers and those radical types (like the ones who truly believe Hurricane Katrina hit because the Emmy's chose Ellen as host) have serious trouble with the gay icon. Granted, Ellen is the spokeswoman for American Express who allowed for the limited commercial interruption, and NBC probably had no say over that, her participation in the show didn't help NBC with broadened viewership.

You've got to wonder if the writers wrote a script for a debate they were disappointed not to see in 2004 between Senator Kerry and President Bush. I find it ironic that in regard to CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), Santos voted for it before he voted against it. Sound familiar? And what about "I will not go to war for oil"? Interesting, isn't it?

Judging by the performance of Alda (Sen. Vinick) and Smits (Santos) and you could see the obvious experience behind Alda, but Smits held his own. When the word "liberal" came up and Santos came out swinging with the statement "a liberal president freed the slaves," that's when I knew it was time for hardball. I was impressed to say the least. I didn't think the writers were capable of mirroring a real presidential debate the way they had so perfectly mirrored the Democratic National Convention, but they pulled it off. Sure, it was no Kennedy/Nixon debate, but it was real issues, real concerns, real debate.

We don't see a lot of real debate these days. I recently wrote an editorial on the lack of healthy debate during ISU's Political Awareness Week and over the weekend watched a debate between Corzine and Forrester, candidates for Governor of New Jersey. That's not real debate. Real debate is when two men (or women) take the stage, hammer out the issues, and inform the public of their honest stand/platform. There were of course a few moments where the Vinick/Santos debate lacked breadth, but all in all it was a great night for NBC, a great night for The West Wing, and a great night for the Santos campaign. Yes...I am declaring Congressman Matt Santos the winner!


Kate said...

That really was quite the episode. I know that at least part of it was unscripted, but I keep wondering how much guidance they had. I'm guessing quite a lot, since they wouldn't want one of the candidates to say something that they couldn't build their plot around.

I'm pretty sure they're going to have Santos win, but Vinick is a pretty impressive candidate. The problem is that he's totally unrealistic -- the GOP could never vet a candidate as moderate as Vinick. They'd alienate over half their base. The WW producers wanted to create two "ideal candidates" but I think in some ways they may have gone overboard.

I'm interested to see what happens next...

Tara A. Rowe said...

The Republican Party of 2005 could never have a candidate as moderate as Vinick, but in 2000 it would have worked.

It will be interesting to see what comes after this debate. I saw on the NBC website that there won't be a new episode until December 4th.