Television: C-SPAN offered some of the best convention coverage | Entertainment
The usual suspects – ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and NBC – were all ripe and ready to show the Republican National Convention.
Failing them, YouTube was in reserve.
Meandering between them for the Democrat’s pageant the week before and found too much interruption, too much commentary that was either biased or unnecessary given that I just heard the speaker and, pardon the heresy, could make up my own mind about what they said.
I was reinforced when I heard the pull quotes Lester Holt, Norah O’Donnell, or, heaven forbid, George Stephanopoulos, chose. They were often the most bland and vapid.
If I had to give a prize, I’d send it CBS’s way. O’Donnell is the most businesslike and fairest of the bunch, with Holt second, and the cable stations and ABC lagging behind.
To get the purity I wanted, I made the executive decision to skip the cable and network folks and watch RNC’s show on C-SPAN.
That decision was a blessing. All I saw were the speakers and the set packages producers put together. Nothing was happening in the background, I didn’t have to hope a station would finally focus on a speaker, I didn’t have to endure people I disdain more than respect spoonfeeding me what I could glean without them, and had the chance to see and judge what the GOP put together as if I was in the room with the speakers.
Both parties did a good job with their conventions. Each set forth a tone and mood that put its campaign in perspective. Each used television judiciously, if differently, to create the image and message it wanted to convey.
The viewing public seemed more interesting in what the Democrats had to say. Once the tallies of people watching each station were made, the Dems drew about two million people more per night that the Republicans did. Interestingly, the great equalizer for the GOP was not President Trump, who spoke for more than an hour, but the First Lady, Melania Trump, who garnered an audience as big as the Democrats received.
As in the Emmys, and in people’s esteem these days, the cable news teams attracted more audience than the traditional networks did. Unsurprisingly, MSNBC topped the polls during the Democrat’s affair while Fox News Channel had the most viewers for the GOP fete.
I prefer to ponder the differences between the two parties’ approaches and what happened on camera as the conventions unfolded.
The most striking difference to me was how much the Democrats seemed like a political party while the Republicans concentrated on one person, Donald Trump, and his administration.
Something I mentioned last week was quite apparent as speaker’s headed towards microphones at Washington’s Constitution Hall, Fort McHenry, or the White House. The Democrats had their top guns of the last 30, or more, years on site while the Republicans stayed in present tense and had few, if any, of the leading lights one associates with that party.
Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama, John Kerry, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Elizabeth Warren, and even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez all spoke the Democrat’s audience, not to mention the nominees, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and Jill Biden. They spoke passionately and stressed a return to normality and stewardship while hinting at big policies to come, policies it’s interesting to note Joe Biden has not completely endorsed or signed off on.
George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Jon Huntsman, and others who could be regarded as the GOP celebrities were conspicuously absent from the convention broadcasts. Some were not invited. Some chose not to come.
The question is whether they were missed.
I’d say no. The Democrats gained firepower from the performances of the Obamas, Mrs. Clinton, and Mrs. Biden, but not having their cognates, except for Melania Trump, didn’t seem odd or negative. The GOP stars were unneeded.
Some who filled in, such as the Trump children, their spouses, and partners, did not provide much. Except they all exuded a love for their father and an endorsement for the work he was doing.
Sure. What else would they say?
Then, again, sincerity – let’s say genuine sincerity – is not the hallmark of your average politician. All of them play an angle, even when they do it as elegantly as Michelle Obama and as eloquently as Barack Obama.
Yet while, the Democrat’s cast came out as passionate, committed, and on a mission to restore dignity and probity to the Oval Office, it was, ironically, the GOP speakers who exuded warmth and conveyed sincerity.
Forget the Trump children. They spoke well and had gorgeous clothes, but their touting their Dad was as consequential and unsurprising as it is when Nancy Pelosi criticizes him.
That’s when you see politics on naked display.
The part the GOP got right and did better than the Democrats was the testimonials and endorsements of the rank and file, the people who came before the camera and spoke about how the Trump Administration saved their job, realized the unfairness of a long prison sentence, cut red tape, and took action to handle matters and solve problems the speakers say others had neglected or put aide after lip service.
The impression was that the President and his team was strong in constituent services, that people who were disappointed by other, more traditional politicians, were heard and responded to by Donald Trump.
The message was amazing positive, and I wonder if it would have been as clear and noticeable if I had been watching a news network rather than C-SPAN.
Unadorned by commentary, and able to be viewed at all considering even Fox would not give air time to all the factory workers, mourning parents, ex-convicts, and people restored to jobs who came to speak on behalf of Mr. Trump.
Nothing offspring, bound to loyalty and praise by virtue of their relationship and the benefits they derive from it, could compare with the legions of folks, of all kinds and creeds, who came to tell how Donald Trump did for them what no one else seemed able to do.
An administration that is usually ridiculed and derided for being all fanfare, smoke, and mirrors, suddenly had substance. Concrete, admirable substance.
The GOP did a fine job in expression it was doing a job. Who cares if it’s recognized by mainstream media, people who regard the President as a punch line? These speakers had something new and unexpected to say and they provided sincerity and good fellow feeling beyond the hoopla and braggadocio that is part and parcel of any political event, in particular a convention.
If not for C-SPAN, I might have missed the human core of the GOP’s convention message, one that made it seem effective, down-to-earth, and geared on work on behalf of the common man.
I’m talking about an image, not historic or factual accuracy. At both conventions, at any political gathering, it’s best to take your feet off the floor lest your shoes get fouled with the crap being unloaded. I laughed when I heard GOP speakers talk about harnessing the coronavirus. I could spot a lie or two.
Yet I was grateful to hear speakers excoriate the violence in American streets that are too often accepted under the rosier name of protest. Both parties were going for the support of the people. The Democrats reached for the soul. The Republicans, including a rambling President Trump, touched the heart. How? I don’t know. But he did it.
Also, while the GOP lacked its stars of pre-Trump years, it displayed a few new stars, the most impressive being Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who matched any Democrat in eloquence and substance. Former Ambassador to the United Nations and one-time governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, also made an impression, even when she declared America is not racist.
Another who scored big was Kentucky’s Attorney General, David Cameron, who made a cogent case for the diversity within the Black population and why no vote of any group should be taken for granted.
As I said, both sides did well, but the Republicans had the advantage Shakespeare gave Marc Antony in “Julius Caesar,” the advantage of being the last to speak. Brutus has the crowd on his side, but all changes when Antony talks to them. Joe Biden, and the Democrats, had right to expect momentum from their convention. Yet, in the last week, with President Trump getting the last word, betting odds that were double digits apart now favor Mr. Biden by five points and are trending in Mr. Trump’s favor. The gap between those predicted to vote for Mr. Biden and those for Mr. Trump has also narrowed considerably.
Conventions are done. The campaign is here. It will be interesting to see those polls veer one way or the other. Election Day is November 3. I predict the next two months will be fascinating.
Cox and coronavirus
Brian Cox has been in the news a lot lately.
Last year’s Emmy winner as Best Actor in a Drama for “Succession” is up for the same award this year, and could easily score a second consecutive win (as much as I would like to see the prize go to Jason Bateman for “Ozark.”
Cox also spoke recently about his bout with COVID-19.
Now the actor is joining with another major star, Marsha Mason, to help New Hope’s Bucks County Playhouse and bring a delightful theater piece, “Dear Liar,” to TV audiences via streaming.
“Dear Liar” is a play by Jerome Kilty that uses the 40-year correspondence between the great mind of his age, George Bernard Shaw, and the lauded actress, Mrs. Patrick Campbell.
It streams tomorrow at 7 p.m. and can be accessed via www.bcptheater.org. Tickets are $35, which goes to the Playhouse, another of the arts venues getting creative to keep alive in this era when its doors are ordered to be shut.
Having Brian Cox and Marsha Mason anywhere is a pleasure beyond description. To have them in your living room, or on your wrist, is perfect.
Neal Zoren’s television column appears every Monday.