Television on the night of November 2, 2016 was just what the doctor ordered. I feel bad for anyone who somehow missed it.
Imagine … almost nine hours combined of live programming on broadcast television (yes, broadcast) that was exciting, uplifting and aspirational, celebrating our country and the people in it at their very best. Tellingly, it had nothing whatsoever to do with politics, issues, political correctness, media manipulation or presidential campaigns.
Instead, television that night was all about family, community, tradition, talent, sportsmanship, history, mutual respect and love. I wonder if either candidate caught the message.
Game 7 of the World Series – arguably one of the best sport events ever – and the 50th annual Country Music Awards – a dazzling tribute to the genre’s many performers who have meant so much to so many during the last 50 years, from Charlie Pride and Dolly Parton to Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift – separately and together reminded us all that we are all a part of something extraordinary.
Who wasn’t moved when Underwood and CMA co-host Brad Paisley sang Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever, Amen” as Travis – still recovering from a devastating stroke three years ago -- stood between them and sang the final “Amen”? Who wasn’t bursting with anticipation when a sudden cloudburst wedged a cosmically timed rain delay in between the 9th and 10th innings of a game that was already legendary?
The contributions to this by Fox and ABC must not be overlooked. This is what broadcast television has always done best – and still does better than any other medium. It brings us together, even at a time when our political system, our presidential candidates and especially the media that obsess over them and seek to turn viewers’ interests and support in one direction or another have driven us apart. (Of course, social media has contributed both to the former and the latter, but on Nov. 2 it was all about communicating with the world as we all watched one or both glorious live events.)
Who hasn’t been completely demoralized to some extent by the political sideshow of the last year? Live television for most of the last twelve months – when it hasn’t been covering shootings, mass murders and explosions of racial unrest -- has brought us one nonsensical debate after another, the collective outcome of which did absolutely nothing to change anyone’s mind about anyone or anything and made everyone involved look bad, from those seeking party nominations to those running for office to those moderating the exchanges.
The worst is yet to come. Live television tomorrow night – of both the broadcast and cable varieties -- is going to be punishing, and tens of millions of people are going to be outraged by what they see. It may not be the beginning of the end, but it is hard to see the aftermath as anything other than the start of something different.
This should be a glorious moment for our country, playing out on television in such a way that we are all feeling just grand about it. Consider what it’s all about: In this corner we have the first female presidential candidate, and a formidable candidate at that, while in that corner we have an individual who is as frustrated and fired-up about the failings of the current two-party system as the rest of us and represents an outsider ushering in the promise of sweeping change.
Viewed in those terms, we should all be wondering how to choose between the two, rather than which one to vote against. But that simply isn’t the case. How can it be, when one candidate has been closely associated with cascading scandals and deepening mysteries for over 20 years, while the other … well, since when do duel careers in real estate and reality television qualify anyone for the most important position on the planet? Also, isn’t temperament important?
Live television is likely best avoided Tuesday night if at all possible. That goes double for social media. The rolling thunder of critical commentary that will dominate all media later in the week may prove even more destructive. It will be hard to escape the central message of “doom, doom, doom” regardless of the outcome.
Late last Wednesday evening (or, to be more accurate, very early last Thursday morning), around the time that the Chicago Cubs won the Series for the first time in 108 years, and it seemed that the whole country was cheering for them while also showing great (and deserved) respect for the Cleveland Indians, and with memories of many marvelous moments from the CMA Awards still fresh in my thoughts -- especially that amazing Dolly Parton tribute by Carrie Underwood, Reba McIntire, Kacey Musgraves, Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles and Pentatonix -- I tweeted that I would do my best on Tuesday night to recall the glorious feelings so many of us were sharing during what had turned out to be a remarkable night to remember.
If only the election had come first.
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