Super Tuesday on TV
Entry 3: Tom Brokaw offers assurances that he will keep offering us assurances.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
I stuck with CNN long enough to catch correspondent Tom Foreman disappear into the CGI wonderworld of the so-called "virtual convention," which is, in essence, a bar graph that is difficult to read. But where the bars in most such graphs have the good manners to share a common x-axis and to sit still, these bars—represented by delegates waving placards—are kinda rowdy, rippling like purple waves of grain or the paper fans of church ladies. Foreman strode a virtual stage in front of them, for no good reason. It was silly. Why does CNN keep doing such stuff? With all the money they spend bringing empty ideas like this to fruition, they could hire someone to make sure that ideas like this do not come to fruition.
The night ground on. Every candidate delivered a speech heavy with spin—spin like a cement mixer, dull and wet and heavy. On NBC—the only network to devote more than two blinks of prime-time programming to the contest—Tom Brokaw joined Brian Williams to assure us that this primary was weird. The subtext of the appearance was that Tom Brokaw would keep offering assurances, which was reassuring. Every network filled time until Ohio was not too close to call. On Fox News, Bill Hemmer likened the contest to a Bengals-Browns game, and Megyn Kelly grinningly announcing her confusion about the simile.
CNN reined in its arena rock, and I discovered that gratuitous guitar riffs really had been stimulating. In their absence, I fell asleep in front of the television for 90 minutes—an experience which, from an entertainment perspective, very closely resembled being awake while watching Juan Williams on Fox. It was my finest old-man moment with the tube since mid-February, when I couldn't raise my game to the level of staying up to watch Saturday Night Live. Perhaps this is the new excess. In the old days, young men fretted, or failed to fret, about choking to death in their sleep on their own vomit. These days, whenever news anchors labor to keep chatting while vote tallies trickle in, the challenge is to avoid drowning in a puddle of one's own drool. In that I succeeded by the narrowest of margins. In Ohio, so did Mitt Romney. We both face further challenges down the road.
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.