When we first heard that the networks were all cutting back their convention coverage, we were tempted to write something about how they were abdicating a traditional and important function. In hindsight, we're glad we didn't. They actually got it just about right. With Webcasts and cable networks to cater to political junkies, and PBS' NewsHour devoting several hours a night to coverage, the commercial broadcast networks' coverage of just the highlights was a smart move, given that the convention had all the suspense of a coronation. Not surprisingly, voting Gervase out on Survivor drew far more viewers than voting Bush in.
We don't know what that says about the public's interest in the political process, but it may provide a cautionary tale to Republicans already booking their flights on Air Force One-Gervase, remember, had lately been the odds-on favorite.
Perhaps because the networks were only giving Republicans the 10-11 hour each night-and NBC not even that-it was the most made-for-TV convention in anyone's memory, with events timed to coincide with returns from commercial breaks and some speakers even cutting off their own applause to try to finish on time.
Or perhaps the networks cut back their coverage because they already knew how scripted it would be. The stroke suffered by former President Gerald Ford was a reminder, however, that life does not follow a script.
On a side note, in the interests of full disclosure, we liked ABC's consistent and high-profile announcements that Peter Jennings was anchoring ABC's coverage in front of a chroma-keyed background of the convention floor, although it seemed strange to take him all the way to the convention hall only to have to fake the last few feet to the skybox. But then, given the made-for character of the whole proceeding, maybe that's as close as he needed to be.