How Could Political Conventions Be More Like Reality TV?
How the media works the Republican National Convention is a large part of the story that is unfolding in Tampa.
How can the media that needs to attract an audience, and keep it do so when there seems no suspense to the proceedings on the convention floor? (Ron Paul is working at some drama as I write….perhaps there will be rancor come Tuesday afternoon if he finds enough signatures….)
Until then however media types are pondering the ways to excite political conventions. (I find no need to change anything…bombastic speeches from each party and the formulations of a general election message seems sufficient.)
But some are musing about how to makes changes for ‘the times’ in which we live.
“What people want, what people crave, is an unfiltered look behind the scenes, and this is the most manicured and manufactured event in the world,” said Mike Fleiss, who produced “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?” and “The Bachelorette,” two shows that also feature coronations of sorts. “It would be risky, but I think that they should think about giving people an all-access pass, taking them backstage and showing them how the production is put together. That stuff could play serious or play funny, but it would engage viewers in a way that they aren’t now.”
(In 2008, a hagiographic video that the Obama campaign put together of behind-the-scenes footage of the convention coming together got over a million views on YouTube, so the appetite is clearly there.)
The problem for the parties, and by extension, for broadcasters is that in this media age, everyone is in on the joke — the conventions are infomercials written by the parties, although every so often there is an anomaly that provides drama. Last time around, viewers had a seat to watch history, with the nation’s first black nominee of either major party. There was also the unveiling of Sarah Palin, who was magnetic enough on television to attract the interest of reality and cable news viewers long after the campaign ended.
The suspense this year boils down to two not very interesting questions: how can the president get people to believe in hope when there has been little change, and can Mitt Romney shake off his plastic, sitcom-dad persona and imitate a human being?
Lucas Platt is a producer who has worked with both Dog the Bounty Hunter and Steven Seagal in reality realms. Asked what was missing from the quadrennial festivities held by the parties, he said, “The party.”
“If I were on this story, I would look for the youngest adult I could find and ask them to be my guide,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be so boring. You never see the parties that are really the point of this whole thing — the television that is there goes along with the hypocrisy that it is all about the serious business of government. The Republicans party like crazy at these things, and so do the Democrats. Why do we never see it?”
Maybe because video of stalwarts violating various planks of the platform is not the message the parties want to push, but you get the idea. Why keep reporters trapped on the convention floors when the best television action may be elsewhere? Why don’t broadcasters show the conventions, the real ones, in all of their unkempt, off-message glory?