I DON'T KNOW how many Rant readers watched the British elections on Thursday night, but I'll say this -- in terms of on-air entertainment, the United Kingdom does a far better job than the United States when it comes to elections.
And that's just wrong. But I'll get to that in a bit.
For now, I'll simply note it was also wrong that C-SPAN, the wonderful channel that it is, would cut away from coverage mid-way through the night. It should've gone until at least 1 a.m. EDT, and I hope the channel will devote more resources in future to foreign elections. We do need to know what's going on in these places, after all. Besides, it was fun watching everyone at the BBC suffer brain rot by trying to broadcast at three in the morning.
Anyway, here are my thoughts on the UK's election process, based upon watching a few hours of the BBC's election coverage, which was simulcast here in the United States:
* SO WHEN DID the Beeb hire Mr Wizard to do their election coverage? Christ, the way that guy in the orange shirt was going on about percentages and vote-shifts, I was half expecting him to break out vinegar and baking soda to demonstrate what happened to Boris Johnson’s hair. But give orange-shirt guy credit for his enthusiasm. Also, the swingometer thingy was cool. We need one here.
* HERE’S PROOF the Brits retain some semblance of cultural superiority over their American cousins.
When WE have elections, our candidates host fancy parties at swank hotels, and only make an appearance after they know the results. When the BRITS have elections, they force ALL the candidates to meet in the local high school gymnasium, and only then do they say who won. The British clearly have the better system, if only because you get to see the guy from the Official Monster Raving Loony Party -- in the wacky suit -- next to the right honorable gentleman serving the constituency of East Perth-Wolverhampton.
* SPEAKING OF CANDIDATES – what was up with those ribbon things? Is that some rule enshrined in Britain’s Unwritten Constitution? Candidates for public office must look like judges at a county fair chili cook-off?
* HERE’S MORE PROOF the Brits retain some semblance of cultural superiority over their American cousins. When WE have elections, we conduct the commentary surrounding them with the Strictest Decorum and Proper Respect. When the BRITS have elections, everyone runs around stabbing each other in the back, especially if somebody lost a seat. They also go after the media too – how great it was to hear Ken Clarke declare, “Your exit poll is boring.”
* ALSO: Six weeks or so is certainly enough time to hold a campaign. Those of you who like longer campaigns should consider moving to New Hampshire. We’re just three years out from Primary Day!
* FURTHER PROOF: In Britain, calling one’s election strategy a “decapitation” scheme will make one look clever. In America, doing the same will earn one a visit from 39 separate federal agencies with police powers, all of which are empowered to stomp all over one’s person.
* I WENT OUT for British food in honor of the election (mmmm! chicken tikka!) halfway through the C-SPAN coverage, so I guess I missed the whole Galloway-Paxson fracas. Or maybe it was after C-SPAN switched off. Anyway, what from what I read of the transcript -- Jesus God Almighty.
Imagine if Jim Lehrer – the only American newscaster in a similar post – just suddenly released 28 years of pent-up aggression and kept asking such-and-such a politician the same loaded, jackass question over and over again. And imagine he did it so smarmily that Dan Rather looked humble in comparison. That is exactly what Jeremy Paxson did in this interview.
Before hearing about it, I actually thought the BBC did an OK job with their coverage – certainly it seemed like they had EVERYONE ON STAFF either behind or in front of a camera!
BUT ANYWAY. As I mentioned before, the BBC's coverage proves that America has a second-rate election reporting system. This must improve immediately.
We need angry and embittered commentators either gleeful or despondent over results, we need passionate on-air coverage, and we need the same anchors on air until they start babbling due to exhaustion. We also need swingometers, neat computer graphics with little fake army guys, and most of all, cute broadcast reporters with British accents. And they say the BBC viewer gets no value for his TV tax!Posted by Benjamin Kepple at May 6, 2005 09:16 PM | TrackBack