I usually don't get into politics in this blog, but I have to say I am glad the Republican convention is over. It's not because of any disagreement over political philosophy that I'm glad it's over; rather, as a master control operator of the major broadcast networks, I'm just happy to have the Gong Show off my air.
Wednesday night, Condoleezza Rice's prompter crashed, causing her to fly by the seat of her pants. Now here's a little inside info: at events such as this, the prompter system shows up on a monitor in front of the director back in the truck, allowing the director and producer to see where the speaker is in their speech, thus permitting them to prep and cue the anchor talent and work out timings for the broadcast overall. No prompter scrolling on a screen left the Big 3 networks wandering around on the air like a carload of tourists on a holiday weekend. Which is why, depending on which station you were watching, you saw parts of Condi's speech interrupted by blather, most of it joined in progress, or very little if any. Apparently, nobody working behind the scenes at the remote broadcasts of the RNC recognized the former Secretary of State or the fact that anything she had to say might be important. (Fairness disclosure: I just had to look up the spelling of her name.)
And then there was Clint Eastwood. I knew going in Thursday night's RNC coverage would run long, but nobody expected Eastwood to go completely off the reservation. Once again, the prompter feed was useless, and 3 network directors were left to throwing up their hands at the monitors. When the newsroom asked me if I had an out time, I said, "No idea. Dirty Harry has gone rouge." As it happened, we ended up with a 25-minute slide in late night programming. Thanks, Clint.
Next, we have the Democrat Convention to look forward to. Will Bubba show up flanked with bimbos on each arm a la George Burns circa 1990? (Rumor has it Clinton is keeping a low profile in order to keep the spotlight on Obama.) Will Alan Alda hijack the show with a monologue similar to his one-man-show "M*A*S*H" episode? Or will Babs crash the party and sing an extended version of "People?" Anything is possible. Conventions are more scripted and choreographed these days? Really? I know at least one TV station manager that wishes they were.