So my plans to watch the vice presidential debate last night were dealt a setback when all power failed in my neighborhood. For a second, I thought it was just an elaborate promo for NBC's "Revolution."

But I did hear the first half-hour or so on radio (I was planning to TiVo the whole thing), and that actually was instructive on its own.

Listening to the debate, as opposed to watching, allowed you to bore in on the substance of what was being said. There were no distractions based on Joe Biden's smile (which I read about later) or Paul Ryan's body language.

It's a given that TV is obsessed with itself, so much of the discussion about any of these made-for-TV events is how they play on television. Nothing new there, as anyone who has read about the Kennedy-Nixon debates can attest.

Nevertheless, there is a cost to all the emphasis on body language (please spare me another "body-language expert") and image, on style over substance.

Taking in all the postgame (er, sorry, post-debate) analysis, half the time it sounds like the pundits are watching with the sound down. Maybe we'd all be better off if they tried listening with the picture off.


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