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The Democratic National Convention

This past week, another show this past week joined the barrage of reality television that's defined the summer viewing season: the Democratic National Convention. We know it's reality television because it can't belong in any other category--it's too plotless to be a miniseries, too scripted to be a documentary and too unadorned to be a newsmagazine. At times, it masqueraded as a talkshow, but it couldn't be that because none of the guests was promoting a movie. An argument could be made that it was an infomercial, but everybody knows those aren't made in Los Angeles anymore.

This past week, another show this past week joined the barrage of reality television that’s defined the summer viewing season: the Democratic National Convention. We know it’s reality television because it can’t belong in any other category–it’s too plotless to be a miniseries, too scripted to be a documentary and too unadorned to be a newsmagazine. At times, it masqueraded as a talkshow, but it couldn’t be that because none of the guests was promoting a movie. An argument could be made that it was an infomercial, but everybody knows those aren’t made in Los Angeles anymore.

No, the Democratic Convention is definitely a reality show, composed of episodic, piecemeal storytelling and delivered by a cast of characters more easily stereotyped than the residents of the “Big Brother” house, with whom they share a great deal in common. On Monday night, there was Bill C., the overlibidinous overachiever from Arkansas. He gave a speech at about the same time that Theo, on “Road Rules,” was trying to convince his mother to bungee jump for money. Speech and jump were both successful. Jump brought Theo and his mom closer together; speech made the case that we’re better off now than eight years ago. Duh! There are lots more cable channels now.

If Monday was MTV night (or, based on the Fleetwood Mac music, VH1 night), then Tuesday resembled the nostalgic TV Land. The evening was packed with familiar faces — Jesse J., Teddy K. — and the producers brought back Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and Robert Kennedy Jr. for this “Where Are They Now” retrospective on Camelot.

In between all the speeches, or, in reality lingo, “confessionals,” during the week, Senators Jay Rockefeller, Evan Bayh and Charles Schumer all auditioned to replace Kathie Lee, awkwardly interviewing people. If there’s anything less involving than a canned speech, it’s a canned question and answer session. Regis was unmoved, and he was probably watching his own primetime gameshow anyway.

On Wednesday, the star was Joe L. He’s the Jewish guy. I’m very curious to know how Julie, the Mormon girl on “The Real World,” would respond to having a Jewish VP. She’d probably be OK with it, but only after some serious soul-searching — she’s still coming to terms with the gay Danny and the biracial manic depressive Melissa. Lieberman gave a composed speech, although he needs to learn to deliver a joke without laughing at it harder than anyone else. But please Joe, keep up the Jewish humor — best line of the week: “Behind every successful man there’s a surprised mother-in-law.”

At this point, it wasn’t clear whether Joe was a Democrat or a Republican, or what purpose the parties serve in the first place. But, for a civics lesson, all you had to do was turn to CBS while Lieberman was speaking. That was about the time Sean was kicked off the “Survivor” island. The only folks left are the members of the “alliance.” Whether they’re liberals or conservatives doesn’t matter. They’re a voting bloc, pure and simple.

Thursday night was supposed to be the climax. Al, the preppy Harvard boy, was supposed to have an epiphany and demonstrate to everyone that he doesn’t look down on people with poor posture. Alas, no matter how much Al tries to relax, he looks like he’s sweating it out; even at his most sincere, he seems calculated. But this son-of-a-politician was certainly a lot more substantive than that other son-of-a-politician, George W., the reformed Yale party animal. Note to casting: a wee bit of variety, please.

Politicos continued to whine about the low ratings and minimal coverage from the networks. But the solution is staring us in the face: All we need to do is change the voting system. Arrange for citizens to vote by phone each week, with candidates banished from the race one by one. The last one standing gets to move into a big house and have a camera follow him around for a few years. Oh, and he can be president, too.

The Democratic National Convention

Staples Center, Los Angeles; Monday-Thursday

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