TV Eye

Election Bug

Synopsis for a miniseries: A Republican and a Democrat enter into an election for the presidency of the United States. There will be one victor; there will be one loser. Each of them thinks he will win and the other will lose. When election day comes, something unexpected happens. Those third-party candidates, particularly that one third-party candidate (the one that the Republican and the Democrat largely ignored), garners enough votes to make the election an out-and-out horse race, so much so that in key states, the outcome is too close to call. Early in the evening, the television networks call the election in Florida, saying the Democrat is the winner. But the Republican says wait -- that can't be true. His little brother runs Florida. The Republican won't back down; he digs in his heels. Someone made a mistake, he says.

As it turns out, someone did make a mistake: the network news media. Crow is eaten. Blame is placed on pollsters, faulty numbers, and, finally, that third candidate -- the one network television paid little attention to. He's blamed for wooing unsuspecting voters. But the torches are put away, because, well, all hell's broken loose now. Faulty ballots, lost ballot boxes, and confused voters in Florida; polls opened and closed and re-opened in Missouri, where they elected a dead man senator. Cries of "No fair! Do over!" in Florida, New Mexico, and now maybe in Wisconsin and Iowa. A widening ring of scandal, intrigue, screeching egos, and litigation. How does this drama end? I can't tell you, because it's still going on as I write this.

From a television viewer's perspective, the perspective that sees TV as a means of entertainment, this year's election was the ultimate mini-series, the ultimate reality show. I admit to getting a little giddy at the sight of newscasters falling over themselves retracting previous misinformation reported as fact, trying to explain how and why the information was released to begin with, but ultimately, and with some sheepishness, simply stating: We messed up. Those were my reactions to election coverage, and election night in particular, as an ordinary television viewer.

As a citizen, I'm appalled.

As a citizen, I expect -- in fact, I have a right to demand -- that the network news media provide accurate information, and on a broader spectrum of issues and topics. The airwaves are owned by the public. This seems laughable given the control of the public airwaves by conglomerates that run the networks; networks that are programmed to favor hypercommercialization and entertainment at the expense of its role, its public responsibility, to provide information on a wide variety of issues. In an election year, the responsibility is even greater. For example, I didn't learn about Nader's Green Party or any number of third-party activities from the big four networks. The inability of the network news media to provide accurate and thorough information, particularly during an election year, is the last straw. If they can't even do that, it's definitely time to rattle the cage.

In an essay titled "The Problem With the U.S. Media" (from their recent book It's the Media, Stupid), co-authors John Nichols and Robert McChesney write: "Presidential elections, which now draw less than half of the electorate to the polls, have become media entertainments, complete with graphics and play-by-play reports but bereft of any suggestion that citizens should -- or could -- actually play any more of a role in this extravaganza than they do in the Super Bowl or the Academy Awards."

But I have hope.

The very fact that the votes of a few cracked the foundation of the stale two-party system, in spite of the low media coverage of the Green Party and other third parties, encourages me. My only remorse is that the Green Party didn't earn the necessary 5% of the vote to assure federal campaign funding in 2004. In the meantime, the drama continues.


Buffy Watch

Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans have noticed for some time now that Willow's (Alyson Hannigan) love interest Tara (Amber Benson) was being developed in a curiously haphazard way. Was Tara a good witch or a bad witch, and why were the creators being so flaky about it?

Rumors zoomed through fan sites claiming that the WB, which carries Buffy, had gotten a bad case of cold feet. Apparently, the female-female romance was too much for the suits to handle, and creator Joss Whedon was told to get rid of Tara -- an irritating directive, given that by the time the word came down, Tara was well on her way to becoming a bona fide character. Rumor further went that Hannigan, upon learning of the directive, said she would leave the show if Tara was written out. Buffy without Tara would be sad. Buffy without Willow would be an enormous blow.

Were any of these rumors true? I don't know, but from last week's episode, it's clear that Tara will be around a while. So, if Whedon and crew prevailed, they deserve a pat on the back for holding their creative ground in the face of skittish narrowmindedness. If not -- what the heck took you so long? Either way, it's good that Tara will be a regular fixture on Buffy. She's a leavening presence and a welcome contrast to the ironic and sometimes kinetic humor of the rest of the Scooby gang. At last, Tara and Willow can get on with their witchy ways.


Will He Find Love?

And speaking of getting it on, it looks like the promise of a serious love life for Will (Eric McCormack) is in the process of being developed on Will & Grace. Last week's episode found Will playing Cyrano for Jack (Sean Hayes), who tried to woo a handsome stranger (Patrick Dempsey). Once the jig was up, Will and the handsome stranger exchanged one of those sweet, awkward, hopeful sparks of attraction that makes you forget all those bad dates, ill-fated relationships, and miserable break-ups. If W&G can pull off a male-male romance without diluting the show's sparkling humor or turning it into "A Very Special Will & Grace" event, they deserve all sorts of props. Will & Grace airs Thursdays at 8pm on NBC.


On KLRU

Due to popular demand, KLRU will repeat On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying, which first aired in September. The two-part special examines attitudes toward death and dying and efforts to infuse hospice and end-of-life care into mainstream medical care. Visit the KLRU Web site (www.klru.org, under "Public Square, Special Programs" area) to view the extraordinary viewer response to the program. In November, a Spanish version of the discussion guide will be launched, thanks to the efforts of community volunteers led by Maria Salas. On Our Own Terms airs Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 27 and 28, 8pm.

The critically acclaimed documentary Buena Vista Social Club airs on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 11pm.

The state of the arts in Austin and arts funding is the focus of Austin at Issue, airing tonight at 9pm, and on Sunday, at 5pm.


Take a station break at tveye@auschron.com

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

2000 election, presidential election, bush, gore, buffy the vampire slayer, buffy, klru

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