Tuned In

TV Tonight: Who Wants Their O TV?

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Tonight at 8 p.m. E.T., Barack Obama’s half-hour infomercial will air on CBS, NBC and Fox. If you miss it on TV, you will dream it tonight at approximately 2 a.m. Your nightmare about being back in high school and having to take an exam for a calculus class you haven’t attended all year will be pre-empted. 

The New York Times saw a trailer of the ad and offers a preview. The move seems like at least a bit of a risk, and not because of that whole business about the World Series. 

Mind you, if anyone followed my advice on what Americans want, TV networks would go out of business, campaigns would fail, and automobiles would look like this. That said, I just wonder if a highly produced looking video will risk coming across as counterproductively slick. 

This is, after all, the age of authenticity. And it’s possible that voters would respond best to something that seemed as direct and unmediated as possible: basically, Obama simply sitting down and talking to the camera about his plans, particularly for the economy. It worked for this guy in 1992, anyway—

Yeah, I know Ross Perot is pretty much a punchline now. (And I say this as someone who voted for him… not in 1992, but in 1996, yet!) But he pulled 19 percent of the vote as a third-party candidate, and his thirty-minute infomercials, in which he pointed his “voodoo stick” at charts he seemed to have made himself on a color printer, were credited at the time for helping him. (Splitting the difference, Obama’s video will apparently include a segment of him speaking live from Florida.)

Then again, the guy who actually won that election gave us the other most influential TV video of 1992, the highly-produced The Man from Hope. So again, what do I know?