TelevisionWeek is teaming up with TV industry veteran Marianne Paskowski. The blog will give Marianne a forum to convey her deep knowledge of the industry and pass along some of the juicy morsels she's hearing on the grapevine. Marianne has covered the TV industry from the inside out and top to bottom, and TVWeek's readers are bound to benefit from her sharp eyes, ears and wit. TVWeek.com invites readers to jump online, chime in and pick Marianne's brain on the latest industry news.


Marianne Paskowski

Snore of a Debate Gets High Ratings

October 8, 2008 12:28 PM

While hardly electrifying, last night’s second presidential debate attracted a ton of viewers, scoring a 42.1 rating, according to Nielsen, and trailing not far behind last week’s one-and-only debate between the veep candidates.

NBC's Tom Brokaw

How could it not get great ratings, given that the Dow dropped another 500 points yesterday, delivering investors another punch in their already sore guts.

The debate got better ratings than it deserved. NBC’s Tom Brokaw was not at his best, trying to cover too much ground at a time when the nation is scared senseless about the economy and the state of their 401Ks and IRAs.

I expected to hear far more detail from Barack Obama and John McCain about how they would bail out us, the folks actually footing the bill for this fiscal recovery plan. Instead, Brokaw basically stuck to the script, giving the economic collapse cursory coverage, moving quickly on to health care and foreign affairs.

I thought I was watching a rerun, with both candidates echoing many of the points that they had earlier made on the stump. Clearly it’s time for some new thinking here.

I didn’t hear any, and the scary thing is there probably isn’t any new thinking.

Am I being too cynical?


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (28)

Andy S.:

I think you're right on the mark, Marianne. There is no new thinking, at least not in the political sphere. But even if there had been new thinking on display in a televised debate format, how many viewers would be in a position to understand and evaluate it? We've heard a hundred times how Obama comes off as too "professorial" when he gets into protracted policy lectures. And the format is simply not conducive to substantive discussion. Last night's biggest moment, and the one that Obama's campaign chose to highlight in its post-debate spin campaign, was McCain referring to Obama as "that one." A moment utterly devoid of substance or policy content.

Marianne Paskowski:

You're spot on about the venue, the town hall format. There was no energy in that room, those in the audience looked drugged, or maybe just sick and tired of getting smacked with a 2 x 4 on the head each and every day of late.

One thing is clear, there's no love lost between McCain and Obama. How dare McCain

call Obama "that one."

My husband, a rabid political news junkie slept through the whole thing.

Thanks as always for jumping into the fray, m


The worst performance of the evening came from Tom Brokaw. He had no control of the procedure, which he reminded us at nearly every turn.


David Cohen:

I'm very happy I opted for softball. Every person who's mentioned last night has used the word "boring."

Marianne Paskowski:


Like you, I was disappointed with Brokaw.

Given the country's dire circumstances, Brokaw should have been the "maverick" and just toss out the rulebook.

The rules have changed for all investors, traders, small business owners, well, all of us actually. There is no trust. We need clarity and it's just not there.

I've moderated many panels, albeit, not presidential, and sometimes you just have to suspend the rules and let the proverbial hit the fan.

Would have been great if Brokaw had done that. As a result, we learned nothing.

Thanks for weighing in, m


I'm with Cory O'Connor. Brokaw flat out sucked and he was downright annoying when he scolded the candidates on time issues. Ya if its approaching 4 minutes, cut em off but he was like an annoying high school English teacher. This guy needs to just disappear from TV already. He may have been number one during his reign, but Peter Jennings was always a far better journalist and had a far better show.

Marianne Paskowski:

Smart move. Hubs fell asleep in his chair, I multi-tasked,killed old emails and updated my LinkedIn connection. That's how bored I was last night trying to take notes on this sorry performance.

Nice to see you up here, keep coming back, m

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Jason,

Before we all get all caught up in a feeding frenzy that I started, dissing Brokaw, he had rules to follow.

We have these silly rules or nobody gets the gig. That's wrong.

I do understand Brokaw's peevish behavior, but I wish he would have just said, "this isn't working for me," and just do the right thing.

So J, thanks for entering Dante's inferno, m

Jeff Mulligan:


I think you need to better recognize the context of the debate. Obama didn't want to risk screwing up what's shaping up as a winning streak, McCain wouldn't dare go full-negative, knowing he'd look as foolish as his adolescent running mate, and Brokaw is trying to prove he's still the best Cronkite wannabe. Anything more interesting would be too risky. But watch out for Oct. 15. Obama will excoriate Bush-McCain with new personal charges and political vituperations, McCain will self-destruct and pander to outright racists, and the moderator will look ineffectual unless he/she has a bullwhip in hand.



Yo, Blondie --

You take this debate stuff seriously?

Cruisin not Bruisin

Marianne Paskowski:


You raise some very complex issues about the role of TV anchor/moderators. I would like to see something akin to "Meet the Press," ergo, "Meet the Candidates," where several journalists have the forum to dig and grill the candidates, and have a deeper dialog, unlike that BS we saw last night.

What you suggest, that the Oct. 15 debate will be more interesting is something I hope you're right about.

Thanks for your thought provoking post, m

Marianne Paskowski:

You betcha, and so should you, m

Dave Sanders:

Whoa cowboys and cowgirls...get ready for OBAMA !
Ole Johnny boy flew in at 50,000 feet bombing not at the 50 feet a fighter pilot should have.
I am totally depressed with the idea of having a Dem again in the White house but we shall see what gives. Pray race riots and garbage does not ensue. By the way has anyone seen my 201K ? It used to be a 401K but appears to have been used to party by IAG ? As for Palin...she has time to
educate herself a bit more I guess....at least 4 years now. I wonder what Hilliary plans to do to Barack? hmmm ponders I.


I agree. That debate was boring. Neither of them really answered the questions they were asked. I guess Obama "won" because he didn't lose any ground and McCain didn't gain any ground. It's hard to blame Tom Brokaw though. While it is clear that the economy is the #1 issue, Brokaw would have been labeled as "biased" if that is all he talked about. Fair or not. Don't blame Brokaw, blame the format. The town hall format was dumb.
One last point: do we really need a 3rd debate? It's not like we don't know where both candidates stand on the issues. If you don't know by now, then you obviously don't really care.

The Wordsmith:

Oh you guys!

You missed the whole point of the debate: More fodder for SNL.

Golly, dagnabit, I can hardly wait.

Marianne Paskowski:

Think we do need a third debate with things moving so quickly in the financial markets. Both candidates need some time to sort this out.

Format was dumb, thanks for your post, m

Marianne Paskowski:

Read an AP report that Sarah wants to appear on SNL with Tina Fey. Now that should be something.
Thanks for weighing in, m

Marianne Paskowski:

Afraid you're off message, I was writing about the lack of time devoted to the economic crisis. Closing bell is 25 minutes away and the Dow is down another 400 points.

There is no liquidity yet being pumped into this market. I hope one of these candidates has a plan, m


please make your next blog about Obama buying entire 30 minutes programs on the networks:



M. Nice piece of blogging by you. Somebody better appoint Mitt Romney as Secretary of The Treasury, fast. Nobody wants to hear these two guys bickering over trivia in a "debate" while world financial markets are begging for leadership. Brokaw was tone deaf, but, either one of the candidates had the opportunity to address the financial crisis in real time, and at least try to assuage the fears of the viewers with a few well thought-out ideas. Nashville's a very cool town. Where did they find that many zombies?

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Joe,

Saw that media buy, hope McCain makes one, as well, and mostly, I hope they map out a remedy for this cascading economic situation. We're all bleeding here, not time for a bandaid, but major triage,

Thanks for the link, m

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Pete,
Not so sure Mitt's the right choice for Secretary of the Treasury.

I've only lived in the Commonwealth of Mass for three years, but what I hear is that under his leadership, very unfriendly to business, the state lost 150,000 jobs.

I would rather see Warren Buffet in that role.

Thanks for dropping by with you post about what a bust that debate was all about as Rome is afire, m

Dan gingold:

First thing: Stop calling it a debate. Rules or no, these guys never get the chance to DEBATE the issues. These dog and pony shows are nothing more than tired old interviews by tired old anchors that elicit more stump-type prepared speechmaking.

Marianne Paskowski:

You've summed it up the best, this was not a debate, and you're right they didn't talk to each other at all.

Thanks for your post, m

That "Debate" was a true snore.

These two candidates better take off the gloves this Wednesday night and Bob Schieffer must hold their toes to the fire of the subject and question at hand.

I have the highest regard for Tom Brokaw and being the gentleman he is, he remained so on air. He needed to come from the position of a senior observer and, therefore, be more demanding of the candidates in his forum.

We, the people deserve that.

Schieffer MUST call them out on their inaccuracies and their digressions away from the subject of the moment.

People are not eating, not living in their homes, hurting from a lack of healthcare in our fifty states of the "Greatest Country on Earth".

Polite, "Political Jargan Speak", must go.

These two characters have just spent two years positioning and spin-speaking...in this last face to face we deserve the real s--t, live and in HD direct from their duplicitous mouths.

Bob Schieffer, take control, be our champion.
Peter Bright

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Peter,
I read somewhere today that Schieffer is going to do just that. It's time to tweak the process of these BS debates.

Hope he can pull it off. But then I had high hopes for Brokaw, m

I don't want a worthless Bill O'Reilly screaming match.

I would like, for once, to see some intelligent, argumentative back and forth, true to the issues and their sides of those issues.

The Brits do it all the time in Parliment...

Schieffer can and should do this. He has nothing to lose. He is in the driver's seat.

If he will accept that he is in a higher position than either of them, without an ego driven demeaner, (he wouldn't do that-it's not who he is), he needs to be respectful and very firm when they go off course, as in, "Senator, please stick to the question".

Our problems are not rehearsed and homogenized...their answers need to be straight forward and on point, or they should be cut short and put back on course.
Peter Bright

Marianne Paskowski:

Don't worry about the moderator tomorrow,he'll do just fine. Instead, worry about the candidates. They don't talk, they preach, all the sound bites we've already heard on the stump.

Hope I'm wrong.m

Post a comment