THR: Prez debates were "low rated" at 53+ million viewers

by Paul William Tenny

2008 Presidential DebatePaul Gough wrote a really insulting article for the Hollywood Reporter today, castigating the two presidential candidates for not putting on a more memorable show during the three post-primary debates this fall, and even while acknowledging that voters having been demanding -- nay begging -- for substantive debates on the issues that matter to them, he arrogantly appointed himself the country's spokesman declaring that what we really wanted was to be entertained with gaffes, fights, and tabloid style garbage, and how dare they not comply?

And I'm not even sure Gough knows what he's talking about, or that he was even lucid when he wrote the story. This is what he said about the absolutely huge ratings the debates got:

It's been that kind of year: There has been almost unprecedented interest in the presidential campaign, but that has simply not translated into humungous ratings for the debates.

Really? The final debate was watched by 56.5 million viewers across all the channels that aired it, which would have easily crushed American Idol even on its best day, and that wasn't even the most watched debate. 52.4 million watched the second debate with a whopping 63.2 million watching the first. The only VP debate did even better: 69.9 million. The only program I'm aware of in the modern era (e.g. before cable) that did better numbers was last year's (technically this year's since it was played in January) Super Bowl, which was seen by 97 million people.

Award shows, American Idol, CSI, none of them could touch even the least watched general election debate of the year.

I suppose it's possible that Gough is still living in The Time Before Cable like virtually every other brainless pundit is, but that's really more of an excuse than it is a reason for being so totally stupid.

It was bad enough to try speaking for the people by saying all we want is tabloid entertainment when clearly what this country wants this year, now more than every before perhaps, was a real honest-to-god debate instead of character attacks, lies, and tap dancing. But to not even have the most basic research skills to fact-check a simple assertion like ratings -- information that is very easy to find and verify -- is just really sloppy and pitiful. The debates may have been dull, but they were exactly what the public wanted to see and by the looks of it, nearly 70% of the voting public watched the VP debate which sounds pretty damned good to me.
in Ratings, Television


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