By using Forrest Sawyer, portraying himself, to moderate the live debate on ‘The West Wing’ , NBC was striving to make the episode look as realistic as possible.
Anybody tuning in midway were supposed to get the feeling that it was really happening, like the classic radio broadcast of “The War Of The Worlds” by Orson Welles.
Only, since this was about politics, it was scarier.
NBC may have taken things too far, however, by using the NBC News logo on the screen. The “bug” upset a lot of viewers who are sticklers for the separation of the news and entertainment divisions; and apparently many of them flooded various TV message boards online with their complaints.
By making it too real, NBC got a bit of a problem in at least one local TV market. WNBC/Ch. 4 of New York City ran a thunderstorm warning crawl, which left some viewers wondering if it was real or not. For all they knew, it was all part of the on-screen illusion.
Of course, the news has never been pure in Television; probably not in any medium. In the early days you had newscasts like the ‘Camel News Caravan’, when sponsors had a tight grip on TV’s content.
Do you think Camel Cigarettes were ever the subject of any news stories, if Camel was sponsoring the broadcast?
And many news personalities (a problem right there in that description!) have blended news and showbiz over the years – all of those TV reporters who played themselves during the run of ‘Murphy Brown’. Including Walter Cronkite, the “most trusted man in America”, who made the biggest impression in this type of crossover with his appearance on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’.
Actually, I don’t know why those media-watchers are so upset. The TV world is NOT the Real World, and ‘The West Wing’ is not even part of the main TV Universe.
If those people viewing at home showed any inclination that Congressman Matthew Santos and Senator Arnold Vinick were actually real-life candidates for the Presidency, then they were lost long before the first “bug” appeared in the corner of the screen.
What NBC should have done was to acknowledge ‘The West Wing’ was not the Real World; embraced it. They should have created an NBC News logo that doesn’t exist here in the “Trueniverse”, but only there in ‘The West Wing’ version of TV Land. Maybe even change the name of the corporation just slightly to signify this wasn’t our world. Make it NBE – the National Broadcasting Enterprise, or something similar….
Then again, they’ve cited NBC’s name in past episodes; and this IS a business more than art, after all…. Don’t want the audience to lose sight of that fact. Gotta keep them loyal to the network so that they’ll return to watch ‘Joey’ on Thursday!
Oh well. At least Mr. Sawyer racked up a credit for himself in the League of Themselves!
As to who I thought won the debate, that’s going to have to wait for a week. By then I will have seen both versions – the East Coast live broadcast as well as the West Coast one – and will compare them for differences.
But I’ll tell you this – I’m a moderate Democrat who would rather see Vinick win this fictional presidential race. And that’s because I’m looking at what would create a more interesting storyline as the series winds down to its finale.
But if it was the Real World? Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve had enough Republican administrations for awhile…..