Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Vinick for President!

In search of a ratings boost, NBC execs came up with the brilliant idea of having a live presidential debate on last Sunday's West Wing. Overall, the numbers were still weak: According to Lisa de Moraes, the show still finished third with 9.6 million viewers, behind ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (18 million) and CBS's Cold Case (16 million).

But it doesn't end there. Someone at Rockefeller Plaza thought it equally clever to conduct a Zogby poll, asking viewers who they thought performed better: Democratic congressman Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) or Republican senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). Prior to the debate, Santos, the presumed successor to Jed Bartlet, led among younger audiences 54 percent to 37 percent. (And it is the younger audience those execs are desperately after.)

But the post-debate numbers show Senator Vinick now leading Santos among 18- to 29-year-olds by 56 percent to 42 percent. In other words, the age bracket NBC execs covet the most prefer the Republican who is supposed to ultimately lose. As de Moraes points out, Smits was even well-armed with such hard-hitting lines as:

What did liberals do that was so offensive to the Republican Party? I'll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation.... So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, "liberal," as if it's something dirty, something to be ashamed of, something to run away from, it won't work, senator, because I will pick it up, and I will wear that label as a badge of honor.

Somehow, audiences were not seduced by the sweeping rhetoric. Alda as Vinick, I am certain, was supposed to come off as old-fashioned, stodgy, out of touch--exactly the way a Republican should be. Instead Alda, the veteran actor that he is, actually appealed to viewers with his earnestness and folksy charm.

So what do the West Wing's writers and producers do now, knowing their target audience favors, good God, a Republican? Here are three options:

1. It turns out Vinick has some skeletons in his closet. He had an affair. With a male staffer. And, for good measure, he had a drinking and drug problem. How sweet the irony that his own conservative base would abandon him because of his loose morals!

2. Vinick is such a nice guy there's no possible way he could really be a Republican. Maybe he has a change of heart and decides to switch parties like the senator from Vermont. And he becomes Santos's veep. Everybody lives happily ever after.

3. Vinick is assassinated--by a far-right militiaman who used a gun that could have been banned under a Santos administration.

Oh, the possibilities.


Anonymous said...

link to the polling data?

Anonymous said...

C'MON, Vic! Surely you get what JVL is trying to do here!


Anonymous said...

Not sure who was being polled by Zogby because I don't see that being true - check NBC's site for instant polling on who won the debate. Doesn't identify who responded to the poll but it shows overwhelming support for Santos over Vinick.

Anonymous said...

My God, that debate was one of the worst hours of television ever produced. Everyone associated it, from the writers to Forrest Sawyer (the moderator) should be deported.

Anonymous said...

There's something to be said for the debate: it's the best airing that anyone has given a Republican in years.

Vinick made good points for the pharmaceutical industry and the oil guys. I gotta say, I enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

What's interesting about the Santos' speech is that it is a recitation of things liberalism has done in the past, all of which are settled issues now. It says nothing about what liberals would do to address the voters' current concerns. The implication is that Santos doesn't have much to say on the question.

Santos' speech reminds me, oddly enough, of Bob Dole's 1996 GOP presidential nomination speech, in which he promised to be a "bridge to the past." That didn't work out so well, but then Dole's writers weren't also controlling the outcome of the election in the way that Santos' are.

Anonymous said...

Ya know, it ain't real. It is a fictional television show that is watched by only a couple million people in a country of almost 300 million people.

Anonymous said...

You know, I thought women's suffrage was a Republican-led initiative, and forty years ago more Democrats than Republicans opposed civil rights reform.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Constitutional tie will hand Santos and Vinik the presidency and vice presidency. After some recount drama, that is. Duh.

Ralphie said...

Vinick will win. But then he'll grow in office.

Or, more likely, WW won't be renewed anyway.

Anonymous said...

Oh, West Wing will be renewed. So will Commander in Chief. Liberal Hollywood wants someone else as president so bad, they've created their own fantasy versions. It's how they all get around their promise to move to Canada when Bush got elected. As George Costanza said on Seinfeld, " remember Jerry, it isn't a lie if you believe it."

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to see the increasingly unlikely parallel universe of the West Wing (where liberals run the country) return a little closer to reality by electing a Republican.

Then again, it would be nice see see an effective Republican white house in real life.