The Democratic and Republican National Conventions: A TV Review

| FROM ACADEMY PRESS | BY SOPHIA WEDEEN | SEPTEMBER, 2012 |

Last week, I caught the season premieres of two quite funny TV shows. The people who brought you Herman Cain (the Pokémon-singing pizza man) and Rick Perry (our resident expert on the Federal Executive Departments) presented a spectacular new comedy: Romney/Ryan 2012. But the good news didn’t end there. Just a week after the show premiered, audiences were graced with a brand new season of another stitches-in-your-sides sitcom: Obama/Biden 2012, straight from the creators of such hits as the human-gaffe-machine Joe Biden. There was so much to love about these two new shows, making it quite a struggle to figure out which was ultimately better at delivering the laughs.

The season 2 premiere of Obama/Biden 2012 was, if possible, even funnier than its 2008 pilot episode. Before delving into the plot, I have to compliment the actors – particularly, Jennifer Granholm. The former governor gave the episode much-needed slapstick when she yelled a confused metaphor involving gear sticks and political parties into the microphone, all the while gesturing violently and waving her arms in the air. I predict she will be quite the scene-stealer as the season progresses.

In this new episode, the main characters found themselves facing a major dilemma: should they stick with the Democratic Party’s base, which prides itself in diversity but is often perceived as elitist, or should they also try to appeal to a more traditional understanding of average Americans and American values? They chose the latter approach, which resulted in a truly hilarious mess.

The main characters got a bit carried away as they tried to portray themselves as something other than elitist liberals: “when I was growing up in [working-class town], my [wise old relative] instilled in me the importance of [American value], which is something I cherish to this day…” Politicians, actors, public figures, and regular Americans alike invoked this exact story, almost as if the teleprompter was frozen on a Mad Libs page. As a viewer, I thought their absurd and inaccurate portrayal of people from the Heartland was really funny and effective. These overwrought rags-to-riches tales did an excellent job showing the Democratic Party’s desperation as they attempted to relate to a demographic they just didn’t understand.

That said, one of the drawbacks of this season opening was that it too much resembled the show’s pilot in 2008. The majority of the jokes were overused and the plot was fairly repetitive; however, that is less a critique of Obama/Biden 2012 and more a feature of the sitcom genre. Although this show had its moments, the pilot of Romney/Ryan 2012 was an unmatched comic masterpiece.

The premise of Romney/Ryan 2012 was fairly simple; it focused on a group of people whose lives were once sustained by the glorious, honest, hardworking, pious, unified, and triumphant Apple Pie America. However, their utopia was shattered on that fateful day of January 20th, 2009 – the day Obama took charge and single-handedly sent an entire nation down a landslide of moral and economic failure, socialism, infringed 2nd-amendment rights, and hatred of puppies.

Lead actor Mitt Romney gave a spectacular performance as a rich man trying (and miserably failing) to act like an average, middle-class American. His comic timing and body language were spot-on; he nailed every little detail from a confused speech about unconditional love, to an abundance of long and awkward pauses, to his incredibly labored attempts at what the human species calls ‘smiling.’

Of course, Romney only was one of many highly memorable individuals. Paul Ryan, for example, was a stellar supporting actor.  Everyone expected his character, an economic policy wonk, to provide political content and concrete arguments in an otherwise lightweight day. Instead, he gave a speech so vague, hand-wavy, and inaccurate that it made even Clint Eastwood’s speech seem legitimate and well informed.

And that brings me to the now-infamous Chair Speech, which was really the gem of Romney/Ryan 2012’s premiere episode. I honestly don’t even know where to start, other than to praise Eastwood’s sheer comic genius. His character interviewed a chair. He criticized the chair. He yelled at the chair when it interrupted him. This was obviously great acting, and more importantly, it was one of those truly memorable moments in comedy that will stick with you for years to come. Between Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan, I can hardly wait for the November season finale.

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