Jewish World Review August 2, 2004 / 15 Menachem-Av, 5764

Zev Chafets

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Consumer Reports

Introducing the Demmie Awards | The ratings are in, and the news is bad; the Democrats bombed.

The convention's overall Nielsen numbers were the worst in TV history. How bad? Here's one example. Thursday night at 9:30, 17% of the New York TV audience was watching a CSI rerun on WCBS. At 10, John Kerry came on - and more than half the viewers changed the channel.

And that was the highest scoring event of the convention.

It's a shame so few Americans saw the Big Show in Boston.

Sure it lacked political drama, but it offered some first-rate TV entertainment.

First, the music was sensational. In the old days, conventions were cacophonous affairs, firehouse bands blaring "Happy Days Are Here Again" over the roar of sanctimony and horse trading. This year the Dems conducted their business to the music of the Isley Brothers, Sly Stone and Martha and the Vandellas.

Al Sharpton concluded his sermon to the strains of Ray Charles' "America the Beautiful." Even Sen. Bob Graham of Florida - the most fussily compulsive white man in America - hit the stage to the tune of "Higher and Higher."

The Democrats' deejay deserves an award (call it a Demmie) for this sound track. He embodied the observation of Stephen Foster (some say Irving Berlin), that it matters not who writes the nation's laws, as long as you get to pick the records.

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Al Sharpton also gets a Demmie, for the best single line of the convention - referring to keynote speaker Barack Obama as Obama Baraka. It is possible that the Rev. Al, who hasn't made a verbal slipup since his third birthday, got the name wrong by accident. My hunch, though, is that he was exacting a little revenge on the blameless young man from Illinois who has been annointed by the national media as the new great black hope.

Another Demmie goes to John Edwards, for best supporting parents. The kinfolk of recent Southern Democrats have been somewhat larger than life - the daft Miz Lillian Carter, for example, or the hard-charging Virginia Blythe Clinton. But Edwards' mom and dad are just plain folks. Daddy Edwards, in particular, looked like he had dropped by the FleetCenter straight from Floyd's Mayberry barber shop.

The Spousal Demmie goes, of course, to Teresa Heinz Kerry. Her Tuesday night speech, which sounded like it was written by the team of Yoko Ono and Zsa Zsa Gabor, elicited televised Hillary hate-stares of the kind we have only heard about until now.

Heinz Kerry - a doting mom with a billion dollars - also used the convention to (unsuccessfully) audition her son for the role of John Kennedy Jr. Then, at Thursday's grand finale, she did a ladylike frug step to "Johnny B. Goode" while the convention's director, Don Mischer, bellowed orders to lower the f---ing balloons already.

And give a producer's Demmie to Steve Bing of Hollywood, the Democratic Party's biggest bankroller. Like most producers, Bing usually avoids the limelight, but he couldn't avoid the ABC reporter who asked him about his relationship with Dominic (Johnny Shacks) Montemarano. Bing did the next best thing; he clammed up. (Shacks himself was unavailable for comment due to federal incarceration.)

So, the 2004 Democratic convention had it all: Sweet soul music. Sharp-talking one-liners. Gen-Next beefcake. A dizzy heiress. a dash of Mayberry, a touch of the Sopranos, balloons and f-bombs bursting in air. Not to mention the nomination of a presidential candidate. And all this gets a lousy 7% audience share?

Sometimes it seems like people just don't appreciate democracy anymore.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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