Tuesday, July 27, 2004

(Enhancing the script)

Ron Reagan (r) on the MSNBC set outside Fanueil Hall for a live airing of "Hardball".
photo © 2004 Adele M. Stan

BOSTON--As predictable as flung mud, every four years the grousing about the scriptedness of the conventions rains down upon us--so much so that it's become part of the metascript itself.

One recalls that in 1996, Ted Koppel packed up early at the Republican National Convention, leaving San Diego in a huff over the banal non-newsiness of it. (Yesterday, however, saw Mr. Koppel briskly walking the halls of the Fleet Center during the prime-time hours.)

But there's scripted, and there's scripted. On Sunday night, while foraging for food in the area of Quincy Market, I stumbled upon the outdoor set for Chris Matthews's MSNBC show "Hardball." Standing around the open-sided, tented set were a few hundred people, mostly young men, holding "Kerry/Edwards" signs. As I approached the gathering, I heard a mix of noises, and then a sudden burst of cheering that rose even louder as I stopped to watch. Standing at the edge of the platform on which the set was staged were a videographer and a producer, both motioning directions to the sign-holders as to when to raise and lower their voices in chant.

It was like the outdoor segments for the "Today" show, where Al Roker goes out to Rockefeller Plaza to soak up the adoration of the tourists who travel hundreds of miles just to get their faces, and perhaps an old bedsheet imbued with a Magic-Marker message, on camera. But here, the signs were provided by the Kerry campaign, and the choreographed crowd was attempting to approximate a spontaneous political demonstration. (About as spontaneous as a "reality" show.)

All the world's a stage, I suppose...or a television studio.

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