Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas is the return of regularly scheduled programming. I feel I speak for tens of millions when I ask for this. Seriously, dude. Even John King on CNN must be tired of his magic freaking wall.
At about 11 a.m. on Tuesday a Fox News reporter was stalking people lining up to vote somewhere in Florida. A middle-aged man, when a microphone was poked in his face, sighed and said, "Thank God, it's all over. I'm just tired of all the noise." Amen to that, said anyone watching.
Twelve hours later at 11 p.m., the noise was still ongoing. But at a low, rumbling volume. On CNN, John King was at his wall, saying to a choleric Wolf Blitzer, "It's stunning we're having this conversation." Quote of the night, no magic needed to make it special and on the nose.
It, this outlandishly epic drama of an election, wasn't over. No matter how that man in Florida wished it so. Not on TV. Heck, no. Hours and hours after the first gee-whiz reports of people waiting to vote, Wolf Blitzer was talking way, way too rapidly for a man of his age (his family must be worried) and actually sprinting over to John King and his magic freaking wall. Florida! Florida! "Whither Florida, county by county?" was Blizter's agitated question.
It was only 8 p.m. in Eastern time zones. Manic speculation was the gist across the networks, with a dollop of surreal intensity about the minutae of Florida voting patterns. A person could get seriously sick of Florida's voting patterns. Doesn't anybody there know how to make up their minds? Were they playing a game just to make John King's magic freaking wall more interesting?
Meanwhile, over on CBC, Peter Mansbridge was dozily complimenting Adrienne Arsenault on the trees near the White House that acted as a backdrop to her report. Not that anyone cared about CBC coverage.
On Fox, at about the same time. Megyn Kelly was asking George Will for his thoughts. This is always a mistake. About 10 minutes later, while several Florida counties had changed their minds twice, Will was still jawing on about "bricks in the wall." Jeeze-Louise, one thought, a closet Pink Floyd fan. Who knew? Soon after, Bill O'Reilly was on Fox News to offer his sage opinions on events so far. Judging by his attire and demeanour, he was at a secret location in the Caribbean and nursing a rum cocktail. "I don't see Trump underperforming. At the same time, I don't see him overperforming," O'Reilly pronounced with gnomic wisdom. This was Mansbridge-level punditry.
And then, with the sort of precision-engineering fatuousness that sets Fox News apart, viewers were taken to "The Data Deck," a tin pot version of John King's magic freaking wall. Watching people poke fingers at the "Data Deck," a person felt the will to live just slip away, out of reach. By coincidence, at exactly this point a reader e-mailed to ask, "Is Peter Mansbridge all right?" My thought was that some people are, bizarrely, not gripped by the constantly changing minds of voters in Florida counties and an amazement that somebody was watching CBC's take on this very American madness.
CTV News was making a stronger pitch for relevance. Beverly Thomson was leading a spirited, if bewildered, panel discussion. As Florida counties went solidly to Trump, at last, Lloyd Robertson sensibly folded his arms and merely stared at Adrienne Batra. Ms. Batra, editor of the Toronto Sun, was kind of clucking at the prospect of a Trump presidency, with a kind of frisson that made you wonder if everybody was wrong about the frisson of Trump. Either that or your blood ran cold.
This was unfolding not long after John King, at his magic freaking wall again, had ceased poking at the wall, swallowed, paused, and said, to Blizter, "He's starting to pull away." At this point, although no one was saying it on U.S. or Canadian TV, you knew what it felt like when the results of the Brexit referendum on the U.K. began trickling in. This was not how the night was supposed to go. On CNN, Jake Tapper cheerfully interjected with, "This could put the polling industry out of business!" Nobody chuckled.
Hours earlier, – what seemed like a lifetime earlier – when things were still a bit muted on TV, Donald Trump had got his hands on his phone, for the first time in ages, and started Tweeting – "Just out according to @CNN: "Utah officials report voting machine problems across entire country." Tapper got on his high horses, umbrage oozing from every pore of his newsman persona. "In point of fact, CNN is not reporting that," Tapper said. "The problem is 'problems across the county.' A county, not the country, as Mr. Trump tweeted. It's the difference of an 'r', but kind of an important one." Ah Jiminy, a person thought. That's harsh on the day Trump is doomed to be defeated. And Trump has been so good for CNN, giving it record ratings for months.
By midnight, all changed. Changed utterly. Donald Trump had indeed been so good for CNN, and all the all-news channels. Not because he's a buffoon or a one-time-only grotesque beast, his brief hour come at last. But because he represents anger, vigour and rage that nobody on TV saw coming. People think TV news is unthinking, knee-jerk reflexive. It isn't, but American voters are.
It all makes you wonder – did the people who make such bleak, pessimistic, end-of-times TV dramas as The Walking Dead and The Strain, all grimly anticipating an eerily authoritarian America, have the pulse of something real? By midnight on Tuesday, one truly wondered about that.
Dear Santa: I know it's early and merely November but all I want for Christmas is the return of regularly scheduled programming. Also, if you could see that the recreational marijuana thing could be made legal in California, where they make a lot of TV, that would be ace. They'll need it.