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What I Watched Last Night

I watched The Tony Peraica Show last night. It was a pretty good episode - it started out kind of predictable, you know, alleged ballot fraud and voting machine malfunctions and bumbling at election headquarters. At first I thought it was a rerun of a show they ran in March.

But then came the twist, and more compelling television I have not seen in a long time. And it was live.

Watching Peraica bellow repeatedly to his supporters that he wasn't going to let the election be stolen from him was more frightening than inspiring. Peraica was right to be incensed, but his tone was all scary dictator. When he allowed himself a little smile after chants of "Tony! Tony!" erupted in the hall, well, let's just say I saw a darker, humorless version of Pat Buchanan flash before my eyes. It only got worse when - like Buchanan urging the peasants to take up pitchforks - Peraica implored his supporters to follow him to 69 West Washington, where they would storm election headquarters.

This can come to no good end, I thought.

I turned up the volume.

What in the world would Peraica and his charge do at 69 West Washington, outside of spark a confrontation likely to result in violence?

I had no idea, but I wasn't changing the channel.

Multiple cameras, in a nice dash of cinema verite, followed Peraica as he marched out of the Intercontinental and onto Michigan Avenue with a cell phone pressed to his ear. Who was he talking to? At one point, it was Carol Marin in the Channel 5 studio!

The boisterous march scene was intercut with shots of quiet, lonely reporters in the placid calm of election headquarters painfully anticipating a reckoning they didn't quite understand. It was extraordinary mood-shifting. My stomach was all a-jumble.

Unfortunately, the climax was poorly written. A revolving door was locked, and then unlocked. One man was arrested, but out of camera sight. A freight elevator was broken. The shots of ballots and voting equipment arriving in boxes being unloaded from cars and trucks coming in from the suburbs was compelling, but ultimately went nowhere.

It certainly didn't measure up to the Republican mob scene in Florida in 2000, but then again, this production didn't have as big a budget.

In the end, The Tony Peraica Show was a bit of a disappointment, but it sure had its brief, shining moment, and it's still recommended by virtue of its sheer oddness and historic value.

*

Channel 5 clearly provided superior Election Night coverage among the locals. Apparently Warner Saunders was supposed to host this shindig but came down with laryngitis, all the better for us because of Bob Sirott's adept and smart show management as emcee of sorts. Marion Brooks also proved a fine political moderator, overseeing a lively panel of Walter Jacobson, Michael Sneed, Cliff Kelley, and Joel Weisman.

Weisman was, well, the wise man of the group, providing reasonable and interesting analysis, while Sneed spouted her typical mediocrities and warmed-over "scoops" that somehow pass for political insight. Kelley was a welcome antidote to the MSM, but his theory that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is a partisan political prosecutor taking orders from the president is preposterous, and easily dispatched. (George Ryan trial, hello?)

Jacobson was uncharacteristically shut out - too bad, he seemed to have some useful ideas to contribute.

On Channel 2, Mike Flannery was the lone bright spot unfortunately forced to work with the clueless duo of Antonio Mora and Diann Burns.

They were asleep over at Channel 7, oblivious and late to the Peraica drama and with such a deadly dull broadcast it almost made me forget an election had been held.

*

Nationally, the Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann combination easily bested the folks at CNN, and I only checked in with Fox occasionally to see how much denial they were in. Answer: A lot.

Matthews can be a nauseating blowhard, but he can also be priceless. Early in the evening he asked a Connecticut firefighters union official about his support of Joe Lieberman. "How does your rank-and-file feel about the war?" he started in. The union guy looked a bit like Todd Stroger caught in the headlights. Matthews' comparison of Lieberman to a George Bush kissing booth was the line of the night, until I happened upon MSNBC later in the early morning hours and caught Matthews saying to Pat Buchanan, "Let's not pretend you were on Lincoln's side in that war!"

*

I finally cashed it in at 2:30 a.m. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like The Tony Peraica Show will get picked up.



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Posted on November 8, 2006


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